Pavel Klimes - a return to a lost world

Photo : Jitka Hrabankova

Pavel Klimes lives in the village of Pec pod Snezkou in the Krkonose Mountains of North Bohemia. He runs a museum and information centre for the thousands of people who visit the mountains every year. Pavel is fascinated by the history of the region. Until World War Two the population was almost entirely German-speaking, and when they were expelled after the war, whole villages emptied overnight. Now Pavel is trying to put together some of the fragments of the lost history of the Krkonose Mountains, and part of this project is an attempt to restore some of the neglected wayside memorials, crosses and other architectural reminders of the region's past. Here he remembers an experience from a few years ago, when the project was just getting under way.

The Krkonose Mountains
"Our project to repair these stone reminders of the past has many levels, and one of them is meeting people. I can tell you about one thing that happened when we were repairing the First World War memorial in the village of Sklenarovice, a village that no longer exists. This was the very first stone that we had decided to repair. It took about five or six years before we were able to put the little memorial back where it had once stood on the site of the village. I went up there to cut the grass and make it look presentable. The memorial lists the names of those who fell in the First World War, and the addresses of the cottages where they lived - today not a single one of the houses is standing.

Suddenly a man came up in his car, got out, and I could see straight away that he was very upset. He started talking to me in German. He saw me holding a rake, so he realized that I was local. I asked him - what's wrong? - and he replied that he couldn't find his house. I told him that his house probably wouldn't be there any more, but I could help him find the place where it had stood. It was number 13, and - by the way - the memorial included the names of his grandfather and uncle who had both fallen in the first war - the name was Seidl. So I showed him where the house had stood, and he gradually calmed down. This was the first time since 1945 that he had been there. Of course he already knew that the village had gone, but seeing it for the first time with his own eyes made a deep impact on him. We carried on talking for a while. Of course there wasn't much I could say, but perhaps it was a good thing that I was there, was able to help him, and at least blunt the very worst of the shock he experienced in that place. I can understand how he must have felt."