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The history of the Tillerova vila guesthouse building

The history of the Tillerova vila guesthouse building began in 1921 when the project was made up by a significant east-bohemian architect Vincenc Zeifert. The construction works began in the same year and were finished a year later, in 1922.

The investors were Colonel Karel Tiller and his wife Marie. Mr. Tiller was born on 10 April 1882 to a wealthy family living in Prague, where his ancestor, English Catholics, came in the 17th century during the English civil war. After his grammar school studies he started his military career in the 11th Cavalry Regiment and served in the First World War. During the war he deserted his regiment and entered the Czechoslovak legion on the Italian battle front. After the war he worked on the Ministry of Defence and continued his military career in the 6th Dragoon Regiment in Pardubice. During the years 1929 – 1930 he worked in a jury at the Regional court in Chrudim.

Mr. Tiller’s wife Marie (her maiden name was Schneiderová) was born on 5 May 1891 in a wealthy Prague family. Her father Mudr. Ondřej Schneider was owner of sanatorium in Vinohrady 1771. Her mother Alžběta Schneiderová (her maiden name was Trnková) was daughter of Jan Trnka, the Imperial councillor and owner of "Staroměstské mlýny". Mrs. Marie Tiller was very well-educated, well-travelled and spoke various foreign languages. She was also a great cook and handworker.

Mr. Tiller and Miss Schneiderová got engaged in 1904 and married in 1911 (14 January 1911 in church of St. František in Prague). In 1922 the family moved to the newly built villa in Lázně Bohdaneč. Their arrival meant a huge benefit for the social life in Lázně Bohdaneč. Mr. Tiller was very sociable and organised various meetings in his house, as well as his wife, who also gave private language lessons. Mr. Tiller also composed poems in his free time and wrote at least three poetry collections. Since 1932 he was a member of the municipal financial committee. As both the spouses came from important Prague families, they had many contacts in there and were able to bring many distinguished guests to Lázně Bohdaneč Spa and so enrich the social life in town.

As many other Czech families, the Tillers were struck by the beginning of the 2nd world war. Since it’s very beginning, Mr. Tiller was engaged in the anti-Nazi resistance movement. At first they distributed illegal magazine in the neighbouring villages, later they participated on the attempt to blow up the Explosia factory which was located near Lázně Bohdaneč and used by Germans. The explosives that were brought for this purpose from Prague were even for some time stored in Mr. Tiller’s cottage in the countryside. The same cottage later served as a temporary shelter for the Czechoslovak parachutists who came from the Great Britain. Even though the Nazis did not reveal his participation in the resistance movement, he and his wife were both arrested on 17 September 1943 because of his son Miroslav, who flew to England to join the RAF units. Their house was then seized by Germans, but thanks to a few friends of the Tillers some of the house equipment was taken away and therefore saved before the Germans came.

After their arrest the spouses were separated. Mr. Tiller, as well as other resistance movement members, was tried in front of court in Dresden, where he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. (Other sources claim that he was sentenced to capital punishment due to the defence speech that he delivered in front of the judge and only survived thanks to the end of the war.) Despite the tough conditions he had to face in prison and later in the factory where he was brought in order to perform forced labour, he managed to survive the war.

Marie Tiller was kept imprisoned in a concentration camp in Svatobořice until the end of war. According to records in municipal chronicles she acted courageously during the whole time of her imprisonment. We also know that some of her friends from Lázně Bohdaneč sent her food packages which helped her to deal with the tough conditions in the camp.

Luckily both the spouses managed to survive the war and on 26 May 1945 the whole family met again at home, including the son Miroslav, who returned from England. Their happiness, however, lasted only for a short period of time, as the communist regime meant new troubles for them.

Mr. and Mrs. Tiller brought up two sons - Karel and Miroslav. The younger, Miroslav Tiller, was born on 20 May 1918. His life was remarked by the 2nd world war as well as lives of the rest of his family. During his university studies in Prague he participated on the student demonstrations in the autumn 1939. Those demonstrations led to closing of Czech universities on 17 November 1939 and a wave of arrests which Miroslav Tiller luckily escaped, as he did not stay in the student residence in Prague. Such experience, however, only strengthened his determination to escape Czechoslovakia, and so in February 1940 he crossed the border to Slovakia and Hungary. Later he arrived to France where he wanted to join the Czechoslovak military legions. Unfortunately, in June 1940 France capitulated, therefore he sailed to Great Britain and entered the RAF units. Later he served as a war correspondent and even shot a few short movies. After the war he returned to Czechoslovakia and on 26 May 1945 he was reunited with his family.  He, however, did not come alone – during his stay in England he got married to an English girl named Beryl. Later they brought up three children – twins Hanna and Valerie (born 23 January 1947) and son Paul (born 16 May 1950).

As his parents, Miroslav Tiller was not able to reconcile with the communist regime that took power in 1948. Due to his contacts in England and English wife, he was suspected of espionage and in 1957 arrested. After a whole-day-lasting interrogation he was allowed to go home, but was told to return the next day. In the evening he took his family, a few things and fled from Czechoslovakia the same way as in 1940. The family settled in the Great Britain where Miroslav Tiller died in 1974. The dramatic circumstances of Miroslav Tiller’s escape were described by his daughter Valerie Mary Champion who visited Tillerova vila guesthouse with her husband and a group of friends in 2016.

His older brother, Karel Tiller, was probably born between the year 1912 and 1917 and possessed various artistic talents. He lived in Pardubice, then in Prague and finally, in 1968, he and his three children (Karel, Jiří and Jana) fled to Austria and later to Canada. His wife, however, stayed in Prague, where, according to our information, she lived at least until 2005 when she was 90 years old. The separation of her family caused her a lot of grief in her whole life.

The first of their three children, Karel Tiller, born in 1943, nowadays lives in near Toronto, Canada. In 2005 he visited his mother in Prague. His close friend, Mrs. Pavlína Binderová visited Tillerova vila guesthouse in 2010 and delivered him a photo album of the Tiller family, which the current owner of the building had as well as some photos of the reconstruction process of the building which lasted from 2004 till 2006. The second son, Jiří Tiller used to live in Austria, worked as a bank clerk and later returned to Czech Republic. He had two children, daughter Sophie who is a photographer, and son George who lives in Berlin, works as a movie director and visited the Tillerova Vila guesthouse in 2014. About the third child, Jana, we do not have almost any information, except that she lives in New Orleans and that she used to visit her mother in the Czech Republic.

Mr. and Mrs. Tiller - the builders of the villa - were persecuted and lost almost all their property because of the communist regime. First they were forced to sell their house and only allowed to live in a flat that was part of the villa, later they had to leave the house completely. In 1960 they left Lázně Bohdaneč and, as we assume, fled to Great Britain, where their younger son, Miroslav, lived at that time. Mr. Karel Tiller died there in 1974, as well as his son, who passed away in the same year, being only 56 years old.

Mrs. Marie Tiller’s life story still remains uncertain to us. We know that after the family was forced to leave the villa in Lázně Bohdaneč and move to Pardubice, she went on with teaching languages and also earned money by sewing and knitting. In 1962 she left Czechoslovakia with her husband. The date and place of her death were unknown until 2016 when her and Mr. Karel Tiller’s granddaughter, Mrs. Valerie Mary Champion, visited Tillerova vila guesthouse. She told us that her grandmother left Great Britain after the death of her husband and moved to Israel where she died shortly after. Her last resting place remains uncertain.

During the years we find out more and more about the Tiller family – from the municipal chronicles, surviving documents, stories told by Lázně Bohdaneč citizens and also from the members of the Tiller family that visited us. Other information come as well from the local club of history enthusiasts who provided us some interesting facts about their oldest member – Mr. Karel Tiller. From them we learned that Mr. and Mrs. Tiller celebrated 60 years of marriage in England and that Mr. Tiller also sent them a few post-cards as well as short poems from there.

After Mr. and Mrs. Tiller left Lázně Bohdaneč, their villa served as a health care centre until 1999 when it was deserted for the following six years. This time has a devastating effect on the building, and when it was sold in public auction in 2004, only a ruin remained from once beautiful and elegant building. The new owner, company Helianthus-C s. r. o., carried out a demanding two-year reconstruction during which it tried to restore the original appearance of the building. The Tillerova Vila guesthouse began its service on 1 September 2006. In 2011 a private wellness centre was built, in 2012 the sale of Moravian wines began.

The only other remark of the Tiller family in Lázně Bohdaneč is so-called “Tillerovo sedátko” a small stone chair made by Col. Karel Tiller in memory of his mother in her favourite resting place in the near forest.

Updated in Lázně Bohdaneč 31 July 2016.              Ing. Claudia Kladivová

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533 41 Lázně Bohdaneč
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