Jaroslav Martínek

Born in 1900 in Bohemia. Moved to the USSR in 1923 as a teacher to the Czech minority. Arrested in 1927 and received the death penalty. Sentence later commuted to imprisonment on the Solovetsky Islands and in Kazakhstan. Later spent several years in exile in the Far East. Returned to Bohemia in 1936.

Jaroslav Martínek was born in Nové Město nad Metují on 21 April 1900. After graduating from economics school in Olomouc he returned to Nové Město nad Metují, where he worked as a teacher. In 1923 he left with the help of the Evangelical association Kostnická jednota for Alexandrovka in the Odessa Governorate to devote himself to teaching the children of Czech colonisers. Thanks to his cultural and social activities he soon became very popular with the local Czechs, and in particular with their children. As a zealous member of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren he also secretly taught religious education, which was banned. This brought him into conflict with the Soviet authorities.

In May 1925 he moved to Čechohrad (Czechograd) near Melitopol (today Novhorodkivka) in the Ekaterinoslav Governorate, where he and his wife again taught at a Czech school. As in Alexandrovka, he was popular with the Czech community; however, he also clashed with some colleagues and the Soviet authorities soon began receiving various denunciations of Martínek.

On 28 April 1927 Martínek went on a shopping trip to Melitopol, where the following night he was arrested by the GPU. His first interrogations took place at the local prison before he was transferred in June to Kharkov for further interrogations. He was charged with anti-Soviet agitation and spying for Czechoslovakia, specifically with “conducting military and economic espionage and anti-Soviet and religious propaganda in Czechoslovak colonies on the instigation of the religious-fascist organisation Kostnická jednota.”

On 4 January 1928 he was sentenced by a special session of the Kharkov regional court to death by shooting. However, under an amnesty declared in connection with the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution his sentence was commuted on 4 November to 10 years in prison in strict isolation, the loss of civil rights for five years and the confiscation of all of his property. Following Martínek’s arrest his wife Zdena was left alone with their two small daughters (aged two years and six weeks) and was forced to cease teaching in Čechohrad. Not until July 1928 were they permitted to return to Czechoslovakia, where she found work teaching at a minority kindergarten in Rybník near Česká Třebova.

Martínek was first imprisoned in Kharkov but was transferred to the Solovki correctional labour camp on the Solovetsky Islands on 28 June 1929, specifically to a labour group on Popov Island near Kem. He remained at Solovki until the end of 1930.

In December 1930 he was sent to the Gigant kolkhoz in central Kazakhstan (he was placed in Tokarevka), which was run by the GPU; he was employed at the Krestova infirmary. Living conditions there were even worse than at Solokvi. He was probably released from the camp in 1933. He was subsequently sent into exile in the town of Svobodnoe on the Siberian railway in the Far East, where he worked at a central medicines store. From there he was probably transported to Murmansk during the course of the following year.

It was not until February 1936 that Jaroslav Martínek’s punishment was amended to deportation from the USSR, meaning he could return to Czechoslovakia after nine and a half years. Following his return he settled in the Podmokly district in Děčín, where he worked as a gardener, in May 1936. His wife was employed as a kindergarten teacher in Chrochovice. In September 1937 he was hired as a religion teacher in Louny. He was also tasked with reviving a youth group and occasionally served as a preacher. Martínek’s subsequent fate is unknown.


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