A Letter to Prison

Příběhy bezpráví – příběhy vzdoru (Adam Drda, 2009)/
Stories of Injustice – Stories of Defiance (Adam Drda, 2009)

Prague, June 1950

Item: Permission for a package of cherries for prisoner #6064, Ivan Kieslinger, born 1928

Board of directors of the Penal Institute in Valdice

We live in a cooperative house, and we have a cherry tree in the garden that’s just starting to ripen. It’s our son’s tree, and when there wasn’t fruit to be had during the war, he divided up the cherries between all of the children in the area.

As packages are not allowed at the moment, I would ask, please, if I could bring some cherries with me for him next Sunday when we visit, as I know for myself that fruit is the best medicine. There haven’t been many yet this year, but since the children in the area – thanks to the well-regulated supply – have enough, I’m willing to bring them for other sick men in question, so that my son wouldn’t have any special advantage.

I’ve heard that special packages might be allowed for the name day that my son is celebrating on the 24th, and that medicines like Gramaltina, evaporated milk, or other nourishing substances (like Biohlein) aren’t allowed.

I ask for a kind answer to these questions.
Expecting a favorable arrangement,
Mrs. Kieslingerova


Mrs. J. Kieslingerova
Prague 8, Cibulka 360.
6064 Ivan Kieslinger
Fruit package

The institutional command here cannot oblige your request, as the ban issued by the Ministry of Justice on sending packages of food to prisoners is still in effect.

Commanding Officer of the Prison Guard Corps

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  • What situation is the letter writer in and what is she trying to do?
  • What is the reply to her letter and what does the reply say about the position of the state?
  • What are your impressions of these two documents? What do you think they say about the era in which they were created?


Besides those executed in large trials, thousands of people were also sentenced in less watched trials in the first half of the 1950s. The communist government passed laws imposing long sentences and criminalising various types of conduct. Many political prisoners were released only during the presidential amnesty in 1960. In 1949, Ivan Kieslinger was sentenced to 16 years in prison because he promised to help the anti-communist uprising, which had already come out during the preparatory phases of the trial.

In this document, we try to convey the experience of his family through a letter in which his mother attempts to ask permission to send a food package to her son. The confrontation of the individual and the state in this case shows how political prisoners were treated in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. The conditions in prisons and labour camps were very harsh, characterised by hard labour, physical punishment, and lack of food and sleep. Many prisoners died in prison or were seriously ill when released. We do not focus on the personal story of the prisoner, for whom a lack of fruit was probably not the worst experience, but instead try to reconstruct the perspective of Ivan’s mother and the families of convicts in general and their relationship to the communist regime.