Anti-communist rebel Milan Paumer honoured by prime minister
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek awarded Milan Paumer, the third member of the so-called Mašín group, with a medal of honour on Tuesday. Last week, during a trip to Washington, Mr Topolánek broke one of the greatest Czech taboos by awarding medals to the two Mašín brothers, who along with Milan Paumer and two other anti-Communist fighters made a daring escape from Czechoslovakia in 1953, killing six armed men in the process. For decades the group were demonised by Communist propaganda, and Czechs are still deeply divided over the legitimacy of their actions. Radio Prague spoke to Milan Paumer after Tuesday’s ceremony – how does he respond to those who say he is a murderer?
You came back to the Czech Republic in 2001, unlike the Mašín brothers. Why did you decide to come back?
“Well, I am not married; those two boys have families. I have a brother over here so I decided to come back to see my brother, to go to the cemetery to see my parents’ grave. I also thought it would be a good chance to approach young people at schools and start explaining to them what the situation was here in the 1950s when the communists were killing people left and right. And they have the nerve to call us murderers. So I just got involved, I didn’t even know how, but I just slid into it. It was a good idea to start this thing because I think we are getting new intelligentsia from these informed people. I am going to do it until I can walk!”
“Of course it is important to me as recognition but I get even more satisfaction from talking to those young people, and I see that people are beginning to understand the situation that was here in the 1950s. They are finally informed and they see it in a little different way now. Now they know the truth about what was going on, and they are reacting to it.”
Do you ever have any regrets over what you did in the 1950s?
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Because what the communists did, they were killing people! They don’t like to hear it but it’s a fact.”