Author: Ing. John Jenik (Adapted by Jana Slansky): Prof. RNDr. (Botanical Doctor's Degree) Vladimir KRAJINA
On October 8, 2002, a memorial tablet for this professor was revealed in the area of the Botanical Garden of Charles University, Prague (Czech Republic). The minister of the life environment Libor Ambrozek said this on that occasion: "When I decided to enter the public political arena, I have invariably had in front of my eyes professor Krajina's bequest. It was just this form of a personal heritage that attracted me so much. He did not shut himself up completely from everybody to dedicate all his activities exclusively to scientific research. On the contrary, in such times when it was urgently needed, he entered into quite a different sphere of action, where even this own life was jeopardized. It is my heartfelt desire that members of the academic community as well as alumni of Charles University never forget him. Though in our actual days the time is no more so critical, it is constantly needed that persons of such a high and far-reaching scope of intelligence don't limit themselves purely and simply to scientific research, but devote their attention well now and then to some activities in the public life. By doing so, they can exert themselves to improve the world which is surrounding us."
JUDr. (Lawyer's Doctor Degree) Jacob Cermin, former chairman of the Federation of Freedom Fighters said this among other comments: "Communism left horrible stains on the souls of our nation. I have been incessantly insisting on our returning to human decency and honest aboveboard work. Regrettably, it seems as if nowadays, both these values would not have any validity anymore. There isn't anybody now who would praise us in that respect. So, whenever any nation finds ifself in such a predicament, it is customary to return to some legends. As everybody knows, Czechs have their own legend relating to St. Wenceslaus who is presumably residing in the Blanik mountains. Over there, he is supposed to have his own army constantly available, which is expected to save us. Hence, I wish to express here my vision of personal kinship of such persons who belong to that legendary army. In this connection, those who are worth mentioning are Vladimir Krajina, Milada Horakova, General Pika, &c. No doubt, in these critical times, this type of person of such high breadth of intelligence, expected to lead this small nation, will turn up anew, and develop afresh with the utmost endeavor those values to which we were currently accustomed to accept during the existence of the 1918-1938 Czechoslovak Republic. Indeed, we have to wake up from the lethargy, which was the result of the 45 years of Communist indoctrination, "
Vladimir Joseph Kraqjina was born on January 30, 1905 in Slavice near the bigger town of Trebic (Moravia). He studied at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University, where he graduated in 1927. For his excellent results, he was rewarded by a Present of Honor, given to him by the first president of Czechoslovakia, Thomas Garrigue Masaryk. Subsequently, he continued his studies in Poland. Thereafter, he was participating as a probationer in training courses at Yale University, USA as well as at Bishop's Museum on the Islands of Hawaii. When he was 30 years old, he travelled a great deal. He was constantly engaged in furthering his knowledge by more thorough botanical studies in Japan, Rumania, Germany, Switzerland, France and Great Britain. In 1934, he was appointed a senior lecturer of plant geobotanics and systematics. This appointment was based on his extensive works concerning plant relationships, which he carried out during his stay in the valley of Mlynica in High Tatra (Slovakia). When Bohemia and Moravia (nowadays Czech Republic) were occupied in 1939 by the Nazis armies, he took upon himself accordingly newly arising social responsibilities. That is to say, he relinquished, at his own will, the botanical profession, and dedicated all his abilities, experiences and talents to serve in the Anti-Fascist struggle for independence. Already in November 1939, he became a member of the Secret Co-ordinatory Center of the Political Parties Coalition, and during the Christmas holidays of the same year, he went underground. Until 1940, he worked as a member of the Chairman's Board of "Central Leadership of the Czechoslovak Home Resistance Movement". In connection with this function, he was also the Head of Secret Information Service. Its task was to secure important political and military news, e.g. regarding the Nazis' plans during their Balkan occupation, information relating to the ocean sea convoys in direction to North Africa, data referring to the war preparations against Soviet Union, &c. At its beginnings, the Center of such Resistance Works was located at his workplace on the first floor of the Botanical Institute at Charles University, Prague. In the course of their resistance activities, the resistants around Krajina transmitted to London over 20.000 news reports. During the WWII years, Krajina was compelled to hide at many secret places either in Prague or somewhere in the country. Most decidedly, he was the best informed all-around active co-operator of the Resistance. Also, he met both of those paratroopers who were at that time preparing an assassination of the "Reichsprotektor des Protektorats Boehmen und Maehren" ( German Realm Protector of the Czech and Moravian Protectorate) Reihardt Heydrich. The Gestapo (German State Secret Police) was continually and thoroughly searching for Krajina's whereabouts both in the border cottages and rock-caves, located in the territories of so-called the Czech Paradise. Thereupon, at the beginning of the year 1943, his hideaway was, after all, discovered by the Gestapo, and the senior lecturer Krajina was arrested. At the moment of his being taken into custody, he attempted to commit suicide by swallowing Potassium Cyanide solution. However, the Gestapo pumped that fluid from his stomach, in order to maintain him alive for ensuing tormentous cross-examinations. Hereafter, those were incessantly kept up with all its cynism and rudeness during 2 (two) months at the so called "Petschek Palace" (former Jewish ownership), which was the Central Office of the Gestapo in Prague. After that he was sent to the Concentration Camp in Terezin ( Bohemia). Luckily, he succeeded to escape from there in April 1945, along with several hundreds of other co-prisoners. it was almost a miracle to attain this, because they were all supposed to be subject of a group execution. Only owing to a lucky bit of chance, a general of the German Army intervened to facilitate their escaping.
After WWII, Krajina was decorated by a distinguished Czechoslovak War Cross. Besides, he also got a Medal for Exquisite Service, and a badge For Loyalty to his country. As for his status at Charles University, he was appointed as a professor of botanics. Nevertheless, he did not ever return to any of his scientific researches. He got too much involved in many of the political events in the revived Czechoslovakia. Moreover, he felt it his duty to help the re-establishment of this democratic state. Thus, he devoted now the greater part of his time to optimal solving of the political intricacies which took place during the years after the WWII. After all, he was elected as a representative of the National Assembly, and later on, he accepted the office of Chairman of General Secretary of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party. The latter party was the strongest opponent of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. In such function, Krajina set himself the task of contending with apparent or secret introductions of foreign elements of totalitarianism to renewed Czechoslovakia. After February 1948 ( in those days, Communists took over the sway in Czechoslovakia), Krajina emigrated from his country. Pretty soon, he was blamed by the then governing Communist totalitarian regime for his alleged organizing of spy activities or even preparing of an armed coup. Accordingly, they took legal proceedings against Krajina, and he was sentenced (in his absence) to jail for 25 years. Under this kind of pressure, the Council of the Botanical Community deprived the emigrated Krajina of his ordinary membership in the Czechoslovak Botanical Society. As an emigrant, Krajina got his political asylum in Great Britain. Over there, he was recognized as a war hero, and as such, he was at that time even invited for an audience to the Office of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. At the end of the year 1949, Krajina moved to Canada, where he was also granted asylum, and moreover, he was offered a job at the Botanical Faculty of the British Columbia University in Vancouver. Gradually, he became an ordinary professor at the same university in 1958. Furthermore, during the years of 1961-1962, he was also working as guest professor in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he lectured mainly on woods ecology, dendrology, bryology and plant systematics. In doing it, he educated quite a number of botanists. In 1981, Krajina became Member of Canadian Order, and in addition, he was named a lifelong honorary member of the Alumni Association of British Columbia University. Into the bargain, he was also frequently participating in the Czech exile and political organizations.
In 1989, when Krajina's sentencing lost ist validity, he returned to the new democratic Czechoslovakia. On March 16, 1990, Czechoslovak president Vaclav Havel conferred upon Krajina the highest Czechoslovak decoration, i.e. Order of the White Lion of First Class. Also, in March 1990, Krajina became an honorary foreign member of the Czechoslovak Botanical Society. Thereby, all the undignified accusations, raised against him by the former Communist Government subsequent to February 1948, were fully cancelled.(Translated by Charles Opatrny)
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