Zdeněk Doležal

* 1934  

  • "My Dad was born in 1901, so he was almost forty years old when he went to the army. He didn’t have to go. He didn’t because he was already past the cutoff year for enlistment. But the district commission about twelve kilometres away in Rovna. And that’s where all the Czechs from Zdolbuniv had to go for the district commission. They gave us a warm welcome there – I remember that there was even music. So, Dad signed up for the army. And because they were already idling away there when General Svoboda, the leader of the Czechoslovak Army had said: ‘All of you, who... will stay in the Czech lands.’ And that was an incentive. It was one of the main incentives, for we wanted to break free from Russia, from Bolshevism. So, the boys and women, well, girls – back then girls were women already at eighteen nineteen years old – they went to that district commission and some of the boys lied about their ages. Sixteen and seventeen year olds claiming to be nineteen and so on. Everyone was in on it. Dad went too. But the funny thing was, and I’ll tell it you straight, that if those guys fudging their birthdays who were supposed to leave to army, to military service, well if they didn’t go to the Czech one, it’d be the Russian one. No doubt about it. Obviously, the Czech Army was 100 times better."

  • "You could say that we looked at it positively, in some way. The Ukrainians, they welcomed it with fanfare. The Ukrainians were in full celebration mode, it’s true. But I can tell you one thing: it wasn’t German being perfectly spoken by many of those soldiers actually – of course, they were Germans – but they spoke perfect Polish, because at the point there were already Poles in the German army. And there were many from Sudetenland there too. For example, once we ran into two boys, who we invited home to eat and so on. We’re talking Wehrmacht, not some SS troops, because they say that every German soldier was SS, which is bullcrap. When you really compare it, there were very few SS and they were assigned to specific duties. But what did I want to say... The two Sudeten guys. But, hey, that was already at the very end, when the Russians were on their way again, Stalin – so they were ordered... these two sappers, not to destroy the entire city, but just the depot because it was an important junction point, and they were supposed to destroy the tracks. That’s when we met them and talked with them in our house. These guys were from Sudetenland, we spoke with them normally in Czech. The problem was: when Vlasta, who was eight years older than me, she was my auntie, who still lives near Žatec, when she sang “Where is My Home” to them. And you know what, they sang too! I mean, don’t know what to say... it was so... I don’t know."

  • "It was the Poles who lived the best there. Poles had been there twenty years. There was order there, everything worked. There was a local government, militias, it was kept clean, the streets and sidewalks were swept. It was classy. As soon as the Russians – when they first came – I mean for the first time: it was the same year Poland was cut in half. Thirty-nine. It was total chaos there. Total chaos, and we weren’t a bit happy about it, because – I’ll tell you why. Within about three or four days they had moved us out of the house. And we really went to one of those places, again to our other friends – they weren’t our relatives, just some acquaintances. There was a butcher and he let us stay there. On the concrete floor, I remember, the floor of the terrace at that butcher’s. He had to close his shop down. We stayed there for maybe two months. The Russkies, first thing out of their mouths... you’re a kulak or you’re a capitalist and that’s that. The whole family along with Dad had to move out."

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    Praha, 26.08.2019

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    duration: 01:54:39
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By joining the Czechoslovak Army, Volhynian Czechs wanted to break away from Russia

Zdeněk Doležal (in front, on the horse) in Zdolbuniv, circa 1937-38
Zdeněk Doležal (in front, on the horse) in Zdolbuniv, circa 1937-38
photo: Archiv pamětníka

He comes from a family of Volhynian Czechs. His grandfather, a Czech from Chrudim, came to Volhynia (today Western Ukraine) around 1869. Zdeněk Doležal was born on 27 May 1934 in Zdolbuniv in Volhynia. He was just 5 years old when the region was annexed by the Soviets who seized their house as well as their prosperous family cement works. Hence, later on, the Doležal family welcomed the arrival of the Wehrmacht: they saw the Nazis as their liberators from the Soviets. In July 1943, Nazis burnt down the Volhynian village Český Malín and Zdeněk Doležal was made aware of the cruel hunting down of Jews, in which many Ukrainians also took part. In February 1944, the front again stormed through and Volhynia fell yet again into Soviet hands. In March, Zděnek’s father, Jiří, like 12 thousand fellow Volhynian Czechs, enlisted into the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. They fought with the Red Army at Dukla and even made their way all to Prague. He was dispatched to Žatec, where in May 1946, still before the official repatriation transports, the rest of his family traveled “in the wild” to join up with him. Zdeněk studied at a technical college and settled into a post at the Agrostav company. He got married in Czechoslovakia and raised two sons.