State Security in the Mountains

The State Security was interested – among others – in Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the surveillance of the members of this religious society, the operatives of the 4th department of the Regional Directorate of the SNB in Banská Bystrica spent several days in the snow-covered mountains in the region of Malá Fatra.

One of the followed members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses booked a company cottage in the area of Varín (part of Jedlovina). Jehovah’s Witnesses were to meet there for a spiritual exercise. The State Security tried to find out who would visit the cottage during this religious training (this is what it was called in the materials of the State Security). Furthermore the surveillance staff were tasked to find out whether the exercise would be visited by the society members who are on probation, and if so, these people should have been arrested (the StB termed this “realising a person”).

To enable the surveillance of the of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the cottage without the threat of uncovering the whole operation, the State Security had to find out a credible “legend” and surveillance spot, a place from which the surveillance operations can be carried out inconspicuously. They found the spot in the neighbouring cottage, where two members of the State Security were accommodated and pretended to be on winter vacation. To establish a convincing illusion, one of them was allowed to take his wife and children for this “business trip”. All of them had skis and sledges.

Although the operatives set out one day earlier, some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses had already come to the site before them. Moreover, the operatives discovered on the first day that somebody was watching very carefully the surroundings from behind a curtain in the upper window of the monitored cottage, which made the situation even more dramatic and the operatives had to be very careful.

Meantime, in the course of the first day, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the operatives occasionally met and made acquaintance during skiing. The operatives then identified the people based on their photos. The next morning the main regional pastor of the sect arrived with his family “Nothing interesting was happening during the morning, and most of the Jehovah’s Witnesses spent their time with winter sports.”

The religious exercise took place in the afternoon, and as early as at 9 p.m. all the Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested directly in the cottage. Their interrogations confirmed that no one suspected the holidaymakers from the neighbouring cottage. The meeting therefore seemed safe also for those on probation, who began to be persecuted by the StB after this event.

The State Security assessed the work of its operatives as very successful. The tasks were fulfilled, and the description of the case of surveillance in the mountains therefore appeared in the Information Bulleting of the 4th Directorate of the Security Corps, accompanied with photographs.

The surveillance operatives remained in the surveillance spot until the next day, allegedly in order to accomplish the legend. They may even have had a good time doing some more skiing.

Source: Collection A 25 (Surveillance Department), inv. no. 1026; Sledovani, 1981:2, “Surveillance in the cottage environment (An example of a successful action codenamed KATA by the 4th Department of the Regional Directorate of the SNB in Banská Bystrica).