Major General Štěpán Bunzák

* 1919  †︎ 2004

  • „I have a nice remembrance of the times when I enrolled in the army on October 1, 1937, with the 4th highland infantry regiment. There were only four highland regiments in Czechoslovakia and we were the first. They only admitted healthy young men that could endure the gravest hardships. We didn’t have any machinery, just horses and the training took mostly place in the mountains, that’s why they were called highland infantry regiments. There were only four in Czechoslovakia.”

  • „So we worked and I’m not lying to you – when I got up in the morning, in order to straighten my fingers and be able to grasp the handlebars of the wheel-barrow again, I had to dip my hands into water and wait for my fingers to soften up and let loose. This was from pushing the wheel-barrow all day long.”

  • Question: “What did these highland regiments do?” Answer: “The main task of highland regiments is to master combat in heavy terrain. We had horses and all the equipment we needed and the horses had to cope with it. They were saddled and we loaded all the equipment, weapons and ammunition on their backs and trained for combat situations with them in the mountains.” Q: “So your main task was the protection of the frontier?” A: “Because the political situation was grave - there was already Hitler and Fascism – we were getting ready to defend our beautiful fatherland.”

  • „We got food depending on how we complied with the daily quota of work. There were quota on everything, for example how many wheelbarrows of soil you pushed. The most you could get was 600 grams of bread, 60 decagrams of black, but if you didn’t comply with the daily quota, you only got 500. If didn’t go, or couldn’t go to work at all, you only got 30 decagrams of black bread. We got porridge in the morning and in the evening. We didn’t get any porridge during the day because we had to work.”

  • „There were hundreds and hundreds of fugitives. All there was available was wooden shacks, actually, they weren’t even wooden. yet. Then they transferred us to these wooden barracks. At this site, there were already watchtowers wrapped up with barbed wire. So they hurled us into this barbed-wire-wrapped barrack and gave us a day’s portion of some porridge. It’s hard to speak of how hungry we were.”

  • „I condemned the annexation of Carpathian Ruthenia by Hungary and I had a very hostile stance toward fascist Hungarians. I couldn’t stand them, I yearned to fight them, but there was no war with Hungary. So I fled illegally as a soldier to the Soviet Union. Question: “ Do you remember the circumstances of your flight? When exactly was it?” Answer: “I remember it very well and I’ll never forget this in all of my life because I had the idea that I’ll come, I’ll illegally flee to the Soviet Union and that they will create such conditions for us that we’ll be able to work and decently live there. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. After my illegal crossing of the border the Soviet NKVD (the secret state police) halted and arrested us with bayonets up against our chests. I remember this and I’ll never forget because when I crossed the Carpathian Mountains, I saw beautiful mountains, creeks, rivers and fish, until today I see them beautifully swimming in the river. Nature there was very beautiful and rich. But as soon as we crossed the frontier we were intercepted by the Soviet frontier guard and held under bayonets. The situation was serious - they immediately warned us that should we make a step to our left or right, they would open fire. So they pointed their bayonets at us and put us in the Gulag.”

  • „They called me – it was a communist regime – they called me and an NKVD officer with the rank of a lieutenant colonel read aloud to me my sentence: “According to paragraph – I’ll never forget this – according to paragraph 82, for the illegal crossing of the border to the USSR, you are sentenced to three years in the Gulag.“

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    V Praze, 05.09.2008

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    duration: 34:37
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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„I condemned the annexation of Carpathian Ruthenia by Hungary and I had a very hostile stance toward fascist Hungarians. I couldn’t stand them, I yearned to fight them, but there was no war with Hungary. So I fled illegally as a soldier to the Soviet Union.”

Štěpán Bunzák (40 years old)
Štěpán Bunzák (40 years old)
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Štěpán Bunzák was born on August 19, 1919 in the village of Mežhorje in Carpathian Ruthenia. In the years 1937 to 1939 he completed his military training with the 4th Highland infantry regiment in Jelšava. After the Hungarian occupation of Carpathian Ruthenia, Mr. Bunzák emigrated to the USSR in October 1939. He was caught and detained in the town of Skolje. He was sentenced to three years in prison and thereafter transferred to Charkiv a Vizumi. He went through several Gulags from Kotlasu to Vorkutu. In 1942 he was released and taken to Buzuluk, the site of the formation of Czechoslovak military units. Here, in February 1943 he joined the Czechoslovak army. As a member of the 1st Czechoslovak brigade, he fought in the battles of Sokolovo, Kiev, Bílla Cerkev, Žaškov, the Dukla mountain pass and Liptovský Mikuláš. He was successively in charge of a platoon, a company and a battalion. He attained the rank of a company sergeant in October 1943 and the rank of a second lieutenant in December 1944. After the end of the war and the liberation of Czechoslovakia he first served as a member of the OBZ at the Prague first headquarters. In 1945 he also got married. Since April 1946 he had the status of platoon leader at the ŠDZ infantry in Carlsbad. In March 1947 he became a professional soldier of the rank of a captain and in October of the same year he became company commander at the 80th infantry regiment in Prague. In March 1951 he enrolled in a course for regiment commanding officers, organized by the training center in Bruntál. Upon completion of the course, he was assigned the command of the 18th infantry regiment in Tachov. In September 1952, he became the commander of the airborne brigade in Prešov, which he headed until July 1953. Thereafter he was made the commander of the 11th infantry division in Pilsen. In February 1954 he became colonel, in August 1957 he attended preparatory school for studying abroad at the VA KG in Prague and in November the same year, he went to study abroad at the NVA K. J. Vorošilov in Moscow. He returned from his studies in Moscow in September 1959 and took over the command of the 13th armored division in Mladá. In September 1960 he was appointed a major-general. In December 1960 he made the transition to the MNO, where he had the status of the deputy commander of the motorized army of the main rear of the ČSLA. After the creation of the motorized brigade in August 1966, he was active in the same function at its headquarters in Olomouc. In July 1967 he was withdrawn and was at personnel disposal at the chief of GŠ ČSLA. In December of that year he left to Bulgaria, where he served as military attaché at the Czechoslovak embassy in Sophia. He was recalled in March 1970 upon which he was at personnel disposal again, this time with the chief of SBP - the deputy of MNO. In February 1971 he was appointed deputy commander of the 1st army in Příbram, where he served until June 1973. There followed a third personnel disposal and after a month the appointment to the position of the commander of the Prague garrison, which in January 1975 was renamed to “garrison superintendent - chief of Prague garrison administration”. Major-general Štěpán Bunzák was sent to the reserve in the end of December 1983.