“They attacked us again. Why? Because it was the last hill before the Slovak territory, from which you could control most of the others. Half a kilometer away, there was a road under the hill and that lead to Nižný Komárnik, the first Slovak village. There were only thirty-six of us including the commander of the platoon. Well, it was something like a quarter-platoon by then because the casualties were really high in the initial fights. We all had machine guns, no rifles. We defended the hill, killing about twenty enemies while only two of us were killed."
“He was as old as me and he was injured by a mortar shell. Not directly by the shell but by a stone. It hit him to his right cheek and he was bleeding a bit. He was crying and calling his mother, ‘My beloved mother,’ he cried.”
“We had a brass section which played on various occasions, during the marches and so on. I wasn’t playing in it because I didn’t play any brass instrument. Then there was a symphonic orchestra and a jazz orchestra. The Jazz orchestra played classic jazz music that was common for the period. Then there were pieces like Poet and Peasant, Dichter und Bauer as it is called in German – that is a beautiful piece... My Country from Dvořák and so on. This was the kind of music we usually played.”
“I joined the army in Lutsk and when the Soviets found out that I was Czech, they sent me to the barracks with other Czechs. They sorted us out. Czechs and Poles were grouped separately. And they trusted us more than the Poles. I was in the army for five days and they let my cousin Josef Damašek and I guard the gate. It was the first time, and they gave us rifles. And you know, I was an eighteen years old and they gave me a gun. It was tempting. So I loaded it and shot into the air. You could hear shots every now and then throughout the city. There were no fights but you know...”
“And so we went, Nerad was first, I was second and the local went last. Suddenly, I froze because I heard a German singing Kornblumenblau. I knew the song because we also played it in the orchestra. My hearing was perfect. Nerad didn’t hear anything and he carried on. I stopped him and said: ‘Quiet, listen!’ ‘What?’ ‘Be quiet and listen!’ He still didn’t hear it, but we went on much more cautiously. Until then we were marching normally. We got to the edge of a small canyon and saw a hollow oak. Around that oak, three bunkers made of logs with heavy machine guns. I said, "We’re not going to pass anywhere near. That would be very bad.’”
Retired lance corporal Ing. Zdeněk Damašek was born on November 2, 1925 in Teremno, Volhynia. As a boy, he excelled in language and musical studies, which he would later use during the war. Before the Soviet occupation of 1939, the Damašek family moved to Lutsk and became one of the few Czech families in the town. During the German occupation, Damašek avoided forced labor due to his position in a Lutsk orchestra. On the 19th of March 1944, after the arrival of the Red Army, he joined the newly formed 1st Czechoslovak independent brigade. He served in the orchestra platoon commanded by Vít Nejedlý. The only exception was the battle of the Dukla Pass when he had to fight in the infantry. In accordance to the saying, “an army unit means nothing without music”, Damašek returned to the orchestra platoon. After the war, he lived shortly in Žatec then moved to Prague in the summer of 1945 to finish grammar school. He worked in the banking sector and got a degree at the University of Economics. In the 60s, he worked in the Middle East. He died in Prague on 20th of October 2012.