Major (ret.) Michal Hečka

* 1924  †︎ 2023

  • “There were three of us: staff technical sergeant Dobrovský, then certain technical sergeant Michač from eastern Slovakia and me. The three of us had to leave that day and they were gradually sending away the ‘easterners’ [soldiers from the eastern front – auth.’s note]. They did not want the ‘easterners’ serve in the Castle Guard. They were afraid of us, because we had seen the mess that was in the Soviet Union. I was very surprised by the way the government army soldiers turned coats [from the Protectorate government army of the Castle guard – auth.’s note]. They were my friends, we were friends, but none of them admitted that he had joined the Communist Party. Do you know why? Because they didn’t want to account for their years of service they had spent in Italy, and the communists promised them that they would count in those years for them if they joined the Party.”

  • “The school year ended and we, the boys, decided that we would go to Russia as well. My brother and I and Činko Petro and Ivanina lived close to the border near Poljana. It was him who planned it all. We thus waited for mom to take out freshly baked bread from the oven, we already had bacon prepared, and we were ready to set out for Russia. We did not want to learn Hungarian. Fortunately my sister overheard our conversation and she told mom about it, and mom scolded us: ‘I will tell you something about going to the Moskalis…’ – we called the Russians ‘Moskalis’ – ‘you go home.’ Ivanina was waiting for us and he was later there. I spoke to him afterward. He lost his leg. He was in Siberia and then he was on the front in the Czechoslovak army.”

  • “In early 1944, no draft notice came, but instead policemen from a Hungarian troop arrived and arrested me. They took me to Mukachevo for transport and from there all the way to Poland to Ternopil. Do you know where Ternopil is located in Poland? We were digging trenches and bunkers behind Ternopil. I don’t remember if they bombed us or if there was an artillery preparation at night. Everybody started running, and I fled together with one friend. We had been preparing to escape from there for a long time. It is far away from the Carpathian Mountains, but we dared to do this. We were young boys. We escaped when everybody ran away at night. We didn’t come back anymore and we struggled towards home.”

  • “Down there on the ground floor in the 3rd courtyard there is the kitchen in the back. Some man sneaked in there. I still don’t know who it was, because the guards on duty rushed there and arrested him. He managed to get from the kitchen on the 3rd courtyard to where the gatekeeper sits during his duty. At that time a guard was sitting in the gatekeeper’s armchair. He is normally outside until 6 p.m., and then he closes the premises after six o’clock and his colleague was thus sitting there instead of him during that time. I was on the first floor. I heard some noise and the man was running upstairs. I pulled out my gun and shouted: ‘Don’t move!’ He went back again. Meanwhile I activated the alarm system.”

  • “And so I went to the Russian army. The partisans sent me there as an interpreter, because I could speak Hungarian quite well. There was some teacher or professor from Khust, I don’t remember his name anymore, and served as an interpreter for the Russian staff. I had to go with the officers’ reconnaissance out to the field to do reconnaissance. It was somewhere in front of Chop, there are rivers and willow trees, and the people there earn their living by making baskets. We found ourselves under mortar fire there. I was wounded by shrapnel.”

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    Kunštát, 23.04.2013

    duration: 03:15:54
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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In the Castle Guard of President Edvard Beneš

Michal Hečka
Michal Hečka
photo: autor Martin Reichl

  Major in retirement Michal Hečka was born October 24, 1924 in the village Sinovir in Carpathian Ruthenia. He studied the elementary school and higher elementary school in the nearby town Volová, and then he wanted to apprentice as a shop-keeper. His parents originally worked in agriculture, but Michal’s father later opened a pub and Michal was helping him in his new trade. Their tranquil life was however interrupted by the Hungarian occupation of Carpathian Ruthenia in 1939. Michal even considered escaping to the Soviet Union together with his brother and other friends, but their mother fortunately learnt about their plan and forbade him to go to the Soviet Union. If he had crossed the border, he would have been sentenced to forced labour in a gulag. Nevertheless, Michal Hečka still had to undergo paramilitary training in the Hungarian organization Levente. In 1943 he received a draft notice from Levente to work on digging trenches, but he ignored the order and went home. However, this did not change the situation in any way and in spring 1944 he had no choice and he was taken to Ternopil to do forced labour against his will. Michal was building trenches and bunkers against the Red Army in the vicinity of Ternopil, but the area was then hit by bombs (or artillery preparation) and Michal Hečka and one of his friends managed to escape in the ensuing chaos. Together they wanted to go back to Carpathian Ruthenia, but by mistake they came close to the Romanian border where they were caught by partisan units. The Red Army was already approaching and through the partisans Michal joined the Russian units where he served as an interpreter in an officers’ reconnaissance unit. In one of the combat actions near Chop he was wounded by shrapnel and he received treatment in a field hospital and then from the local inhabitants. During that time he accidentally learnt from one of the Red Army nurses about the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. He decided to join the Czechoslovak units and on November 2, 1944 he was admitted to the 1st brigade in Khust. Michal thus took part in fighting for Liptovský Mikuláš and in other fights for liberation in the territory of Czechoslovakia until the end of the war found him in Prostějov. In 1945 he served in the command of the 1st zone in Prague and in the same year he joined the ranks of the Prague Castle Guard where he served in the 3rd troop. During his service he had a chance to meet many interesting personalities: apart from President Edvard Beneš and his wife Hana he also met the Soviet ambassador Valeriy Zorin. As a resident of Carpathian Ruthenia, in 1947 he opted for Czechoslovakia. In 1948 he was transferred from his position in the Castle Guard to the position of an accountant and deputy to the commander of the command column in Kynžvart and eventually he was sent on a ‘special leave.’ He went to Brno, where he worked in the Drukov factory as a fitter and later as a tradesman in the Včela consumers cooperative, but he was dismissed when the cooperative became transformed to the Jednota network and sent to do construction work. While in Brno, Michal met his future wife and he handed in his letter of resignation because of her and moved to her hometown Kunštát. Michal Hečka lived in Kunštát. He passed away on May, the 9th, 2023