“It’s normal, this. It can’t be said that all of us were ideal. There were exceptions, surely, there were quarrels over property - simply they didn’t show themselves in the best of light. That was a certain percentage of us. Many people would say straight off: ‘Just look, Volhynians.’ Well, oftentimes they didn’t take to our Czechs all that favourably. But they had a lot of respect for our soldiers. So all in all there weren’t any major [problems].”
“Usually it was some sort of soup, no greens, sometimes a bit of meat. Or potato soup with large groats, the large groats you know. Usually that soup. Sometimes we had cooked groats, I don’t know if there was any meat or not. We received bread, barrack bread, like they have in the forms now too. That was roughly milled grain, because the army couldn’t mill fine flower for so many people, so it had the husks in it. So it was prickly. But then again it cleaned out our digestive system, so that we kept on eating. Then we got a bit of sugar, some tea, and we we’re supposed to get a small cup of vodka. So we gave that to the boys.”
“In 1944 Svoboda’s army pushed forward, that is the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps moved on to Volhynia, to Western Ukraine. There were some forty-five thousand of us Czechs there. As soon as we heard of it, everyone started joining the army of their own accord. They said they needed every help available, so the girls served as radio, telephone operators, in the medical corps, and so I signed up as well. Dad said: ‘I don’t have any sons, so my daughter will go.’ We went without a moment’s hesitation, we were brought up in a very patriotic way.”
“So we were closing in, he (the farmer - ed.) had already left, and they started shooting at us. So we dropped down straight away, they killed the soldier next to me, a dad with kids. Well, it didn’t kill me, I had to live on. One other was wounded there. And we hadn’t gone far from our post. So we sent a message straight away, and they saw there was shooting here, so a medic came immediately. One was dead, one wounded. So really, those who were fated to survive, survived.”
“I was born on the 8th of August 1923 in Volhynia, that was still in Poland, up until ’39 it was in the Polish Republic.” (Q: “And was it a town or a village?”) “It was a village.” (Q: “And what was it called?)” “Semiduby.” (Q: “Well, and now if I may, what did your parents do?”) “Daddy was a teacher and we had a smallish estate, so we did well for ourselves under the Poles. Quite peaceful.”
“I was very ill at the time. Everything was quite peaceful, really peaceful, there were no incidents. And moreover, something of a paradox, I was seriously ill, pleuritis, stomach mucositis, and no doctor anywhere. One teacher knew German, the one who taught at the primary school (in Smordva - ed.), so Daddy asked her to see if there was a doctor among the Germans. And really a doctor came, all proper, he gave advice on what to do, I think he gave us some medicine. I don’t remember everything you know. Well, I got over it, and then I went against them. Life just contains paradoxes like that.”
Events of the war as the cause of health problems, depression and an unfulfilled life.
Corporal (ret.) Slávka Altmanová, née Ficková, was born on the 8th of August 1923 into the family of the teacher Vladimír Ficka, in the village of Semiduby in what was then Polish Volhynia. In 1933 the family moved to České Noviny, and after the Soviet invasion in 1940, they were displaced to the Ukrainian village of Smordva. On the 15th of February 1944, Slávka Ficková joined the newly forming 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. She served with the artillery regiment as a radio operator and signaller. She fought at Krosno, Machnówka, Jasło and during the Carpatho-Dukla Operation. After the war she settled down in Chomutov, where she worked as a dental nurse. After marrying, she moved to Pilsen, where she lives to this day.