Richard Brhlík

* 1938  

  • “His main goal and the reasoning behind all of his negotiations was to get to England. Except that even in 1939 it was not possible to go to England directly. That’s why he travelled to Palestine. The journey was accomplished through a combination of boat and vehicle through Greece, through Istanbul. In Istanbul - I guess there was mission of the Czechoslovak foreign service there, I don’t know exactly, but simply - they gave him back his uniform and insignia. They accepted him back into the Czechoslovak army, as an officer with the rank of artillery lieutenant, and when he arrived in Haifa, his uniform was already awaiting him.”

  • “How he died: he and his colleagues were made staff members of the regional HQ, presumably for the Dukla region. As such, they were supposed to go out to the observation post one morning, because they had received the information that the Germans had fallen back on the other side of the valley, on the opposite slope. They climbed the lookout with binoculars, maps - you know, officers, the HQ staff and everything. The Germans were dug down in the opposite slope and they commenced mortar shelling. A wide, extensive, heavy mortar bombardment, which was aimed not only at the observation post, but at the whole hillside. There was shrapnel flying everywhere. Many soldiers and officers were cut up by shrapnel. My father had the misfortune of catching one of the shards directly in his chest, straight to the heart. He fell, and all he managed was to shout: ‘Oldo, help!’ at Staff Captain Oldřich Ševčík who stood next to him, ‘Oldo, help,’ and he was dead.”

  • “He believed - his diary shows that clearly - he believed the whole time, from when he en route from Palestine to England, the two years he was there, right until the end, in 1943, the entries he wrote with his own hand show how he longed for the war to end, and how he believed, maybe somewhat naïvely that, okay, the Russians had stopped Hitler before Moscow, so now things will go quickly and he could be back home by Christmas. That wasn’t true, however, not for another three Christmases. He had his sights set so amazingly clearly on getting home as soon as possible, no matter the cost, no matter the danger, just home, home, home.”

  • “Two or three days after his return to Bratislava, the ‘black-leather coats’ turned up in their big black boots and their big black hats. They were probably members of Hlinka’s Guard, and they arrested him just like that. They interrogated him for a long time, for months on end, I guess they tried to wear him down also mentally, so that he’d tell them what they wanted him to. Suffice it to say that the trial took place half a year later. Much to my surprise, the court found him guilty on only one of the three charges. They couldn’t prove the other two. But the one charge, that was deserting during peace time, was enough to land him with five months in prison, his ranks were stripped from him immediately, all his property was confiscated by the Slovak state - and his prison sentence was supposed to be high security, I don’t know what that meant at the time, but it’s written there: high security.”

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    Piešťany, 14.11.2012

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Father had his sights set so amazingly clearly on getting home as soon as possible, no matter the cost, no matter the danger

Richard Brhlík
Richard Brhlík
photo: Martin Reichl

Ing. Richard Brhlík was born on the 28th of March 1938 in Hlohovec to the family of the artillery lieutenant Antonín Brhlík. After the declaration of the Slovak State in 1939, his father served shortly in the Slovak army. During a family holiday in February 1940, his father took him and his mother to Belgrade, hoping to join the foreign army there. The Czechoslovak officials refused to accept Antonín Brhlík and his family, however, and so the Brhlíks were forced to return to Slovakia. His father was sentenced to five months in jail for deserting during peace time. After his release in autumn 1940, he went abroad again without his family knowing it. He crossed the Balkans into Palestine, where he worked as an interpreter at the Czechoslovak diplomatic mission. He then left by boat from Suez, around Africa, to Great Britain, where he joined the Czechoslovak Independent Brigade. He underwent paratrooper training in the winter of 1943 to 1944, and in 1944 he set out to the USSR and Svoboda’s army. He was killed on the 12th of September 1944 during the Carpatho-Dukla Offensive. His son, Richard Brhlík, lived with his mother - who never remarried - in Slovakia. Richard graduated from university and became a mechanical engineer; he also represented Czechoslovakia in basketball. He was employed in Slovnaft, he was advisor to the deputy minister at the Slovak Ministry of Culture, he worked as an assistant manager for building and development at the Slovak National Theatre, he took part in the construction of the new building of the theatre. In July 1982 during a holiday abroad he and his family emigrated. They spent the first 11 months in a refugee camp in Austria, the family then carried on to Canada. At first, Richard Brhlík earned a living as a maintenance man, he then went back to the profession of mechanical engineer. He returned to Slovakia for good in 2009. Since 2016 he lived in Piešťany, now he lives in Senica.