Leopold Fiala

* 1917  

  • "I was enrolled at Masaryk University in Brno and I lived at my uncle’s place, which was sort of a rather hidden basement apartment, so nobody really knew about me, not even the Gestapo. That’s where we did all of the rampaging, these student riots. We beat up some Gestapo guy and a German army officer whose gun – a pistol – we took. When I saw this I said to myself that it would be better to leave Brno than to end up being kicked on the ground like this. Of course, nobody wanted to start something with us because they were too well armed – they would have taken us down easily with their machine guns. So they did it like this: they sent German students to beat us up. Each time it was a horde of Germans, schoolboys, various students, not even students all the time, just all sorts of spongers – it was pretty German there those times. They always picked one university student, brought him to the ground and beat and kicked him as much as he could take. Then they went for the next one. When I saw this I said to my self that it would be better to leave Brno then to end up being kicked on the ground like this. So I ran away from Brno.”

  • "We spent a lot of time in France. I was with the artillery regiment. When I showed my leave certificate they took me for a soldier. We got to the Agde Czechoslovak military training grounds in southern France where they concentrated fugitives from all over the world. From there, they were sending readymade regiments to the battlefield. So I enrolled for the 1st artillery regiment and was assigned to the 9th battery. I got to the village of Portel. I served pretty long there. We guarded the coast because there was the danger that the Germans would do something out there. France wasn’t occupied yet but we were facing great dangers from every direction.”

  • “We got out of that railway-station building at Galanta under the pretext that we had to go to the toilet. We wanted to… of course we were looking for a way to escape. It took a long time before someone from the Slovak and Hungarian side made himself heard. No one expected something from the German side, of course. When I saw the field – “turčání” – as they used to call it in Moravia, a kind of a field with gone maize, it wasn’t cut, it was high, just the spike lets were cut. So I told myself that maybe it would after all be possible to get there and hide somewhere out there. So I agreed with another guy where we would go. I said I would run to the right and he said he would run to the left so they wouldn’t catch us both if they went after us. As I got to this “turčání”, closer to the field, I thought that maybe I was going to make it. So I started running, the other guy started as well but to the other side and we managed to run away from the police and out of the railway station. Then the Hungarian policemen were searching for us but didn’t find us. They alerted the frontier guards. All of a sudden these Gestapo men and guard members came and all of them started to shoot at us.”

  • “We were formed into an independent Czechoslovak tank brigade by the English and put into combat at Dunkerque. That’s where we guarded a fortress. It was very well secured. It was one of the best French military ports with all the guns and cannons and conceivable military equipment. All of this was seized by the Germans and used against the British and the French. We were watching them as far as it was possible, assaulting them, taking captured German POW (prisoners of war) back to our base for interrogation. It was as it is in war. I was wounded at this Dunkerque. I got into an English hospital where I stayed for seven months.”

  • “We came to Liverpool in England. We disembarked and they wanted to know who we are and what weapons we had. When we left France we weren’t allowed to carry anything with us. But we put the weapons that we had stolen from the French on a pile. It was a whole artillery battery, mortars and all possible things. After we sorted the weaponry and after they counted it, they said we were the best armed unit in England.”

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    ČR, 12.08.2003

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    duration: 01:34:46
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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We were formed into an independent Czechoslovak tank brigade by the English and put into combat at Dunkerque

Leopold Fiala
Leopold Fiala
photo: vnuk pamětníka Tomáš Mára

Leopold Fiala was born on November 15, 1917. He studied at a grammar school in Kyjov and later he attended the Faculty of Medicine at Masaryk University in Brno. During his studies he got actively involved in the student riots. He wasn’t allowed to complete his studies due to a shutdown of universities in 1939. About this time he made the decision to flee the country and join the Czechoslovak military resistance abroad. At first he managed to flee via Bratislava to Hungary, where he was, however, arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp in Tolonzhaz. He nevertheless was able to escape from the camp in 1939 and to get to Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, he was arrested for a second time but again managed to escape. In 1940 he got to France on a military transport and after military training became a member of the 1st artillery regiment at Portel. After the defeat of France he was shipped to England where his regiment had shipped the stolen weapons. In England he again served with his artillery regiment. He fought at Dunkerque where he suffered a leg injury. After convalescence - which lasted almost until the end of the war - he returned to Czechoslovakia where he served with the anti-tank artillery unit in Žatec and with other units. He wasn’t politically persecuted by the Communist regime.