Peter Bednárik

* 1922

  • “Well, that was much harder, as there was a war. The goods were rationed and people had to hand in wheat from every thresher. Those six years were hard. Well, nothing could be done about it, it was war. They took everything. But who was hardworking back then and was able to raise 10 big pigs for the slaughterhouse in one year, he could almost build a house for that earning. There were people who carried on business. In Bratislava and other cities everything was just rationed and so people went shopping to villages. There was one diligent man here, who used to buy out fattened geese. He would take them to Bratislava and earned great money for that. Although, such people were often caught for profiteering. They had to be smart. So when in Bratislava, such man went down the tunnel, not through the building, he would be stupid to do that, and the buyers already waited for him, gave him lot of money and he could go and bring the next deal. Such things were done, you know. Black market. It was lack of flour, so a deal was made. An express train stopped at midnight here for a little while. The station was closed at night. The stop was called Majer. Three sacks of flour were placed in the locomotive as it was impossible to put it anywhere in the cars. At the train there was a constant control. As everyone was sleeping at night in the train, the flour was moved to the engine, dropped off in Žilina and brought here on horse-drawn wagon. People who had acquaintances could do that. That´s how the supplying system functioned. Everything was rationed. And the ration then lasted even after the front´s crossing.”

  • “I wasn´t home just for 14 days, but for a month! I had to enrol and since they knew I was allowed to be at home only for 14 days, some rat reported me to Germans. When I came there, directly to the jail, it was full. So I was placed to one room, where we played cards. They even took my belt, this rule was given by law, so that no one would hang himself. All the belts, strings, laces had to be handed in. On the third day a service came. ‘Jailbirds, out! Line up for fatigue duty!’ We came to the courtyard, the gate opened and I saw soldiers marching from the town towards the barracks. Suddenly I looked better and those were the guys I left from. They assigned us to their unit and the scenario repeated – marching back behind the Danube. And I questioned myself back then, why hadn´t I gone with Mišo as I could have been home already. But a ʻstotníkʼ came, (now we say it was a captain, but back then Slovaks couldn´t adopt any words from the Czech, so there wasn´t čatár, but čatník (sergeant-major) and not a captain, but stotník). And the stotník said: ‘Guys, I need eight signallers, in the morning we are heading to Nové Mesto nad Váhom, where is a hyperpark. There we will be issued the telephone material and we go to Šaštín, where the government shall be evacuated, so we will install the phone lines in private houses.’ And so I enrolled, even though I wasn´t a telecommunications worker. Anyway, we knew everything. We had radio operators as well as signallers.”

  • “When we arrived in Romania, the Germans began to disarm us in a village Deda. We didn´t know what was going on. However, one officer came and said: ‘Guys, do not protest, just lay down your arms. There was an uprising against Germans in Slovakia.’ Thus they disarmed us as unreliable ones. That was in the evening and we didn´t even have a place to sleep. We wanted to find lodgings there, but the Germans placed us to a meadow behind the village. There was a creek, so at least we had some water as they didn´t give us any food for three days. That´s how they thanked us for helping. Fortunately, there was a corn field, it was on August 29. So we picked the corn and cooked it in our helmets. That´s how we survived. Some guys managed to run away from there as they had trucks. There were some vehicles, but I don´t know what kind of arms those were. Probably an intelligence service. It was set, that within certain kilometres there was a transmitter in a truck. That´s how the information transmitted to the reserve division and from there they sent us commands. They were 200 km behind the frontline. It was not possible to drag it through the line. I don´t know, what coverage the transmitters had, but when they commanded, it went directly to the front. That´s how the radio transmitters worked. So, we got to that Romania and we were disarmed. Then they gave us spades, shovels, pickaxes and defined where the trenches should be dug in case of retreat. Three meters per a man. A zigzag trench we called it, about 3.5 meters deep. We had to use pickaxes where it was impossible to use spades. It was a very hard work and we had to manage it in one day. If we didn´t, we had a problem. Yet, that´s how we came to Hungary.”

  • “During the first Czechoslovak Republic? It used to be democracy back then. Now there isn´t. This is poor; this is not democracy at all. Back then, everybody had to work hard. Everybody. And you know what? Here at the village, people used to sing, and even in the surroundings. Nobody forced the nation. It was wonderful to live. Who wasn´t a rogue or idler had a job and everything. It was an agricultural village here. Today I don´t know how many millions of Slovak crowns are set aside for the pensions, but each old woman whether working or not-working back then, has to live now. They have to pay her. But in those times the village didn´t receive any money. We all made our living on the fields. People even had to pay tax from those fields and today? We were and didn´t lack anything. When there was a feast in our village, about 2.500 fattened geese were killed at least. That´s what people ate. Today everybody has nothing. There were three thousand geese near the river Váh during the whole summer. I used to have two gaggles, grandma´s and mine. They were grown up already, but when they were little we would pasture them on Sundays. Saturdays weren´t free days, we had to go to school. But they were big already, in the mornings we used to pasture them on stubble fields and drive them away towards Váh. There was plenty of grain. They were nicely washed on the grass. In the evenings we would pasture them again and close at home. That was our job. Back then the second graders had work to do, not like today. And when grown up a bit, one had to stretch out strings, when the harvestmen scythed. We used to scythe and we were proud of the fact we managed to do that. When I was 16, I was scything at the harvest already, and although I wasn´t old enough yet, I was trained up. They gave me a 50-kilo sack to carry on my shoulders and I had to go. There were 5 - 6 pieces of cattle to take care of, I had to pull the sowing-machine, prepare clover or drag the whole stack of straw during the winter. Cut it by hand. And we were fine. Today if you gave a boy such work, probably four doctors wouldn´t suffice to keep him fit. Back then we didn´t know doctor for such thing. Good and healthy food, enough milk in each house. 4 – 5 hectares were enough to own. Nobody even wanted to have any different job. Well, they used to visit house by house and appeal to let children go to school. They didn´t want to. One didn´t need to listen to anybody at home, he had everything. We used to weave at our house as well. Matula, an organist and a teacher accomplished a weaving course and we weaved. In each farmstead on narrow fields people planted hemp, well, today it´s a crime, but back then it was called ʻkonopnicaʼ and they used to put white cotton in-between. Women were weaving and until today we still have such sheets. Long time ago that was!”

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    Drahovce, 16.02.2015

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A journey there and back: siding Germans on the Eastern Front

Scan0003.jpg (historic)
Peter Bednárik
photo: Stefan Bendik, 13.2.2015

Peter Bednárik was born in 1922 in a peasant family in Drahovce, Trnava district. In 1942 he joined the Slovak Army, where he was assigned to the 1st Artillery Regiment Topoľčany. After completing the military training in July 1943, he was sent to the Crimea, where the Slovak Army participated in combat operations on the Eastern Front. During the military service the role of Slovaks was mainly to secure German positions, or cover their retreat. Peter Bednárik on the Eastern Front took part in operations in Kakhovka by the Dnieper River, near Odessa and by the river Bug. As a result of the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising (SNP), the Slovak soldiers were disarmed by Germans and redeployed to the trench works. They spent the fall and winter of 1944 in Romania and Hungary. In January 1945, along with several soldiers Peter fled to Bratislava, where he got to the detention centre in Mlynské Nivy. Although the soldiers weren´t allowed to leave, thanks to a friend´s help Peter managed to obtain a holiday pass, and he assumed the risk to extend it. The following months until the liberation, he spent travelling between home, detention centre and carrying out occasional military support tasks. The liberation found him in Záhorie region; he witnessed the arrival of soviet soldiers (along with atrocities they committed) in Unín, Šaštín and Brezová pod Bradlom. Even after the end of war he went through service in several military bases (Martin, Piešťany, Žilina, Košice). After leaving to civilian life, he got married and began working at the railway company in Nové Zámky. Besides his work he managed to graduate from High School of Economics in Bratislava, what helped him to earn position of a chief accountant at the railway station Nové Zámky, where he worked for 42 years.