Under the Watchful Sight of an Archangel

Negatives or photographs lodged in the Security Services Archive in the collections of the Surveillance Directorate do not record just the people who were the so-called “objects” that were kept under surveillance by the State Security, but unintentionally also depict often also streets, houses, parks or monuments. Not far from one of the monuments, the Orthodox church of St. Michael the Archangel in the Kinský Gardens, the so called “dead drop” was situated once in past.

The church of St. Michael the Archangel used to be a silent witness of many events over the years, one of which had even been mentioned in the Information Bulletin of the IV. Directorate of National Security Corps (Surveillance Directorate). The article entitled “Using Trap Powders as a Criminal Investigation Method” shows the experience of the members of the State Security from one of the training operations where they were tracking a man (one of their colleagues), who controlled the “dead drop” under the Petřín lookout tower. Hard to say whether any of the participants knew that St. Michael the Archangel is the patron of policemen.

The drop was located in a wall close to the church so skilfully that neither directly from the church nor from the nearby bushes, where the surveillance squad hid, was it possible to see how the “object” manipulated with it. Therefore a decision was made to use a so called trap powder that was not visible by human sight; however, after one touched it, it was possible to detect it in the ultraviolet light. The powder was applied not only on the can inside the drop but also on its surroundings. When the “object” came to the church to collect the contents from the drop, he was standing with his back to his pursuers. He used a plastic bag on his hands instead of gloves. After he had checked the box, he threw away the plastic bag as well as the can. Nonetheless the State Security located it thanks to the traces of the powder. The exercise “object” was detained and the plastic bag with traces of the powder was used as the evidence.

The Carpathian church of St. Michael the Archangel, which was used as a hiding place by the members of the Surveillance Directorate, “came” to its place at Petrin hill in Prague only after it had changed its location twice. First it was disassembled and moved from the Carpathian village Velké Lúčky in 1793 to Medvedovec near Mukachevo (Carpathian Ruthenia). From Mukachevo to Prague it travelled by train in 1929 from Carpathian Ruthenia on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its accession to the Czechoslovak state after World War I. The church was assembled and rebuilt on Petřín in Kinsky gardens and became part of the ethnographic collection of the National Museum in Prague.

It has drawn attention of many passers-by even today. The American photographer Jeffrey Martin took its pictures in the autumn 2020 and made a 3D digital photo model of the church. When the churched was destroyed by fire shortly afterwards (on 28 October 2020) these pictures by Martin became the valuable basis for the planned reconstruction. One picture of the church appears was also found in the Information Bulletin of the IV. directorate of National Security Corps (1972, No. 2, inv. No. 1005, collection A 25, Surveillance Directorate of the National Security Corps).