Věra Biněvská-Holuběva

* 1929

  • “It was dreadful. I remember we were even afraid because some mothers couldn’t take it any longer, and they ate their own children. [Q: Did that happen in your in vicinity?] Yes, it was said that they ate children. We were afraid, afraid to go outside. In the spring, when we didn’t have anything to eat, we ate the flowers of false acacias. I felt sickly afterwards. I can still remember how unpleasant it was. It had this unpleasantly sweet taste. That was back in Pohorila, where I was born. Near Shepetivka.”

  • “The young soldiers saw us as little sisters, the older ones approached us as children. They took good care of us. No one hurt us ever, no one wanted to do... what they did to women. We were still small girls, and we weren’t at all interested in boys, men, soldiers yet. All we cared about was work, work. We just wanted to work and help somehow so that the war would end as soon as possible. That’s what we kept thinking about and what we tried to achieve.”

  • “When I was adopted, they wrote that I was from Russia, that I had Russian citizenship. My name is Holubeva Arkadyevna, after my father, his name was Arkadiy. I spoke good Russian, so only those who knew could tell I was Czech. I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. [Q: So you had to deny your own identity?] Yes. In fact, my first husband, when I wanted to leave him and split with him, because it couldn’t go on any longer, so he told me that if I leave him, he’ll tell his dad to say that I was a spy, and that then I’d see what would happen to me. So I had to stay silent.”

  • “When I was working and listening if someone was perhaps sending us a telegram, suddenly someone pushed the blanket aside with his weapon and aimed the barrel at me. A rifle or something. It was dark. I could only see the barrel. I was just listening to the Morse code. I had a weapon, a rifle, with a bayonet in fact. My rifle stood in the corner of the room, where I was working. I also had a small Braun at my belt, a 3.6 diameter I think. I had six bullets there. I knew that because if I was ambushed by the Fascists, I wouldn’t let myself fall into their hands. I knew I could fire five times, but I had to keep the sixth bullet for myself. If they caught me, they’d probably cut me up one piece at a time, or something even worse. So I didn’t want them to capture me alive.”

  • “Then, in Sokolovo, they had to fight and couldn’t give ground. They had to hold the Germans and prevent them from crossing the river. In the center of the town was a church which marked the line of demarcation. The Germans were on one side of that line and they were on the other side. And somewhere here was the command and Vanda was defending that command. She had to report everything she saw to the command. It was about 150 meters away from the Germans, there was a lot of gunfire - it was terrible. It was real war. In the morning, they were ordered to cross the river and forgot about my sister. They only remembered they had left her there the next morning. By the time they came for her she had almost frozen to death. She was taken into hospital and was recovering for some time. But she recovered eventually.”

  • “About this time the Slovak national uprising broke out and that’s why they transferred them to Slovakia. At first they fought as regular soldiers on the side of the insurgents but then they adopted guerilla tactics because they were too few to succeed in regular warfare with the Nazis. So that’s why they had to cross this Chabanec mountain range. My sister (Vanda Biněvská) was a very brave fighter. Every time they needed a scout to go down into the villages in order to provide information and food, she was the first one to volunteer. She went on scouting missions regularly, brought information about the German units, their movements, food, whatever they needed. She went on these missions disguised as a civilian – that was the only possible way to do it as there were German soldiers everywhere. And on one of these missions the Germans caught her.” “What partisan unit did she belong to?” “Well, I don’t remember anymore. I thing the name of the unit was Stalin.” “And when did she get caught?” “In March. She was in great pain because of her Sciatica. She wanted to see a doctor and that’s how it happened. They caught her but didn’t know who she was as she was wearing civilian clothes. This was already at a time when they were on the defensive themselves because they could already see that the war would be over soon and they would have to retreat. It was already chaotic there and that’s probably why she was able to escape somehow. She was very lucky. And some woman, an employee or something of the like, helped her to escape.” “And where was she being held?” “In Banská Bystrice”

  • “My sister was first trained as a nurse. Then, after she demonstrated her talent in marksmanship, she was sent to sniper training.” “So she became a sniper?” “Yes, a sniper. The training lasted for three months. She was one of two women who became snipers in all of the brigades of the Czechoslovak army corps. In all of the Czechoslovak army in the east, it was just the two of them. They stayed until 30 January 1943 and then the first brigade with my sister left Buzuluk and went to the battlefront. Their families and children stayed behind in Buzuluk because in The Soviet Union people enlisted for the army together with their families. And the family relatives worked in the brigade, but it was a replacement regiment, when the first brigade left for the battlefront. The elderly worked in the kitchen, in the washing room – they did all sorts of auxiliary work.”

  • “We had the same military training as all the others in the second paratroop brigade in Jefremov. We were two young girls - Sylva Laštovičková and me. The only difference was that we weren’t accommodated in the barracks with the others. I stayed with my mom and my family as before but every morning I had to get up at six o’clock and go to the drilling place. We did the very same training as the other privates – physical training, rifle shooting, parachute jumping, etc. We successfully completed the training and were happy that we could be with the adults. It was tough but we did it.”

  • “The unit could no longer stay in Buzuluk and so it moved to Jefremov in the Tula district. The second brigade was being formed in Jefremov. I was already fourteen at that time and I joined the ranks of the army. Before Jefremov, in Buzuluk, I spent my days begging Colonel Svoboda to accept me as one of his soldiers. But he would always refuse me in his own peculiar and funny way. He would give me a candy and say: ‘Here’s your candy and now cool down’. But I told him that I really wanted to fight. His candies were offending me. And when he kept saying: ‘you’re too small, you haven’t grown up, yet’, I would stand on my toes the next day and say: ‘Mr. Colonel, I’m grown-up now, I wanna go to war, just like my sister Vanda’.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 03.03.2010

    duration: 02:02:58
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha 7, Strossmayerovo náměstí ZŠ, 14.05.2015

    duration: 01:18:37
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 3

    Praha, Hroznová ul., 18.01.2017

    duration: 02:09:56
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Women in uniform: The story of the Biněvski sisters

portret.jpg (historic)
Věra Biněvská-Holuběva
photo: dobové i současné foto: osobní archiv Věry Biněvské-Holubevy

Věra Biněvská-Holubeva was born on September 20, 1929, in Soviet Ukraine in the town of Uman. Her family was of Czech origin. Věra and her older sister Vanda belong to those brave girls who fought alongside men in the heavy battles against the Nazi armies in the Second World War. In 1942 the sisters lived with their parents in Koltubanka, just 25 kilometers away from Buzuluk, the site of the formation of the first standalone Czechoslovak field battalion under the command of Colonel Ludvík. Vanda Biněvská started her military training in February, 1942, and was trained as a medic. Because of her excellent marksmanship, she was selected and participated in a special training program for snipers. She fought in the Battle for Sokolovo as a sniper in March 1943. Her younger sister joined the army in 1944. She became one of the very youngest participants of the Battle for Dukla. She was engaged in the battle as a radio operator. Meanwhile, her sister Vanda was dropped on Slovak territory in order to join the local partisan movement. She joined the guerilla group “Jegorova” with which she got involved in a very tough undertaking - the crossing of the Chabenec mountain range, where sixty people died. The sisters met again in 1945 in Prague and both stayed in the army for a few more months. Vanda Biněvská was a commander of the radio group of the first military area and Věra Biněvská worked for the Ministry of National Defense as a radio operator. Vanda then got married, had a child and stayed in Czechoslovakia. Her sister went to Lviv in December 1945 and was prevented from returning to Czechoslovakia by adverse events. She then lived in Ukraine till 1993.