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Swedes in Příbor

According to Josef’s Ullrich German version of the legend, the story of Swedes in Příbor goes like this:

In the last years of the Thirty Years' War Swedish troops invaded Moravia. The news that the enemy was approaching rapidly was spreading fear and horror all over the country. Inhabitants of Příbor anticipated Swedes with the deepest concern.  They knew it from hearsay that Swedes were ‘worse than common robbers’. The closer the Swedish army was the greater fear and panics were overwhelming Příbor’s citizens.  Vast majority of them was convinced they would be forced to defend their homes from intruders with their own blood.

It wasn’t too long before the first Swedish patrol appeared at the gates of Příbor to announce the arrival of a bigger unit of their army. They demanded food, accommodation and a big sum of money from the Town Council.

Right after they left, the councillors have gathered at the town hall to figure out how to best handle ‘the Swedish situation’.  Quite understandable, planning the defence strategy caused great unsettlement among the people. Some were afraid the Swedes were going to murder everyone in town and wanted to run and hide far in the mountains; others were considering agreeing to Swedish conditions.  The unsettlement was growing and the people were helpless.

That moment a certain brave town magistrate appeared in the town hall window and with few well-chosen words made all citizens quiet, asking them to go home and wait for a decision of the council.

Late at night several members of the town council went to the streets and knocked on everyone’s doors and windows to quietly tell them what was going to happen and to give some people instructions on what would be their tasks.

After midnight, the brave town magistrate led few chosen armed men to the hill, where the St. Francis church stood. Every man was given a post behind the graveyard’s wall which, if necessary, was to be defended with their own blood. Near the churchyard’s gate there was a big old linden tree. In its crown Příbor’s best shooters found a good place to hide. Their task was to launch an attack in case it would come to an actual battle.  Crown of that tree was so thick and its branches so strong that it has perfectly and safely concealed the soldiers hiding in it. Once all the necessary preparations for the defence were met, the old town magistrate kneeled down and prayed to God ‘to forbid victory of those villains on the other side, destroying our altars and killing believers together with their priests’.

At dawn, when the first rays of sun shone over the hills, a voice from the tower warned that first Swedish invaders were to be seen.  After waiting awake all night at the hall, the already mentioned town magistrate gathered all men of the town council and they went to meet enemy face to face. They kneeled down in front of the Swedish lieutenant and offered him the key to the town hall. The lieutenant didn’t even get out of his saddle, as he didn’t think they were worthy of his solitary word. The key had been handed over to him by his servant; afterwards he urged his horse to get into the town.  With him, a great number of Swedish soldiers entered the town. Their army was spreading over a distance of the first house at the road to Jičín right to the very bank of Lubina River. The town magistrate told the Swede, that the demanded sum of money was just waiting for him. All he needed to do was to enter the town hall and collect it.

When they entered the hall, there were twelve councillors waiting for them, each with a pouch of money in their hands. Lieutenant had been given the smallest one, but filled with pure gold. Using the opportunity that the enemy commandants were busy with counting coins, Příbor’s councillors produced spears and pikes from their coats and killed all the Swedes.  

Meanwhile, outside in the market square, the Swedish soldiers awaited the arrival of their leaders. Having bad feeling about it, they tried to look into town hall windows and when no one was reappearing for over an hour, they tried to force building’s doors. Suddenly, first gun shots were heard from the hall. Sadly, that was the signal to a start of an open battle. Bullets were flying all over in the air. Swedes, taken by surprise, were trying to get into the closest houses and buildings, but they found out that all the doors have been locked and bolted. They tried a mass attack but only in vain – Czechs would always manage to repel the attack. Only one small group of soldiers led by a young, wise officer made it to the suburbs of the town. They planned to move to the hill, where the St. Francis church stood to buy them some time; to re-group and recover before more Swedish troops would back them up.

They have barely managed to come close the church when first bullets reached them from churchyard wall gleaming of muskets of the town defenders. Suffering even greater loss, Swedes still managed to break through to the graveyard, where the true brother-killing battle begun.  Příbor’s citizens were almost out of their strength, fainting from wounds, when suddenly the much needed backup came in a form of men hidden in the crown of the old linden tree. Swedes gave in to panic, dropped their weapons and started running away from the churchyard through the gate or jumping over walls. Shooting was less and less audible and soon there was only silence to be heard in town – enemy was beaten! Rest troops of Swedes re-gathered on the hill of Šibeňák but only to run away towards Nový Jičín.

Eventually, people of Příbor could take a deep breath and put their minds at rest – all thanks to the brave town magistrate and wise members of the town council, who managed to outwit the enemy and save the town from being destroyed.  Hand in hand they went to the parish church to a thank-giving mess served for saving the town Příbor from Swedes.

The news of Swedes being defeated quickly spread all over the country.  There was one well-known German rhyme memorizing those days:

"Brieg, Freiberg, Brunn

Machen die Schweden dünn. "

Free English translation:

“In Breh, Příbor and Brno,

Evil Swedes‘ Army was beaten.”