Stanislav Brzobohatý-Berton

Stanislav Brzobohatý was born on 2nd March 1924 in Brno, where he also graduated high school. During the Second World War he made a living as a stage manager and actor in Hranice in Moravia, but he unavoidably ended up as forced labour in a factory in Lipník nad Bečva. After liberation in the spring of 1945 he volunteered for the army, successfully completed officer training and became an editor for the army’s radio broadcast. From 1947 he studied comparative literature at the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University, focusing on Czech and German literature, however he soon left for Great Britain for casual work , where he decided to stay. After the communist putsch he claimed political asylum.

Foto: Mladý Stanislav Brzobohatý v Londýně
Foto: Stanislav Berton

In London he was active in several exile groups. The Czech National Committee led by General Lev Prchala had been active in London since the Second World War. Its members strongly criticised allying with the Soviets and the politics of Edvard Beneš. Brzobohatý joined their ranks and assisted the Committee’s secretary and former diplomat, Karel Locher. After a while he landed his dream contract, albeit limited, working in the editorial staff of BBC radio Czech. Among other things, he had the opportunity to commentate the London Summer Olympics in 1948, during with the Czechoslovak team won eleven medals, including six gold. He made a living as a night guard but was very active, especially in the ex-pat movement. He founded the Organisation of Free Czech Youth as a counterweight to the “communistified” Czechoslovak Youth Union (Československý svaz mládeže),  and released student magazines such as Směry and Student and Time. Under the pseudonym S. F. Bohata he also contributed to the periodicles České listy, Integrál, Český boj and others. He enrolled in economics at the prestigious London School of Economics, performed translations, and organised theatre performances as well as literary and commemorative evenings in the Czech National House. In 1952 he got married and began releasing a nine-part edition of verses, aphorisms and reflections, titled Satiry. After having three sons, he accepted an job-offer to manufacture jewellery in order to provide for his growing family. He would remain in this field for several decades. On 13th April 1957 he officially changed his surname to Berton. Halfway through the 60s he and his family moved to Sydney, where he successfully manufactured and sold perfumes.

In his old age Stanislav Berton was very active in ex-pat community groups in Queensland where he organised all kinds of gatherings and cultural events. His great hobby was history. He researched the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Berton also analysed the archives and memoirs of detective Heinz Pannwitz, a representative of the Gestapo in the Protectorate, parachutists and members of the resistance to great detail, paying particular attention to the controversial figure, Ladislav Vaněk – collaborant and co-worker of the State Security services. Thanks to his profound interest in the topic, Berton communicated with many people and significantly contributed to knowledge about the dark chapter of Czech history. He spent the last years of his life in an Aged Care Facility in the coastal town of Coolum Beach near Brisbane, where he continued to devote himself to his literary, poetic and publishing activities. He received a silver medal for spreading the good name of the Czech Republic overseas. He died on 27th October 2016 at the age of 92. Thanks to the assistance of the Czech Embassy, the collection of over 20 boxes of written works that he left behind was transported from Canberra to Prague, where it was added to the collection of exile and samizdat literature – Libri Prohibiti.

Original text (in Czech) prepared by Martin Nekola.

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