Nina Dobosharevich

* 1920  †︎ 2014

  • “The papers came and we could go to France. So we got on a train going to France via Italy. But by then, France was already on the verge of capitulation. So what were we supposed to do? Turn around and go back? We had the possibility to go back because Italy was not at war with Poland, it had only declared war on Poland a little later. So we went back to Belgrad and waited for the next turn of events. We were supposed to go to Turkey but there was a problem in so far as that they wouldn’t let any women enter Turkey. Therefore, they cut my hair, put a bandage in my pants so that I’d look more like a man and they put me on that train. I was accompanied to my compartment and told to crawl up on that upper bunk bed and not say a word for the duration of the whole journey.”

  • “Can we start the narration with your childhood memories?” “Sure”. “You were born in 1920?” “Yes.” “In Volhynia?” “Yes. At my grandmother's place in Mstěšín, it was called the Czech colony and it was 17 kilometers away from the capital Luck. My parents were already living in Luck, but because they had a small shop, my mother had no time to take care of me. So my mother took me to my grandmother. So I was born in Czech Mstěšín. There was a Ukrainian Mstěšín as well, the name depending on the nationality of the population living there.”

  • “After our training, all the girls went to El Kebir on the other side of Cairo and we left for Alexandria. They scolded us, calling us ‘the elite’ [laughter].” “Why?” “Because we were going to a better place [laughter].” “And was it a better place?” “Yes, because they were in the desert in barracks so big, you couldn't see its end. On the other hand, we were living in private houses that we had inherited from the Italians.”

  • “When the war started, all the refugees got mixed up. We didn't know whether it was a person, a horse, a cow or a kid, and everyone was running head over heels from the west to the east. But the Germans already knew that. The Poles had good intentions, but they had no idea that they would be so vigilant in the east. But on 19th September [the western border was breached on September 19, 1939 – note by the editor], the Russians came and that was it. I was riding with the defenders zigzag from the east to the west, engaging whoever we could, but by the end of December we had nowhere to go anymore.”

  • “The Hagana stopped us on our way and promised to blow us up, if we don't give them the Jewish people from our transport. So we stood there for two hours, the Czech and English lieutenants trying to persuade Hagana to let us go. The Czechs said: `We are not going to leave them here, they are our citizens and they did so much for this country. They want to go and we respect their wish’. I can tell you we were pretty scared, because they had grenades and God knows what else. They could blow us up like a piece of paper. But they let us go and we arrived in Naples.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Londýn, 10.05.2007

    duration: 02:17:49
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

The army has always fascinated me

Nina Dobosharevich in the Middle East
Nina Dobosharevich in the Middle East
photo: Videonahrávka - extrahace obrázku

Nina Dobosharevich, (maiden name Vignerova), a retired Major, was born on February 13, 1920, in Český Mstěšín, Volhynia. A couple of months befpre the Second World War had begun, she voluntarily joined the Polish army. She worked as a medic after the assault on Poland on September 1, 1939. After that, she left for Lublin and Krynic, where she was detained for a short period of time. With the help of a Ukrainian smuggler, she was able to get to Slovakia. From there she continued to France with a group of Polish refugees. They made it to France only to see it surrender. She then traveled back to Yugoslavia and entered Palestine via Turkey. In 1942, she enlisted in the Czechoslovak foreign army in the Middle East, but like many other women she was transferred to the ATS (Army territorial service), where she served as a driver and a mechanic. In the Middle East, she married a Czechoslovak soldier in order to obtain Czechoslovak citizenship. In 1946, she left for Czechoslovakia and settled down in Žatec, where she worked as an accountant. She was a true anti-communist, and was therefore subject to persecution and interrogation by the Defense and Security Intelligence service (OBZ). She escaped in 1949 and stayed in Germany for a short while. Then, in 1950, she left for England, where she worked in the health care sector. She currently lives in London.