Božena Ivanová

* 1927  

  • "They didn't want us, the Slovaks didn't really want us, they didn't want women in the army. It was not Svoboda. Žižka had women in the army there. No, there was no tradition among Slovaks. They wanted to get rid of us. They thought we would leave. Our girls in Buzuluk were trained. They were snipers, paramedics, great, brave girls, there was nothing wrong with that. So, we said, 'We're not giving up either, why should we?' We were healthy and young too. Well, the boys did terrible things to us, terribly bad things. For example, we walked down the hall, we carried our mess kits with dinner, it was quite dark in the hall. They tripped us up, we fell, the mess kit spilled and we were without dinner. And do you know what it's like to be without dinner? We could not fall asleep because of hunger; the hunger was insane. So at least we had cabbage with mashed potatoes, or a piece of bread, it was a rarity. And if you don't have it, you couldn't fall asleep the whole night. We couldn't wait for breakfast for the bread and porridge. And they did this to us a few times."

  • "The Germans decided that they would take trucks. They came to school and said that these children were barbarians, they have no proper upbringing, no education, those Russians would not enrich them in any way. So, the children were loaded and taken to Germany for re-education so that they could become a cultural nation. A class after a class was loaded onto the trucks. Instead of going to Germany, they took them to Kamienec Podolsko, to those huge pits. There the children stood around the pit and a couple of soldiers with rifles stood nearby and shot them. And the children were jammed next to each other in front of the pit. When the German shot one of them, the child grabbed a neighbor and they fell into those pits together. There were thousands of children, the Germans took schools from all over the area. There were four pits, but don't wish for that - the volume and the corpses! When they declared that the children had not left to Germany, but were buried in Kamienec Podolsko, (it is a city, the city must have it recorded, it was an event, a terrible tragedy, there must be commemorative books and witnesses, everything there must be captured), so parents came from all over the area, walked along the paths and looked at the corpses. They knew how old the children were, not their faces anymore, it was no longer visible, but there were little dresses, boots, bows. The girls had beautiful bows; they wore them a lot in their hair. That's how the parents were coming to see them…"

  • "I have experienced a situation when a person died from starvation. When my grandmother brought me there, we lived in a housing estate. They cooked on kerosene lamps, and my mother and I - I was six years old – we went for kerosene. These were such special containers. So, we went down the hill to such a shop where they had kerosene. It was in the winter. And as we went down, a man was lying by the fence, and another one was standing next to him, pulling his wellingtons off his legs. And he - that was the first Russian word I remembered - he kept telling him 'pagadi, pagadi', he kept saying it. We went around them, my mom speeded up. When we went back, the man was lying there and he was already dead. And he wasn't wearing boots, the other one pulled them off - what would a dead man need shoes for? And that 'pagadi' meant 'wait'. So, he didn't wait and took off his shoes. He was starving to death. It was the famine. Then I had a friend in Lugansk, that was before the war, she lived in a village. And she told me that when she was little, she was going with her parents (she was about 22), exchanging corpses. They were changing them from a village to a village because no one in the village wanted to eat their relative or a neighbor.”

  • "We were standing and they let go the children's military train at night, and when we came to see them in the morning, it was all bombed out. There were five hundred children and two hundred adult staff. And there was not a single person alive. Well, they wanted to move on, right. As if there were not enough people and everything else to clear already. What a show. It was all cut and pulled off those tracks. There was only one track back and forth, two tracks couldn't be built, they wouldn't have made it, so everyone with arms and legs had to help. We went to help too. There were a few families of us, maybe there were six of us of the age of 14 and older with our parents. We got big gloves that fell, so they tied them on our hands with twine, and we also had to remove the corpses. It had to be buried, people couldn't be left there among the iron. That wasn't a pretty sight. Well, when the tracks stretched, they drove again for a while before they arrived and broke it again."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Česká Třebová, 04.03.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 02:09:40
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Why does a fourteen-year-old girl have to see this?

Božena Koutná (Ivanová), 1945
Božena Koutná (Ivanová), 1945
photo: archive of the witness

Božena Ivanová, née Koutná, was born on May 18, 1927 in Prague. Her parents left to the Soviet Union to work in 1931 under the surname Fiala. She followed them in 1933. Her father worked in Podolsk near Moscow, later in Lugansk. After the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in June 1941, the plant was evacuated, and so the family moved - first to Omsk to Siberia, later to Almaty. There they learned about the emerging Czechoslovak military unit in Buzuluk, where they went in 1942. Her mother worked in the kitchen there, her father served in a machine gun company. Božena went to school in Buzuluk and in January 1944 she was recruited into military service and in August she was assigned to the 2nd Czechoslovak Parachute Brigade as a signaler. She underwent hard training, including three parachute jumps. She did not participate in the direct battles of the brigade in Slovakia, in January 1945 she was assigned to a training unit. There she also met her future husband Pavel Ivan, whom she married in October 1945. The husband worked in the army, so the family with two children often moved, depending on where her husband was transferred. In 1963 they settled in Česká Třebová.