Imrich Gablech

* 1915  †︎ 2016

  • "I was born on November 4th 1915, which was during the emperor period. As a child I don’t remember anything from the war. But I do remember the liberation on October 28th. I’m Slovak by origin and in our villages people used to shout: ´We are free, we are free.´ I remember this. It was the beginning of my memories. My parents were Daniel and Anna Gablech. My father was a farmer and there were seven of us, the kids. Ten people lived in our family: my parents, seven kids and a disabled aunt - my mother’s sister."

  • "In the morning they took us to the field and there the requisition started. They liked the coat, pans, or shirt - they urged the person to get undressed so he stayed only in his underwear. There was some Polish financial officer wearing a beautiful new uniform with black boots. The Russian ordered him to take it off. All he could keep was the shirt and his underwear. Then the Russian notice his nice ring and told him: ´Give it to me!´ He pulled him a little aside to the bushes and then we heard the bang and that was it. This was the first cruel experience."

  • "I made a little steeper seeding on the airport and then I passed out in this position. The airplane finished the turn itself. Half unconscious I managed to open the landing flaps and I began the landing. I came around about twenty or thirty meters above ground and then I urge the plain back up to the air. I closed the landing gear and made two rounds. Then I opened the flaps again and tried to land once again. Just as the wheels touched the ground I passed out again. I only managed to turn the engine off. The aircraft rushed through the runway; everybody was running to save their lives. When the plane stopped, our school commander came, opened the cockpit and pulled me out of there like a rabbit. He was a big man so he pulled me out and asked me what happened. I told him I don’t know, because I’ve had a black-out. He put me in his car and drove me to his place. There he opened the cabinet and took out bottle of Whiskey. He poured two glasses and we drank it. Then he offered me a cigarette and poured another glass of Whiskey. After that he started to question me. Using English, French, Czech and Polish languages I told him, that I came back from a concentration camp in USSR. And he told me: ´Why do you want to fly? We have our own pilots who are waiting even one year before they can start the combat flying.´"

  • "There were eight of us on four planes all together back then. Three 328 type of aircrafts and one AB 101 aircraft. This airplane had some troubles. I was the oldest one of them. I already achieved the honor of field aviator-pilot. The pilot of this plane was a young boy and he said he didn’t know this type of aircraft. The first one to take off was Mr. Lazar followed by Josef Káňa and I took off as the third one. I went to the take off position and waited what will happen to this young boy. He panicked. In the middle of the airport he turned around and realized that he will hit the iron made shed, so he tried to turn around again, but he didn’t succeed. So he tried the second time and the third time and then he finally fairly managed to jump over the shed. I thought to myself: ´Now we’re in trouble.´ there was a Jewish cemetery nearby. I waited for few seconds to see him go higher to the sky. Then I took off myself. When I looked out to my wing I saw pilots-trainees holding my wing. I just smiled at them, I set the full throttle and off I went. I knocked everyone down to the ground. I took off and when I was getting closer to Žilina town, I thought I might to say goodbye. I used to have two girlfriends there about seven kilometers from the town. I noticed that Káňa was following me. We made a raid - rodeo and after that we settled on the target course, Poland."

  • "I was in the office when they came. They asked me if I’m comrade Gablech and told me to follow them. I told them, I’m not any comrade, but Mr. Gablech. They put me in the car and drove me away. I managed to hand the keys from the office to the accountant and asked her to tell my wife I was arrested. I spend a week there. There was some idiot, but a real idiot questioning me. He started: ´Name? ´ I said: ´Gablech´. ´Don’t you have a first name? ´ He was fussing. I told him that I do have a first name too. Then he continued: ´You were born? ´ So I told him that I have been born in deed and that he should be giving me more intelligent questions. At the end when he was sitting and yelling at me I stood opposite of him. I jumped and grabbed him around his neck saying: ´You son of a b..., if you are going to yell at me, I can yell at you as well. I’m whole lot better in it than you are, I’m not afraid of you! ´ Then all of a sudden a door which I haven’t got any idea they were there opened and someone told him to get out. So now Franta was gone and this man told me, he was an idiot. I nodded and told him I knew it all along. He started totally academically. He asked me where I’ve been and what was I doing. So I told him about my escape by plane. I told him I was in Poland, then in USSR where I have had a great time, and then I was in England and that now I’m here. I asked him why they threw me out. And he replied that he didn’t throw me anywhere. So I told him it was his party who did. Then finally I asked him if he could tell me why I was there. He answered that he was just about to ask me the same question. So I said: ´ don’t be ridiculous. I wouldn’t have myself voluntarily arrested.´ then I told him: ´If I would have wanted to run away I would have done it with all my family and half of the Havlíčkův Brod town on top of that. I had few planes available.´ he was surprised and said that they didn’t realized that. So I told him he can see for himself how stupid they are. And that was the end of it and after a week they let me go home."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Havlíčkův Brod, 15.07.2009

    duration: 02:27:15
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The Russian pulled out his gun aiming it to my head and then told me to sign the record

Imrich Gablech
Imrich Gablech
photo: archiv pamětníka

Mr. Imrich Gablech was born on November 4th, 1915 in Hrachoviště, a village in Slovakia. Here he also attended grammar school. His parents were Daniel and Anna Gablech. Imrich had another six siblings. His father was a farmer. After Imrich finished the grammar school, as fourteen years old he started to visit Gymnasium in Nové Mesto nad Váhom town in Slovakia. Although he did rather badly from the start he managed to improve his grades and to become the best student at the end. He even received a nice scholarship. In 1936 while reading a newspaper he got curious about the 1000 new pilots for our Republic enrollment advertisement and he applied immediately. His parents wanted him to become a priest though. On October 1st, 1936 he started his military training in Piestany town (Slovakia) and shortly after that he has been transported to the Pilot academy in Cheb town (West Bohemia). From January 1937 he attended pilot school in Prostějov town. After he finished this school he was included to the training wing and then to the field wing operating near by Bratislava (Slovakia) and also in Žilina town, where he spent wonderful times. Already at the Gymnasium he sensed the upcoming danger from Hitler through his teacher’s telling. When the State of Slovakia has been established on March 14th and the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia came about all he wanted to do was to fight for his homeland (Czechoslovakia). He decided to fly abroad. His opportunity arose on June 7th 1939. Four planes with eight people crew flew in Poland without any problems. Mr. Gablech has been consequentially sentenced by military curt in Slovakia to twenty years of heavy jail for desertion and espionage and also he has been demoted. After their planes landed in Deblin the Poles found out that there were foreign pilots. The pilots were namely (except for I.G.) Jozef Káňa, Ján Lazar and Jozef Hrala. This was probably the very first departure from Slovakia. Due to the fact that Poland wasn’t at war yet, they couldn’t officially accept Slovakian pilots into their groups. The pilots received warm hospitality and many apologies for violently occupied Teschen region. Then finally after few weeks of investigating in Warsaw he returned back to Deblin and started to work by Polish Aviation. Except for regular flights the young boys enjoyed their free time as well. But everything ended with the beginning of the war. The German planes have been flying pointedly over the Polish airports, including the one in Deblin, already since the end of August. On September 2nd 1939 German bombing planes carried out a massive air attack on Deblin. Imrich Gablech managed to escape on plane though, but he has been chased and he crashed. After he came around he went to the nearby support airport where he found flyable plane and he flew to the set up meeting point in Góra Pulawska airport where he got as the first one. The pilots from the Deblin destroyed by bombing were centralized in Pulawa town. Imrich Gablech has been part of the captain Chriniewicze wing. At the instance of Capt. Chriniewicze he and another pilots headed back to Deblin to collect airplanes ready for the departure to Pulawa. After a distressful journey he really got to Pulawa where he collected his gun and uniform and after he found a flyable plane he headed back to his troop. His group gradually made it close to the Romania border line where they have landed. Imrich Gablech and his friend started to search for something to eat throughout the houses around, but before they could find something they have been disturbed by shouting of one of the Poles that the Bolsheviks are coming. Mr. Gablech didn’t pay much attention to this warning and walked back toward his plane. On September 18th the whole group of the pilots has been surrounded and arrested by the Red army. During the personal check up he lost his flight diary and his pilot-aviator certificate. He has been transported together with his friends to Ukrainian Gorodenko town where they all have been interned without servings. Only after three days they were allowed to search for something to eat. The plunder has begun. One of the Poles got shot because he refused to give his wedding ring. Mr. Gablech experienced also an investigation of the NKVD. (The People’s Commissariat for Internal affairs - translator’s note) He was convicted of espionage for which he was apparently being trained in Poland. His punishment was supposed to be five years of hard work in camps of Siberia. He almost didn’t survived the questioning. After he refused to sign the record the NKVD officer pointed the gun at his forehead and made him sign it. After few days he was transported to black coal mines works. He went through all this together with his friends-pilots Zdeněk Bachůrek and Miroslav Havlíček. After some time another transport came, this time they went across the whole Russia to the Pečora River basin. Mr. Imrich Gablech has been included to the labor camp number 19 in independent Russian socialistic republic Komi. His friends Bachůrek and Havlíček left him on March 4th 1940 and went to Buzuluk town. Mr. Gablech-being a Slovak- must have stayed until spring of 1941. On the Pentecost a revolt arose in the camp, when the Poles refused to go to work. There were some stand-ups, which have been punished later. Mr. Gablech was among the guilty ones and he got another ten years in labor camps plus the correctional stay in the icy bunker without anything to eat and drink. Mr. Gablech managed to escape the camp after the war with the USSR began. Taking turn walking and the train rides the prisoners made it all the way to Moscow. From there they continued to Archangelsk and then in September 1941 they took of to Great Britain. On October 13th Mr. Gablech arrived to Scotland. From there he took a train ride to the Polish bombing wing and then he continued to the Czech inspectorate and the Czechoslovak troop in Wilmslow town. Soon he reunited with his friend Bachůrek. With others they were telling each ones stories about what the have been through in the USSR. Nobody would believe them though. He spent his first Christmas in England. He visited several English families and also suffered the appendix surgery. His dream was to fly though. He underwent the necessary re-check up and although the results were not perfect, after two years he was sitting in cockpit again. During one of his landing he passed out and suffered the so-called black-out. After short hopeless attempt to fly at least on the bombing plane (there were two pilots), his health conditions got very serious and he had no choice but to quit flying. As a result of being through the Soviet gulag he was slowly loosing his sight and he also suffered from some stomach problems. Mr. Gablech began his new life period with the help of his former commander from Piešťany town Mr. Josef Duda. Thanks to him he was accepted to the airfield-control class. At first he carried out his profession straight on the runway and after he successfully finished the course for flying controllers he was sent to Coltishall airport nearby Norvich town. He remained there until the end of the war. On August 2nd 1945 Imrich Gablech returned back home. He was charged with the traffic control in Prague airport. Thanks to this fact he got promised from the commander of the Aviation HQ Gen. J. Hanuš that he can stay in Prague for good. But after he came back from his Carlsbad spa medical treatment he was sent immediately to Havlíčkův Brod town. He worked there again in traffic control and after most of the so called Westlers have gone he also functioned as the airport and airbase commander. In February of 1949 he received a telegram with the order to report himself immediately in Brno town. There he found out that he has been dismissed from the army. He couldn’t find any job until finally he was employed in the construction company where he worked as a planner and invoice adjuster. In 1951 he has been arrested and questioned for short time in Jihlava town. He was released after a week though, but soon after that he lost his job again. Thanks to his friend he was employed in 1954 at least as an accountant in the rough file company. In 1958 he didn’t passed through the company purge and he was sent to perform worse work as a file controller. His aged injuries developed again and he must have undergone the stomach surgery. At the end he left the file company for unbearable conflicts with his boss and he worked at the dressing material company, where he remained until his retirement. His family has been also thrown out from their apartment few times, therefore they decided to run into debt and in 1959-1960 they built their own house. Mr. Gablech has one son from each marriage (two sons together). He welcomed the democratic changes in 1989, although as he says himself, he wouldn’t expect ´such a jungle´. His books entitled ´Hallo, airfield control, go ahead! ´ was published in Slovakia in 2005. He still visits schools where he tells his stories and memories. He is the owner of many medals and distinctions, not only Czech, but Polish and Russian and English as well. Imrich Gablech passed away on December, the 16th, 2016.