MUDr., Major Gertruda Englová

* 1910  †︎ 2003

  • “We worked in Stancija Kledskaja na Donu with a whole group of Czechs. Ferko Elefant, a dentist and a charming young man. All the girls in the village liked him. Then a major from NKVD called my husband to Stalingrad, he went there and came back with the news that we have to move to Seredoja Achtuba, which was 24 kilometers away from Stalingrad. We traveled there on a cart with empty vodka bottles. I fell down from the cart and I was bruised so I wasn’t very pretty. Then we went on a sledge to Surovikin and then by a train to Stalingrad. There we were joined by the pregnant wife of Erich Frešl and we came to Seredoja Achtuba all together. They had a very nice hospital, my husband had an ambulance plane to carry patients that he later operated. I was still injured from the fall and I started working as a general practitioner. People treated us very well. An old lady named Hrůša was running our household. We had a large room with a large bed. I was wondering why all the houses by the river stand on poles. In spring, the river got wild and I discovered the purpose of the poles… And the people liked us.”

  • “I took care of the patients after the operation, those who had to stay in bed and couldn’t be transported. I had some nurses and I taught them how to insert injections, we also did infusions… and we had a microscope, so I could examine the urine, that looked like real medicine practice.”

  • “I never had any bad experience with my origin. Everybody was surprised when I said I was Jewish, they looked at me: ‘No, you’re not.’ I never had any problems. If I didn’t study medicine and went to conservatory I would have ended up in a concentration camp like my mother.”

  • “When the Germans attacked the Soviet Union we immediately volunteered at the Red Army. They told us that the Czech army was forming at Buzuluk so we were all transferred. That was in 1942. I was one of the first women that went there. Us women, we were sleeping at the base camp on the floor. We had to wait until the Polish took hold of the barracks. Then we took a room, right next to the toilets, cleaned it up, we were about twenty women. The men frowned upon us at the beginning, they thought that women would be a hindrance. We all went through the army training and were ranked as privates. And the training, that was jumping, digging trench holes and so on. I was thin and weak, but Kakutová, who was stronger said: ‘I can’t stand looking at you anymore. I will dig the trench for you.’”

  • “We were still behind the front line. We had the worst time in Bila Tserkva, an awful lot of casualties. I also had to operate. My husband was the head surgeon but he walked between the tables supervising, giving advice and so on. There were so many casualties that we all had to operate. So that was the worst time, and then it was the same at Dukla.”

  • “My husband went with Kambulov who was a contact to Moscow. I was sad that he would leave again for God knows how long but Kambulov told me that if Svoboda allows that I could go with them. And the next day, when they were about to leave, at half past five, I went to a narrow path which Svoboda always took and when he saw me he asked: ‘What are you doing here? Aren’t you going to Černovice for silk stockings?’ And I told him that I wanted to go to Moscow with my husband and Kambulov. And he said: ‘Ok, no problem. And bring me new golden buttons for my uniform.’ I was so glad, I ran back and in the afternoon we were sitting in a car on our way to Moscow. We were passing through a city I forgot its mane, everything was destroyed… And I felt so sorry for that. In Moscow as we came we wanted to go to a hotel, but first I had to go to a hairdresser to have a lice treatment. I didn’t nave any lice. Then I could go to the hotel. The next day a young officer came and said he had a car for us that he was going to show us around Moscow. So we were sightseeing in Moscow the whole morning. At two o’clock I had to go to see general Píka on a military purpose. We had a very nice talk with general Píka and then he stuck the stars with the rank of a second-lieutenant. He gave me the same for Helena Petránková and the golden buttons for general Svoboda. And the most important thing, he gave me the documents that entitled Svoboda to promote women who fought at Sokolovo to the officer rank. With all this we flew on a plane the next morning at half past five. We flew over the front line and there were three fighter planes accompanying us. I was the only woman on the plane, I was sitting at the back behind the generals and my husband, but nobody paid attention to me. When we landed in Černovice, there was a car prepared for us. They took me to general Svoboda and I gave him the documents, he didn’t care about the golden buttons, he didn’t congratulate me to my promotion, he was happy that he could promote the women from Sokolovo. And I came back to my work and continued as if nothing had happened.”

  • “We agreed that we wanted to marry, to be a husband and a wife. So we were married the way that they changed our marital status in our documents, but we kept our names. We weren’t in Sachsen or anywhere else, so I was still Trudi Frankenstein and he was doctor Engel.”

  • “We were separated with my husband. I lived with the girls and used my maid name, Frankenstein. Then they built the officers’ canteen. My husband came for me and said: ‘Come with me to the canteen. You are my wife, you are not going to stand in the line with a tin plate.’ And later in the afternoon we were called to colonel Svoboda. And he gave me a lesson. He said we weren’t married, I was only a girlfriend and I didn’t have the right to enter the officers’ canteen. I felt insulted and I became really angry. My husband was standing straight, silent, he couldn’t say anything, so I started. I interrupted Svoboda and said: ‘If it was enough for Mrs. Anikina at the NKVD in Stalingrad, it must be enough for you. And if it isn’t, I will go to the Red Army.’ I turned my back at him and went away. He was standing there with open mouth, it never happened to him that a woman would oppose him in such a way. I was gone. In the evening an order came. My husband was promoted to lieutenant and it also said that we have to see the authorities to legalize the marriage. So we went there the day after, but they were moving to a different place. Finally we found it and there, in the garden we signed the marriage certificate. I gave one of the certificates to Ústí nad Labem to a museum and I kept the other one my husband’s certificate. And since that marriage my name was Englová.”

  • “I took my job as a matter of course. That we are in a war and I have to heal people. I didn’t care about anything else.”

  • “I was a member of Interhelp. That was a communist organization active both at the German and the Czech universities. In 1939, they ordered me to emigrate. So I did, with a small bag where I carried all my documents and belongings. I sprained my ankle as we went through a stream so I crawled on all fours. A young student was carrying my bag, the next day we were lead by another student and a polish girl. We came to the border and it was guarded by the Polish police. Half of us escaped to the other bank, where we lied inert for several hours. Those who didn’t make it were arrested including the student with my bag. So I lost all my papers.”

  • “We were a group of twenty women and we were assigned to lieutenant Růžička. And to keep pace with them we were singing a song that went: ‘Erdeplata, erdeplata… I don’t remember.’ Just to keep pace. But he was shouting at us, because he was angry that we were slowing his platoon down. They were competing, the platoons, and he was angry that he had women in the platoon, so he was very strict with us, so the girls complained. Not me, I didn’t say a word, I was Mrs. Engel now and I didn’t say a word. Then he was nicer to us. We went through the training but then I had my rights as a doctor anyway. I had my duties, I took care of the patients with tuberculosis and typhus and I did the social care, then I also trained women that came to the army and I was promoted to a lance corporal. And I worked in my field.”

  • “There were too many casualties at Dukla and I worked every day until late hours. And with pharmacologist Helena Petránková we said that if we survive until Prague it will be a miracle.”

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    Praha, 28.02.2002

    duration: 01:16:59
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I took my job as a matter of course That we are in a war and I have to heal people I didn’t care about anything else

Gertruda Frankensteinová was born on 16th of October 1910 in Český Krumlov. Her father was an engineer at the Czech Railways. When Gertruda was three years old, the family moved to Žatec where she later attended a Czech basic school and a German grammar school. Her father died very soon. Gertruda decided to study medicine at the German University in Prague. She graduated in 1936. In 1939 she went to Poland with the Interhelp program and after the break of the WWII she moved on to the Soviet Union together with her husband, doctor Engel, and they worked in local hospitals. When the Czechoslovak army began to form in Buzuluk, they joined in. Gertruda Engelová took care of the immobile cases. After the War she worked in the Central Military Hospital. After 1949 she worked as a company general practitioner in a factory.