Richard Smola

Portrait of Richard Smola.

Richard Smola was born in Pilsen on the 3 June 1930. He witnessed the bombing of the city and its liberation by U.S. forces during the final stages of the Second World War. After the war he and his family faced persecution by the communist government.

Richard Smola witnessed the heavy bombings of Pilsen in the last years of the Second World War and was present when American soldiers liberated the city on 6 May 1945. Although Pilsen was liberated by American forces it would fall under communist rule along with the rest of the country after a communist coup.

Richard and many others remained thankful to the American soldiers who liberated their city. In 1948, he was part of a group of boy scouts and other citizens who tried to lay a wreath and flowers on the anniversary of the liberation in 1948. As this took place after the Communist party had come to power in February 1948, they were disrupted by the secret police. As an ardent amateur photographer, Richard made unique pictures of these events.

With the communist party in power, Richard and his family became targets of state persecution. His father was arrested on false charges and sentenced to a year of prison. Richard’s family was forced to temporarily move out of Pilsen under state organised Operation B – Bourgeoisie. During this action ‘politically unreliable persons’ were forced to leave larger cities and live in smaller towns in the countryside.

Richard studied mechanics in Pilsen, but his studies were interrupted by compulsory military service at the Auxiliary Engineering Corps. These were in fact forced labour units in which he had to serve between 1951 and 1954. After his release, he completed his university studies and worked for the Škoda Works.

Smoke rises over Pilsen after the bombing of the city. © / private archive of Richard Smola
Boy scouts lay a wreath to commemorate the liberation of Pilsen. © / private archive of Richard Smola
The citizens of Pilsen lay flowers and American flags to commemorate the liberation of the city. © / private archive of Richard Smola
Scene from the 1948 commemoration of the liberation of Pilsen. © / private archive of Richard Smola
Current picture of Richard Smola © / private archive of Richard Smola