Ludvík Čambala

* 1923  †︎ 2008

  • “Captain Kopečný gave us each one hundred Franks. Of course, we didn’t get any toothpaste or shoe-polish for that, but instead we went to a pub which had a red lantern in its sign. They called it „going behind the water“. And you can imagine what such snot noses like us ended up like. We became unstuck and without any money returned to the camp. And after that every time we got jumpy, we would say to each other: „Hey, what do you say, are we going behind the water? “

  • "We were walking in a column of three. Just before we reached the bridge down there, there was a mild curve and there on the left side was a bakery and right behind it a jewelry shop. As we were passing by that bakery, we saw a dead soldier holding a baguette tight in his hands. Just one building further there was the jewelry shop and there was also another dead soldier that had some gold in his helmet. As he fell, the jewelry spilled on the ground. We walked by and not a single soldier bent down to grab any of it. The majesty of death had to be respected by everybody."

  • "The soldiers were so tired already and unable to do anything that they must have been forced to retreat. As it was hot and we wore such heavy equipment some soldiers would walk and hold their butts split apart wide. Their skin was raw, you know how it is. And on each stop, everyone took his shoes off to treat his blisters and feet."

  • "I ended up quite good (on the farm); the squad left and forgot about me. I laid on the bench behind the table. At about 4 p.m. a passing-by motorbike woke me up. I got up, everything around was quiet. I went to the gate and saw the motorbike from behind. It was like when the German occupiers arrived in 1939 – it was a sidecar with two soldiers and a guy with a machine gun. I was lucky when I later found a bike. Before that I also found some eggs on which I put a pinch of salt and ate them. And then I headed for the West."

  • Full recordings
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    Brno, 21.07.2004

    duration: 02:03:09
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The majesty of death must be respected by everybody

Ludvík Čambala
Ludvík Čambala
photo: Pamět národa - Archiv

Mr. Ludvík Čambala was born in Skalice, Slovakia to a blacksmith family, and in 1925 his father immigrated to the USA. His studies were interrupted by the spliting of Czechoslovakia. With his friend and schoolmate, Jaroslav Klemeš, he left the country in February 1940 with the intention to join the Czechoslovak foreign army. They traveled to France via Hungary, the Balkans region and Northern Africa, where they entered the battle unit upon arrival. Without any proper training or equipment, Ludvík Čambala perservered through the thousand-kilometer-long retreat from the German army, threatened by permanent air-raids and the possibility of captivation. At one stop along the journey, he fell asleep and was left behind. He had to catch up to this unit alone, and managed to board on the last ship to England, where he arrived in July. He underwent training for signalmen and consequently enrolled as a volunteering paratrooper who could help maintain contact with the local resistance groups. Five men from the original group of ten that Cambala had traveled with were eventually dropped off, including Čambala’s friend Klemeš. After a tank-training, Cambala embarked to France in early September 1944. He progressed along the front as far as Dunkerque where he was appointed the tank commander after a successful attack. He remained there until the end of the war. He demobilized in October 1945 and then he moved in with his old friend, Jaroslav Klemeš, with whom he left the country previously. He underwent a telegraphic course and served as a signalman at the American army until the time he had leave. He got married then and worked as a telegrapher and air-traffic controller. He died on October 24th 2008 in Brno where he had resided since 1955.