Colonel (ret.) Ivan Benčák

* 1919  

  • "I think it was on April the 10th or 12th when they took us out of the working camp and drove us to Cheberov town on army headquarters. They wrote some records and told us we are going on the front. Me and Pavliuk were supposed to go to Kcharkchov, but instead of going to Czechoslovak army, they sent us to Soviet engineer troop. So I told myself: well I can survive week or two in here....But it last a year. At nights we had to dig the ditch, carry the mines, make the wire obstructions... We finished in the morning, we went to sleep then, and in the afternoon we had to get the materilas ready again."

  • "We were given the british uniform and a nice winter coat. Because there was a permanent need of vodka we simply sold the coat and the blanket for one and a hlaf litre of vodka. And when the winter came, they were asking us where are our coats. And we said that somebody stole them..."

  • "I was still with the Soviet army waiting for my draft. I was asking them, but they kept saying:´What do you care if you fight for the freedom here or for the freedom there.´So what was I supposed to tell them. Only then in June 1944, when Kiev was occupied and the attack on polish border was prepared already, they have drafted me. I took of the Soviet uniform and on June 25th 1944 I got into Czechoslovak army, it was already third Czechoslovak brigade."

  • "The worst it was in the Dukla notch place. We had to dug ourselfs in every twenty meters. There was an underground water. It was in August, or September, the Germans were all over the woods and we stayed on the open area. When you made yourself a ditch about 15 or 20 centimeters deep the water was right in there. And you had to put your head down in that water. It was the worst place in Dukla notch."

  • " The worst place was in the Hungarian army. I was there for six months, I spent twelve months in Soviet army. During the years 1944 and 1976 I was in Czechoslovak army. But the Hungarians were the meanest."

  • "So the second day they put us on the hay waggon and off we went. We went thru places like Kamenec podolsky, Russia, Ural, all the way to Siberia. It was the Kenerovskaya region, regional capital. We arrived there in about two weeks. There were only woods and swamps around, no roads. Just some boats or floating boards. For the next two days and a night we were on our way to camp no. 101. We stayed in the dugouts, always about seventeen people in each one. We split into groups. I stayed with some Vasil Pavliuk. And we started to work hard. Each couple had to chop down six meters of the trees. Chop the tree down, cut of the branches, and cut the logs. If someone did better than this, he got the "sup" - fish soup. If someone did less than that he got so called "paiok" - wchich means less food than usually. Our servings per day was about 5 oz bread. If someone worked well got even 7 oz. Luckily, I´ve had some previous experience with the wood work, so we managed to fulfil quota, sometimes even above it. I worked there for two years, it was freezing, sometimes even minus 40 degrees..."

  • "They were chasing my father. They said he knew where I was hiding. They searched all over the Novosedlice village, all relatives and they were looking for me. The Hungarian officers wore hats with rooster´s feathers on it. At first they beated my father with a baton and after that they wrote down the record. On the other hand, Czech policemen were wonderful. They would write the record right away plus they wouldn´t beat anyone. It was the opposite with the Hungarians. Firstly, they beated the poor soul, then they wrote the protocol."

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    Ústí nad Labem, 08.06.2004

    (audio)
    duration: 01:06:11
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“I served three armies”

Ivan Bančák - old photo
Ivan Bančák - old photo

Mr. Ivan Bencak was born in 1919 in Carpathian Russia. In the spring of 1940 he was taken to Chust into Hungarian army. In May 1940 he crossed the Soviet Union border. He has been sentenced for three years, he spent two years in detention working camp - gulag- in Siberia. In 1943 was Mr. Bencak recruited into the army and the rest of his punishment has been carried off. He has been taken to Soviet army engineer unit. This should have been only a temporary until he would be sent to the Czechoslovak force, but it last the whole year. Mr. Bencak was involved in the battles over Kiev city with the Soviet army. During the years 1944-1945 when he was fighting in Dukla notch he was injured with the artillery shell fragment on his hand. At the end of the war he suffered from the jaundice. After the war he remained in the army, he underwent the military training in Milovice army school. After that he worked as an officer in Czechoslovak army, mostly in Terezin town until he retired in 1976. He lives in Usti nad Labem city.