During Communist times the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Czechoslovakia had been under constant scrutiny. Special surveillance was executed by the State Administration (Department) for information. They zeroed in on the kind of literature the church was attempting to print. For that reason, the printing and distribution of material was difficult—and even dangerous.
The church managed to print books, magazines, various resource aids for children, and adult Sabbath schools lessons. However, the next challenge was making deliveries. For that, I used my Skoda 1202, a spacious station wagon made in Czechoslovakia. The car was modified with reinforced suspension to carry heavier loads.
Josef Hurta’s wife is pictured with the Skoda 1202, the car used to deliver literature.
The printing facility was located at a church member’s house in the northern part of Moravia, a north-central region of Czechoslovakia. On one particular occasion it was necessary to deliver the printed material to a church in southern Moravia. After prayer I took off. Everything was going smoothly; I was in southern Moravia and driving through a small town. Suddenly I noticed a man running along a sidewalk, seeking to wave me down.
The house that served as a printing facility.
Even though I was not in the habit of picking up hitchhikers, especially when I was carrying “special cargo,” that evening I decided to pick up a stranger. As I was slowing down, I noticed that the man was wearing a police uniform! Based on the number of stars on his shoulders, I knew that he was a high-ranking officer.
He told me that he was in a big hurry and begged me to give him a ride. During the ride we had a nice, casual conversation. We had not traveled far when suddenly I saw a police checkpoint up ahead. I could see that almost every car was being pulled over.
I became anxious. This was dangerous. The officer at the checkpoint asked me to pull over to the side and asked me for my documents. He didn’t like something, and called over a commanding officer to assist him. They began to pepper me with questions: “Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you carrying in your car?”
My passenger observed the exchange for a while. Then he opened the passenger door, stood up, and said, “Gentlemen, that’s enough! Leave us alone. We are in a hurry. And radio the other officers down the road to leave us alone as well. Do you understand?”
By now the two officers stood at attention, saluting him and saying, “Yes, sir! Yes, sir!” They looked terrified! They gave me back my documents, and we took off down the road. We faced two more police checkpoints, but even from a distance policemen directed us to go around and continue our journey.
As I was approaching my destination, my fellow passenger asked me if I would be willing to bring him home, a detour of about three miles (five kilometers). Of course I was happy to do it for him. As I dropped him off, he thanked me profusely. Then he smiled and said, “Today was fun, wasn’t it?”—referring to the encounter at the police checkpoint earlier that evening.
I felt a comforting peace come over me as I slowly eased my car back onto the main road. In my mind’s eye I could see the images of the frightened officers standing at attention and saluting my passenger in the police uniform. At the thought of it all, I burst into laughter!
Yet I realized the soberness of what had happened that day. The enemy had been ready to get me. How did I manage to get through three police checkpoints unnoticed? It would not have been difficult to find out what I had been transporting. I would have been in big trouble. I would have had to pay a hefty price. That’s what I had been heading toward, yet our loving God prepared a way of escape. He used a high-ranking police officer to become my guardian angel.
Josef Hurta is a lay member who used to work in Publishing Ministries.