Michal Bindzar

* 1922

  • “The camp was enclosed by a wired fence. The doors were opened and we entered in – “Hands up! Empty your pockets!” – I had a breviary. “What is this? You pray to God. You will see. You will die of starvation here. I don’t believe in God and I am fine.” After a week, the camp became full and we were escorted to a bigger one. On our way we were told to pick up some old German helmet or a can to have a place for food – or else we’d starve. I found an old German helmet in a ditch. A 200 liter barrel was brought in the camp. Its bottom was cut out. We used it as a kettle. We made a fire as a soldier brought a sack of groats and emptied it in. We mixed it all with a log. I was lucky I had the helmet… I took out the lining and plugged the holes with sticks. Once a Russian officer picked me up: “Take two buckets. We are going for water to a farm.” When we entered the farm I realized what was going on. The officer pointed at my boots – hand made leather and solid nice boots. He told the Ukrainian farmer how much of vodka, butter, and bread he would have to give in return for my boots. I began to cry why the officer wouldn't take some boots off some Hungarian or Russian prisoner. He promised me he would give me a small loaf of black bread as compensation. I returned back to the camp barefoot.”

  • “Time to time I wandered around the gate looking for news. One day a Russian soldier riding a horse appeared. He asked how many were dead in the camp – supposedly there were twenty. I was curious and followed him. He had ropes. He approached a ‘dead’ soldier and tied up his leg. The soldier lifted his head, he was Ukrainian and from Podkarpatian Rus, and said, “Oh my God, my children, this is my end”. The Russian soldier told him not to worry, he would kick the bucket after being dragged through a pit. When the soldier had tied up twenty men – I guessed that half of them were still alive – he dragged them through a pit and threw them back in. Then we got an order: put lime on them, water them, cover the pit with soil, and dig another one.”

  • “On one occasion, I asked a Russian soldier in a bunker, how he had come to accept communism? Why did he become a communist? His reply was, “I began to visit a basic school when Stalin assumed power. They brought a few baskets of bread: ‘now say: God, give us bread!’ – nothing happened- ‘God, give us pencils!’ – nothing happened – ‘God, give us exercise books!’ – nothing… Now ask Stalin: ‘Stalin, give us bread!’ – they distributed bread – ‘Stalin, give us pencils, exercise books..’ – they distributed pencils and books. After a year of such brainwashing, you go nuts. This is the reason why we are communists. They re-educated us to trust them.””

  • “I threw away my machine gun and we set out towards the Russian frontline. It was a dark night. We found a place to sleep in the woods. In the morning we were awaken by gunfire as the sun was shining. We could not recognize who was firing- if Germans, Russians, or Hungarians. We decided to find some meadow to see which soldiers were nearby. We threw away our Hungarian caps and guns. Soon, we saw Russian soldiers approaching us with a heavy machine gun Maxim. We burst from the woods with our hands waving ‘hello’. Russian soldiers circled us and their commander asked where we have left our caps and guns. I returned to the woods to pick up my 7mm gun and brand new leather belt. The commander threw his own belt away – soldiers grappled for it – and took mine. Then he asked what we thought he should do with us. We suggested we would fight against Hungarians in their unit, so we continued with them. But after a while we encountered a Hungarian unit positioned on a field with an anti-aircraft gun. Russians circled them and beat them. After this accident, the Russian commander decided to send us all in the rear to a prisoner camp. Our guard, who was escorting us, made a stop approximately one mile behind the frontline. “Guys, sit down for a while and listen. I will give you advice. I am Ukrainian. Bad times are ahead for you. In the camps you will die of either cold or starvation. Return to where you come. Cross the frontline at night. Here you are going to die.” We objected that Hungarians had beaten us during our military training already. Now they would shoot us dead because we had deserted. The guard answered that we had to make a decision, and warned us that he had to escort us into the prisoner camp. We had no choice now, so we continued on to a village.”

  • “I had a friend named Sasha- a Russian soldier. On the frontline there was a code word enforced in case someone stopped you. “Stop! Who is that? – ‘My own.’” It was valid both for Russians and Czechs. But somehow, the Germans found out the code word. They dressed in Russian uniforms, went to a Russian headquarters, and slaughtered all the officers theres. They had used the code word. We got an order to pick up a new code word immediately! So I went to the headquarters. A guard shouted at me, “Stop! Who is that?”- I answered, “My Own” – “No, that’s wrong” he cocked the hammer. “Don’t shoot, Sasha, it’s me, Misha.” – “I don’t know you! Get down! I am going to shoot!” I had to lay down for two hours in mud until the guard relieved. I didn’t want to see him any more. He later explained to me, “Even if my father would come, Stalin ordered to shoot. Don’t be angry Misha.” Russian policy was so strict. Once, I witnessed another cruel event in a trench. One Russian soldier couldn’t sustain the fighting anymore. He asked a comrade to shoot him in the leg. The comrade carried out his wish, but the Commander saw it. He pulled out a gun and shot the wounded solider dead on the spot. Russians maintained a really tough policy.”

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    Mariánské Lázně, 06.03.2007

    duration: 01:26:54
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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In a village Krosno near Dukla we got dressed in military uniforms. Then we had been waiting in bunkers. For eight days we got no meals. German snipers controlled the area completely. It was impossible to deliver food to our position

Michal Bindzar, Marianske Lazne, March 2007
Michal Bindzar, Marianske Lazne, March 2007
photo: Jan Horník

Michal Bindzar was born on the 16th of October in 1922 in Ruske, Carpathian Ruthenia, where his family owned a farm. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia, Hungarians occupied a part of Carpathian Ruthenia. Because of this, Bindzar had to enlist in the Hungarian army in October of 1942. In April 1943, he was transferred to a Russian frontline near Kiev. Bindzar defected to the Russian side. Instead of fighting against Germans, Bindzar was sent to a prisoner camp in Eastern Ukraine. In the camp he was detained until September 1944, when he enlisted in the foreign Czechoslovkian army of Gen. Svoboda. He experienced his first battle in Dukla pass. Later, he suffered a leg injury. After he returned from the hospital, he served as a military messenger at a company headquarters. He reached Prague with the army via Liptovský Mikuláš - Ostrava - Kolín. After the war he had served a regular military service on the border near Nitra. Then he moved to Bohemia with his father. After he graduated at a Forester High School in Tábor he found a job in Military Woods in Lazne Kynžvart. Bindzar refused to become a member of The Communist Party so he was fired a few years later. Then he found a job of as a co-driver in State Woods in Plana. He later became a gamekeeper there. Today he is in retirement. He lives in Mariánské Lázně.