Jan Bugel

* 1923  †︎ 2011

  • (Let us come back to the fall of the Iron Curtain. What would you say about November 1989?) Nothing. I would say nothing. You now, everywhere, there is some progress, something always happens. Everywhere, not just in our country. But then someone goes nuts and does something he should not. That’s all. (Before, you told us something like a motto: could you repeat it once more? It was something like ´change is necessary, that’s obvious…´) What would you like me to repeat? (That statement of yours, which we spoke about). There is no need to, you heard it already, I just said it without thinking, but the reason is that I am sorry that it’s like that. Everyone wants to become a millionaire overnight. And this is not possible, if you want to work honestly and you don’t want to steal. And now poor people are being robbed. All people now have to pay thirty Czech crows when they go to see a doctor. Whom does this serve, those thirty crowns?!” (alluding to a recent reform of the health system, which among other introduced a compulsory payment of regulatory fees for seeing a doctor, ed.´s note)

  • “When that big branch fell on my arm, my arm did not withstand it, you know. (And what did you do?) I was carried to a field hospital, I spent three days there. (And who brought you there?) The ambulance team. (And this happened at Strečno or where?) Near Liptovský Mikuláš. (northern border of Slovakia – ed.´s note) (And this branch fell off because somebody shot at it?) Artillery fire. So they carried me off on a stretcher. And they treated it while I was fully conscious. Only I had drunk some vodka before. They poured some vodka down my throat, to make me numb. So that it would not hurt so much.”

  • “(Would you tell us some message for the following generations? Something you would like to say to the people who will listen to the recording one day, who will see this video clip?) My message: That young people should have some verve, they should believe in themselves. Not to sell everything away. They have no patriotism! These young people! For how could they be patriots, if they are just after money, and that’s all they care about. For instance: In Liberec, and in the border regions, two years ago, many young people were applying for residence in Germany, claiming for example that their grandfather was a German, and that this would enable them to return to Germany. But they were born in Czech! How can someone like that be a patriot then?! (alluding to economically motivated emigration of young people to Germany – ed.´s note). (And how would you change this, to make today’s generation more patriotic? What would you suggest?) In the first place, this is up to their parents, their upbringing at home. And then school, teachers. To arouse interest in them, then it’s easy. But if they are not interested, or interested only in how much money they can earn, well, then that’s what you get today. (And what is patriotism?) Patriotism means – to love another. To love the person who comes from that country. He must not deceive him, this should not be. He should treat him with respect, and when he sees that the other is not up to it, he should teach him, tell him.”

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  • “Quite simply, it was an attack. That was the way of clearing trenches. You come there and a soldier tells you: ´Don´t shoot, I am Polish! Don´t shoot, I am Polish!´ I say: ´If you are Polish, what are you doing here then? You ought to be in Poland! And not in the Czechoslovak Republic! Bang, bang, and that´s it. What else would I do? If he had been in my situation, he would have done the same thing.”

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  • “The Germans knew how to do it, because they had experience from Russia. We were inexperienced, we learnt only by watching a film they were showing us in the training centre. They could do it for real; we only knew it from the film. They had some experience under their belt. And that ´s a huge difference: whether I am experienced, or whether I just saw it on the screen and then I go. I get two hundred grams of vodka, no breakfast, and ´davaj perjod,´(forward) and I had to! Because I was covering the guy by my side, and he was covering me. And when an attack came, you could no longer watch for one another. When a shrub moved, you started shooting at everything, , because the Germans were everywhere around.”

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  • “(Do you feel that the new political regime after 1989 is better or worse than it was during the communist era?) Worse! Were there any homeless people during the communism?! The change was necessary, that´ s clear. But not this kind of change! The higher position in politics one has, the greater thief he is!”

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  • “(Have you ever shot against a man?) Well, I will put it this way: I learnt how to shoot! (And did you shoot against another man?) Well I did. I had to! When he was an enemy, you see him from distance, I had good eyesight, I took a look and I could see who he was. And when I saw there were others coming behind him, there is nothing else to do than pull the trigger, for if I don´t, he will.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, Ústřední vojenská nemocnice ve Střešovicích, 15.07.2009

    duration: 02:43:50
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Don´t shoot, he shouted. Bang, bang, and that´s it. What else would I do? If he had been in my situation, he would have done the same thing!

Jan Bugel s maminkou po válce02.jpg (historic)
Jan Bugel
photo: Post Bellum

Jan Bugel was born August 23rd, 1923 in Kalniště in Slovakia. In 1943 he complied with the draft and began compulsory military training in the Slovak army. In Zvolen he served first as a messenger in his unit, then as a batman to the column commander, and later to the German military supervisors of the division. In the summer of 1944 he is sent to Banská Bystrica, and ordered to transport horse carriages with military material to the mountains and the bunkers. At this point he becomes a part of the Slovak National Uprising. For four days he serves at the Tri Duby airport and then helps to publish the magazine of the rear service in the barracks in Zvolen. From here he also distributes firearms and ammunition to civilians during the Slovak mobilization. He takes part in the battle of Strečno, among others. During the dwindling uprising he attempts desertion but is apprehended near Poprad, arrested by a German patrol and held in jail in Sabinov. He escapes and joins the Slovak militia near Prešov. He joins the advancing Czechoslovak army on the eastern front, commanded by Colonel Svobod. Bugel serves with the field police, ´clears´ trenches, and apprehends escaping Germans. He becomes a commander of one part of an assembly camp for German soldiers. After the war, he works in Prague in the Tatra factory and becomes a member of the Social Democratic party. In the 1960s he becomes a professional in the army and serves at the airport in Pardubice, where he is in charge of a mobilization depot.