Major (ret.) Jan Iljáš

* 1922  †︎ 2021

  • "It was right in the beginning, during the first attack. I didn't know the way it worked at the front line. An order came that we were to retreat because we had reached the Soviet army. We retreated into the village. I was very hungry because we didn't get dinner. We were told that we'd get dinner but in the morning. There was a henhouse next door. One Hungarian grabbed a hen and told me to make it for dinner. I could speak Russian-Hungarian and there were a lot of Ruthenians around."

  • "There were about fifty of us there who fell into captivity--there were all kinds of refugees. They interrogated us; they took one by one and interrogated us as to the situation there, and so on. I said: 'In the Carpathians, there is a mined road. They intend to blow it up'. They said: 'Where is it? Show it on the map! If you don't tell us, we'll shoot you'. I told them that I was sorry but that I didn't know. There was the occasional shot to be heard outside: 'See, one has already died'. I was really scared there."

  • "We opened fire. The mortars were stationed in a long trench. There was one mortar every five meters. Just imagine it: every five meters, one 120 mm mortar, and I couldn't even see the end of the line of them. Suddenly, the mortar next to us exploded – its barrel burst and all the crew members got killed. A moment of inattention cost them their lives; it exploded because they loaded it with two grenades – they mistakenly threw in a second one. Our crew chief also got hurt. I was the aimer, so the two of us always had to be present at the mortar. The others were bringing the ammunition, so they were away at times"

  • "We came there and it was a political camp. At first we were political [prisoners]. Usually, there [were] also Germans from the Sudetenland so they could enlist to the army. It goes without saying that they would screen them very cautiously in order to find out what kind of people they were. I remember one such boy. Coincidentally, I was working in the forge; I made hammers because they helped the industry. We spent over a month there, and we'd already started to learn Czech songs. Who could speak Czech there? Nobody. I will not boast."

  • "I took a backpack. If some Hungarian soldier came, I'd have told him that we got lost. And I said: 'Old man,' like, a partisan. But, I don't know what he was--nothing. But, the house was quiet and everyone was looking at us. We asked him where we could hide. He said: 'In the attic'. The cattle was in a room to the right and their living room was to the left. There was a ladder in that room leading to the attic. We climbed up the ladder and saw that the attic was completely empty. 'This is bad', I said to myself. For a moment, we stayed on that side and then we went to the other side and hid behind the jumble."

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    Chrudim, 18.11.2012

    duration: 02:44:32
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I see it all placidly

Broumov, 1946
Broumov, 1946
photo: archiv Jana Iljáše

Jan Iljáš, a retired major, was born on the 29th April, 1922, in the village of Černotisov (Černý Ardov) in Carpathian Ruthenia, former Czechoslovakia. Iljáš had two sisters and a father, who worked as a blacksmith. He completed a Ukrainian elementary school and then worked for the railways as a train conductor before joining the military. After Hungary had annexed Carpathian Ruthenia in 1939, Mr. Iljáš joined the paramilitary Hungarian organization, Levente. He was soon imprisoned, however, for having committed an offense in Uzhgorod, and was later sent with the Hungarian artillery to the front line in what is now present-day Ukraine. For a few days, Iljáš fought against partisans, and when his unit started retreating from the Red Army, he ran away. Iljáš was soon arrested by Soviet soldiers and interrogated as a prisoner of war. He was subsequently sent to work in a factory and a kolkhoz in Lebedyan at the Don River. In November 1944, six months later, he joined the Czechoslovak army in Krasnogorsk. Then, in December 7, 1944, Iljáš was sent to reinforce the Czechoslovak units fighting at Dukla where he was assigned to a mortar squad of the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. He also served in the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Artillery Regiment and participated in the battles at Jaslo and in the liberation of Slovakia. After the war, Iljáš was deployed to oversee the peaceful transfer of the German population from the border regions. He also briefly served in the Police corps. He later worked in a factory producing farm machinery, eventually working in prisons in Chrudim, Ústí nad Orlicí and in Pardubice. Currently, Jan Iljáš passed away on May, 2021