Otakar Černý

* 1919  †︎ 2009

  • “At that time, Jews in Warsaw were liquidated. Germans decided to wipe out the entire Jewish ghetto, which was really big, something like a quarter of Warsaw. The Jews fought back and there was a war over the ghetto in 1943. We were there as the members of the underground resistance, we were under the command of a certain colonel Nedvěd. They called London and checked our identity, by hair, noses and everything else, and then we were accepted into the underground army. We were helping the Jews, they were hungry so we brought them bread trough those windows. There were stairs leading under the ground and the entrance into a house with a window. It was a large area and we always agreed with them on a certain window and then we handed them over the things they needed. The Polish underground movement took advantage of the fact that the Germans were fighting with the Jews and not the Polish and they supported people in the ghetto to last as long as possible. In the end the whole ghetto was destroyed. Tanks came and tore it all to the ground and who survived that, didn’t last much longer. That was a sad thing for the Polish underground movement. And when we were in that organization, they gave us a horse and a cart and we were taking trips to farms around Warsaw to collect food. We also brought weapons from Warsaw to the farms. That was interesting. A horse and a cart and rifles under the blanket replaced by bread and flour on the way back. But it lasted only a very short time until somebody turned us in.”

  • "That was between the 5th and 7th year of grammar school. We went for bicycle trip around Europe. We went on bikes through Austria, Italia to France and then through Switzerland back home.” “How long did it take?” “It lasted for about six months or so.” “And how old were you?” “Between the 5th and 6th grade, that was 16.” “And your parents let you go?” “We had official papers from school saying that we were students and that the trip was a part of our education, meeting with other nations and so on. That was good.” “What did the trip look like and how did you come up with the idea?” “The initial idea came from our class teacher who also taught us French. He persuaded us to go to France get in touch with the French and use the language. It was his pride and he was a very good French teacher. He encouraged us to go. And as we went, the highways began in Italy and there were a lot of those heavy trucks and as they were driving at about twenty kilometers per hour it was easy grab the back of the body and let ourselves be towed each one on either side of the truck. The main thing was that we got to the Riviera which was something very exclusive at the time (the French and Italian Riviera). So we went trough Milan to Genoa and on. But the problem was that you had to have a license to ride a bike, it was called a ‘triptyk’. Have you ever heard of that?” “I never heard about that.” “So our triptycks were valid everywhere apart from France. We left our bikes in Italy and went on foot to Nice. Then we returned back and continued through Turin and Aosta to Switzerland, mainly to the French part, then the German one. It was strange in Italy because everybody told us to beware the thieves. So when we were sleeping in the open we attached a string to our feet and the bicycles. The next year we went to Yugoslavia to the sea. Three friends, we went on bikes to Dubrovnik, Split and then back.”

  • "A lot of people were able to escape before the overturn of the government. There were some people who left before, because they expected something to happen. But me and my wife, we had a six month old son, and we couldn't escape that easily, so I ended up in jail. Bryks had a friend, Čapek, Josef Čapek and they tried to escape together but they were caught and interrogated in Dejvice. They were interrogated by Reicin, the chief of the communist intelligence in the air forces. And this Čapek was a bit naive and he told them everything, that they met me in Prague and that I knew that they were going to escape abroad. So I was arrested because Čapek told them everything.” “And you knew that they were going to escape?” “Yes, and I was guilty of not going directly to the state police to report that.”

  • “There were shooting clubs, those were groups of young men who were going to the shooting range each Sunday and there we were shooting. The ammunition was free, given by the Ministry of Defense (the Ministry of Defense supported activities connected with national defense like shooting, flying and military training). We had old French rifles from before the wars, very long ones which were perfect for shooting at long distance. But as I said they were very old. So these were the activities. Shooting, gliding, then motor planes and then the Czech air forces.” “So it was a certain preparation for the war... Were there any other ways of similar preparation?” “There also was a so called ‘local defense’ when villages chose certain people who would in the case of an armed conflict be in charge so that there would be a certain level of organized defense, not only concerning weapons and fighting but also concerning the casualties. But this was left to the individual authorities so it was dependent on the mayor and the people and their willingness to do it. But the youth were crazy about shooting and flying. There was no navy, we didn’t have it.” “The local defense was organized only by the authorities? Did the Sokol organization take part?” “Yes Sokol was important – exercise to be in a good shape. There was Sokol and also another similar organization run by the Social Democratic party. And then there were air shows... Each Sunday there was an air show put up somewhere, especially in Summer. We were flying and people gave us money to support us so that we kept on learning.”

  • “We were digging a tunnel. Waldburg was in the middle of fields and we were digging a tunnel to the nearest bush. But it was a bit short. There were about 20 captives who wanted to escape. But only 12 got out because there was a problem that the end of the tunnel was still at reach of the lights from the camp so you had to be careful and watch the guards as they were walking by the fence and when they were walking away from each other we had to run. I was waiting for my partner who was Canadian but he didn’t show up and Josef came and he was waiting for hi friend who also didn’t show up, so we went together. And this was how I met with Josef Bryks.”

  • Full recordings
  • 6

    Cambridge- Velká Británie, 13.04.2008

    duration: 06:21:20
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I think: Why are there so many communists here? A lot of people didn’t believe that pure democracy would work, because the rich people were more privileged.

Oty Černý detail.JPG (historic)
Otakar Černý
photo: Mikuláš Kroupa, Hynek Moravec, sbírka Post Bellum

Otakar Černý was born in 1919 in Křenovice near Brno, died 14.10.2009 in Cambridge, England. His father was a stationmaster in Křenovice, his mother was probably of Polish origin. She left him when he was three and he never found out why. His father married again and Otakar got 6 step-sisters, whom he got along nicely with. He attended the local basic school and afterwards, grammar school in Brno. He was interested in learning to fly planes, so he signed up for the Czechoslovak Aero Club. After the graduation exam, he passed through a year of training and joined the air forces in Prague. In 1939, he escaped to Poland and France and entered the Foreign Legion where he served in the air forces. After the defeat of France, the exile government transferred all the Czech pilots to England. After the training, which also included English, he was assigned as a telegraph operator to the 311th bomber squadron. The English sent the Czech pilots to the frontline so Otakar Černý also fought in the first line. He met his wife in Cambridge and got married. In June 1941, his plane was shot down during a bombing of Hamburg. After a few days, he was caught in Holland. He was transported to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and finally to a concentration camp in Waldburg. There he met with J. Brysk with whom he managed to escape from the camp. He spent the rest of the war in camps and on the run. At the end of the war, he was being closely monitored in camp Oflag IVC in Colditz, which was liberated by the American forces on April 15th, 1945. He returned to England once he was freed, and then moved to Czechoslovakie with his wife. At first they didn’t get a flat and had to stay in hotels and in the so called Pilots’ House. Until 1948, he worked in the Institute of aerospace engineering in Prague-Letňany, then he was accused with retaining information about pilots who attempted to escape abroad (J. Bryks and general Janoušek attempted to leave the country after the February overthrown). He was interrogated in the “Domeček” (Little House) in Loreta in Prague and sentenced in a trial with J. Bryks, both to three years in prison. They were sent to a labor camp in Dolní Jiřetín. The authorities were afraid that Černý and Bryks would try to escape so Bryks was transported to the prison at Bory. Černý was informed that they were going to transport him to Bory as well a week later. Before the transport, he managed to escape to East Germany and then with smugglers to West Germany and then to England. His wife had left Czechoslovakia with their six months old baby immediately after Otakar Černý was arrested. He didn’t visit Czechoslovakia until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Died on October 14th in Cambridge in the Great Britain.