Museum Security Network

In stolen jewelry box, artifacts from a family history

In stolen jewelry box, artifacts from a family history
Posted by adn_jomalley

Posted: August 3, 2010 – 6:29 pm

STOLEN JEWELRY: A brooch carved in a concentration camp was one of the family heirlooms that was stolen from Hana Seda’s home recently.(MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News)

The brooch is bone white, curved like a rib, and about the size of the name tag. Four letters, A-N-N-A, are carved in its face. A fastener, homemade from a length of wire, is glued to the back. It probably isn’t worth much money. But to Hana Seda, a 60-year-old Czech immigrant, it is priceless.

It was a gift to her mother at the end of World War II, carved by her uncle while he was interned in the Svatoborice concentration camp in what was then Czechoslovakia.

And now it is gone, stolen sometime Friday night or Saturday morning, along with at least $20,000 worth of belongings, from the log cabin where she lives with her husband, Jan, on North Klevin Street in Mountain View.

Hana Seda is a night janitor at the Elmendorf hospital and Jan is a retired civil engineer. They were in the process of moving from the cabin in Mountain View, where they have lived for 15 years, to a new home in South Anchorage. The cabin will be demolished to make room for new housing meant to improve the neighborhood. Drug-related crime plagued their street, they said.

They slept Friday night at their new home and returned Saturday morning to find their door kicked in. An electrical meter had been torn from the side of the house, making their home alarm useless. Hana and Jan were cleaned out. A huge bucket of change was gone. Six pairs of binoculars, gone. Jan’s tools, gone. And then Hana looked for her jewery box. It was gone too. The loss took the wind out of her. It wasn’t the value of the things inside. It was the connection to people and history, she said.

The Sedas immigrated to the United States more than 30 years ago, fleeing political tensions, they told me on Tuesday. They came to Alaska in 1978. They are German Czechs, a minority in a nation that has undergone several major political shifts since they left. Many of their relatives have since died. Czechoslovakia dissolved. The contents of Hana’s large jewelry box were a trove of family and cultural history.

Both she and Jan teared up when I asked them to describe what was lost.


• The jewelry box
• Six pairs of binoculars
• A plastic bucket of loose change
• 40 rings
• 20 necklaces
• 40 to 50 sets of earrings
• A pair of wedding bands
• An engagement ring
• Tools
• Five wristwatches
• A pocket watch
• Bohemian garnet necklace and other jewelry
• Heirloom carved bone brooches
If you have information on this crime, contact Crimestoppers at

Their wedding rings. Wristwatches. A collection of perfume bottles. A rare, 150-year-old dark Bohemian garnet necklace. Jan winced to talk about a gold coin, a ducat, European currency from before World War I. It carries the image of an emperor, and is wrapped in a piece of paper decorated with the face of a saint. It was passed on through his family for generations, “male to male,” he said. It was given to him by his father.

For Hana, losing the brooch makes her ache. Her mother’s brother, Jaroslav, and her father, Jiri Prudic, were arrested and taken to the camp after the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. They were being punished because her mother’s other brother, Frantisek, defected to England and joined the British military to fight the Nazis, she said. Jaroslav was 16 when he entered the camp.

Hana’s uncle and great-uncle were eventually liberated. Jaroslav came home with gifts for his sisters carved from the bones of cattle. Two of his brooches — one for Hana’s mother Anna and another for her aunt Maria — were in the stolen jewelry box.

Jaroslav’s body was disfigured from beatings, she said. He never recovered physically or emotionally from the experience. He died in his 50s from complications related to his camp injuries. Family from her mother’s generation rarely spoke about the war, she said. The story of the carved jewelry is one of the few she has.

“Now we don’t have nobody to ask,” she said. “Because nobody is alive anymore.”

She hopes that the brooch and other heirlooms might turn up. They are of modest value, she said.

“To us, it is everything.”

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