Oldest Czech Scout Eduard Marek dies aged 104
The oldest member of the Czech Scout movement, Eduard Marek, died on Sunday at the age of 104. Marek was imprisoned by both the Nazi and Communist regimes and was active in the Czechoslovak resistance. In later life he also made a mark by becoming one of the oldest people to ever parachute out of an aircraft.
Eduard Marek was born in Prague’s Žižkov neighbourhood in 1917 and was thus one of the very few Czechs left to grow up and reach adulthood during the period of the Czechoslovak First Republic. During his youth, he joined the Czechoslovak Scouts, a movement that was very popular within the young state.
He joined the Czechoslovak Air Force and, at the age of 21, Marek was one of the hundreds of thousands of men mobilised during the 1938 Munich Crisis. He recalled the mobilisation when speaking to the Memory of Nations project.
“I was serving in Hradec Králové at that time. Our mood was excellent. When you are 20 years old you are enthusiastic. We had no idea about the machinery that the Germans had at their disposal. We would joke that we would soon meet up on Hitlerplatz in Berlin…
“Nowadays I know of course that it would have been a catastrophe for the nation. The Germans would have wiped us out. When the German bombers came, we saw that they were faster even than our fighters. As air force men we knew that we had no chance against this.”
Unlike some of his compatriots, Marek would stay in Nazi occupied Bohemia and Moravia during the war. He spent three months in jail for helping his friend, who was Jewish, and was also involved in the underground Scout movement, which had been banned by the occupiers. During the Prague Uprising in May 1945 he served as a messenger.
After the war he returned to the rehabilitated Scouts and worked in his family’s real estate agency. However, with the coup of 1948 Marek found himself again in the resistance, this time against the Communists. Setting up a resistance cell called DEB (Dr. Edvard Beneš), Marek and his associates cooperated with French intelligence. The group was quickly uncovered by Communist secret police and both Marek and his wife were sentenced to prison, leaving their five-year-old son in the hands of the state.
Marek was eventually sent to the Jáchymov uranium mines, a notorious jail for political prisoners, where he was given the task of sorting out the radioactive ore by hand. Just as many of the other inmates, Marek was subject to the cruelty of the local guards. Years later, he recalled being sent to a special “correction unit” as punishment no less than three times during his time in jail.
“The correction unit comprised of a building with several rooms without beds, just a concrete floor. No heating of course. We were put inside usually during the winter. We would get canvas clothes so that it was even harder to deal with the cold and a blanket for sleeping. Under such circumstances one had to exercise all night not to freeze.”
Eduard Marek was released from prison in 1956, seven years into his sentence, whereupon he again became involved in the illegal Scout movement.
After the Velvet Revolution, Marek became the head of the Prague 2 district Scouts, also receiving the Order of the Silver Wolf - the highest award of the Czech Scouts - in 2009.
10 years later, at the age of 102, Marek became one of the oldest people in the world to ever parachute out of an aircraft, taking part in an assisted jump from a height of 3.2 kilometres.
His life is described in the biography Nebyl den jako druhý (Every day was different), which was co-written with historian Michaela Tučková in 2018.