Uherčice in South Moravia. The surroundings of this commune has Jiří Runkas chosen to start a balloon. A hot air balloon that would carry him across the Iron Curtain. But this journey has never taken place. Before he could start off, the Secret Police got him.
Jiří Runkas was apprenticed as an auto mechanic and later was engaged in ship modelling; he even became part of the national representation. When he discovered that he cannot live in the communist Czechoslovakia and when he did not get the permission to travel to the West, he and his wife constructed the balloon.
But he blew it only once. Not far from Uherčice, in a lonely valley of Želetavka River whereto one could not see very well from anywhere. It happened in early 1987. It was only a trial. Runkas who lived in Moravské Budějovice, planned the real flight for freedom for autumn of that year. Nevertheless, based on anonymous denunciation, he was arrested by the Secret Police, who found a part of the balloon during house search at his cottage. Runkas was sentenced, but conditionally released. The police, however, seized the balloon and foreign money, which he had prepared before the journey.
By the time he and his wife were secretly constructing the balloon, he had already made a number of failed attempts to get to the West legally. For eleven years he was asking for the so-called foreign exchange assurance, thus permission to obtain money (necessary for the journey) from state bank. Then he tried to buy a tour to Switzerland. It cost him a lot of money, but again he did not get other necessary permission: the so-called exit clause.
The idea to construct a balloon was not originally his. In 1983 the bike racer Robert Hutyra flew to the West in a homemade balloon. With his entire family and a racing bike. A lot of talking and writing was going on about the successful escape in the West. Runkas learnt about it from foreign broadcasting.
When he decided to sew a balloon, he found out that everything was secret. Officially no literature concerning production of balloons existed in Czechoslovakia. In Technical Library in Brno he found for example information about a helicopter, but nothing with balloons. Everything was deliberately withdrawn. Thus, he had to try and invent everything by himself. It was not exactly easy.
Walking route suggestion
- Surroundings of Uherčice
- The Valley of Želetavka