Pavel Jacko

* 1923  †︎ 2014

  • “Of course we didn't understand much Russian. Russian was not so similar, Ukrainian was much closer to us. They spoke Russian of course. It was strange to us that when we were crossing the borders, there were three of them guarding us. There was the river Stryj. The river was swollen and we went over the bridge. They went in boots or on horsebacks through the river. One in front, one at the back, five went from the left, five from the right and one on a horseback on top of that. They guarded us going to the toilet, we started feeling uneasy. I said to myself, "Boy, this is bad.”

  • “Well, and on the front. Well, we crossed the Dnieper river. We were on the right-bank-bridge head of the Dnieper at Kiev. We stayed there for about two weeks. On November 3, 1943 the assault on Kiev started. It was something dreadful. I had never seen anything like that before. I had no idea what was going on. It was as if some kind of earthquake started or as if the sky was collapsing. Katjushas were flying all over the place, artillery, the Soviet Andrjushas – these bombs were flying about two or three kilometers above the trenches. As we were moving forwards, the Germans lay there dead. They managed to bury some of them, only their limbs were sticking out. They were mostly barefoot - the Russians and mainly those from the Middle Asia, the Kazakhs, and the Uzbeks. They robbed them of everything when they had some time. They had a bag full of cloths. There was a tank – Tiger set on fire. I would have never thought that such an armor monster could burn like a torch.”

  • “We shared the prison and the cells with Poles and Ukrainians who were fleeing to the Germans. We were fleeing this place and they were fleeing to the Germans. It was also strange. They were laughing at us. ‘You wanted the Soviets – very much, so here they are. We wanted away, we are not sorry for that, but how about you.’ So we stayed there for a while. We were interrogated by NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). We didn't understand Russian very well. I understood a little but they didn't mind it. When you were making excuses, when you didn't understand and had no idea how to answer, they were right away: ‘Spy. Sign it.’ I said: ‘I'm not a spy.’ ‘We don't care, sign it. Have you come without documents? You have. Spies come without documents.’”

  • “Human life was ... (of no value). When the Communists spoke about humanism, it was ridiculous. Communists and humanism... We moved there freely. But where could you flee... The nearest village was 240 kilometers far away. And there were still the natives, as Solzhenitsin wrote, who got some tea when they revealed a run-away prisoner. They either shot you themselves or passed you on to the Soviets. The Russians, they were gangsters. In the camp were pickpockets, burglars, robbers, gangsters and 'ubijets' – murderers who shot militiamen dead. I lived among them. 'Ubijets' were making fun of pickpockets: ‘You are only a piece man’ - stealing only bits and pieces, a vamper. ‘Настоящий вор, ты понимаешь... Я настоящий вор, ёб твою мать. Ты, блядь, кусочник, давай иди к ебёной матери...’ There was some fun with them, though. The prisoners sang: ‘Москва, Москва, сколько горя ты нам принесла. По три года нам давала, в лагеря нас высылала. Ах зачем ты, мать, нас родила...’ Or: ‘Широка страна моя родная, Много тюрем и лагерей, богатая...’ But also some dirty songs too: ‘А как мы с тюрьмы в лагерь попадём, На работу мы хуй пойдём. И ховаемся под нары – we hide under the bed. – А нарядчик ищет фонарём – and a high-muck-a-muck is looking for us with a lamp. – Мы нарядчиков ебём в рот и в нос – we shit his mouth and nose. – Ты лагерный придурок хуесос – you are a camp collaborator... – Сам ты знаешь, мы уходим на работу, Мы в субботу не выходим на работу, А суббота у нас каждый день.’ … I've already forgotten much of it. High-muck-a-mucks dreaded to come among them.”

  • “We were only numbers there. The watchman had a board at his post, in his guard room. At every name there were pins with numbers. When they were taking someone dead away, they reported it to the watchman. He took the pin out of the number to show he was away. He tied only a little number card without his name on his thumb and the corpse was taken out to Taiga. They did it like that.”

  • “Before I came to the court I had to sat in lodging houses. We were kept in there until the end of 1940. I got my judgment as my birthday present on November 26. They called me to the office. Off I went. I was scared that they would wish me happy birthday and would give me a present. I was 17 years old then. They read our judgments, verdicts. He read: ‘Jacko Pavel Fjodorovič, the year of birth 1923, was sentenced to three years in a labour camp by the order of the Highest Soviet Court in Moscow from this and that day, according to the article 18 (68) NPG – nelegalnij perechod granic’ - i.e. for illegal border crossing. They also gave the article to the Soviets who willfully left the region. ... If you signed it or not, the result was always the same. It didn't matter. No court, no barrister. They decided it in Moscow even without having seen me at all. I was 17, I was put on a transport to the far North, it was December 20th. The transport commander refused me because I was underage. They sent me back to another prison in Artomovsk and then I was taken to Charkov. The New Year came in the meantime. They were interested in the year of birth only, and all of a sudden I turned eighteen on January 1. I ‘marched’ to the camp right away on February 7.”

  • “There was a rumor that there was a signed contract between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union saying, that they could take us into their Army. They told us that there was a recruitment for the Czechoslovak Army, if we wanted to volunteer. Of course we wanted to. Who wouldn't? As a young boy I thought that the Republic was heaven. ... of course all of us went for it. I had the feeling it all happened because of the British government or actually from Gottwald's leadership in Moscow. Only after the war did I learn that it was the work of general Heliodor Píka only. We would have died there without him. He learned that there were some former Czechoslovak citizens, Carpathian Ruthenians, in the camps. We had Hungarian citizenship at that time. The Czechs were taken first, there was Mr. Veverka. He was released for Buzuluk in February 1942. ... Honor and fame to him. We would have died without Píka, we wouldn't have survived another winter. ... That was why it was so strange to me that there were some Communists in the Nazi concentration camps for five years and that they survived. For example Zápotocký, Novotný or Hendrych. Hendrych, the number 2 man of the Novotný regime, used to go to Zdíkov towards the end of the '60s. He had a cottage there. Once we had a chat. I spoke to him and he mentioned that his health was broken in the concentration camp. I told him frankly, (it was in 1970): ‘If you were in a Soviet camp as I was, then Zápotocký and perhaps you too would survive only one winter and no more.’ He didn't even protest very much. ‘Mind you, comrade, the Soviets overdid it sometimes.’”

  • “They kept us there and interrogated us. I cannot say the interrogations were rude, it wasn't like that. In simple terms – a spy and that was it. We stayed at that place for about two months and then we were taken to Starobelsk at Donbas. They drove us to a monastery. There had been a cloister there before. They knocked both towers off the church and built new floors. The nave of the church was high, which was the reason for building another floor. The prisoners were both up and down. Our 'parasches' – toilets were at the altar, we went there to evacuate. They took it away every night. There was always a team in charge of it. When I saw what they did to the monuments I thought they were barbarians, not people.”

  • “Well, I got over it. (I recovered and I served in a hospital.) They said: ‘You can come, you'll help us.’ So I went there with a Russian, Voloďa. We chopped wood, made fires and brought corpses to a kind of a wooden ‘shopa’ (shed) for wood. We heaped them there naked and we put them across one another like wood sticks. There were about five or six of them in a row over one another. We couldn't bury them in winter because we couldn't dig in the ground (it was frozen). It thawed in spring and the corpses could be taken away. We were making fun of it, what else could we do. Voloďa said: ‘Take a bat.’ He took a stick, hit a Pole, the stick rebounded like a stone. They were frozen....naked people laying in a shed. The special iceboxes as we have these days were not needed. The people lay there from November to April. ... People died the most in October and November and then again in spring. And also when they got injured in the forests. For example a tree fell on them...”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Zdíkov (Vimperk), 22.08.2004

    duration: 03:28:24
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

“We were only numbers. The watchman had pins with numbers. When they were taking a body away, they reported it to the watchman and he took the pin of the dead out. They tied only a little number card again on the thumb of the corpse.”

Pavel Jacko in 1946
Pavel Jacko in 1946
photo: archiv pamětnika

  Pavel Jacko was born to a peasant family in Carpathian Ruthenia in 1923. He was conscripted into the Hungarian half-military troops, Levente. He left for the Soviet Union in the spring of 1940, and was arrested immediately after that. He was sentenced to three years in a labour camp in the Arkhangelsk area for illegal border crossing and espionage. He was untimely dismissed from the gulag at the end of 1942. However, he went to Buzuluk as late as July, 1943. He took part in the fights in Kiev, Bílá Cerekev and the Dukla Pass. He was injured twice - at Bílá Cerekev and Dukla. He didn’t come back to Carpathian Ruthenia after the war. He remained in Czechoslovakia. Having left the Army, Pavel Jacko started his service on SNB (National Security Corpse). He served at various places in southern and western Bohemia. He lived in Zdíkov at Vimperk, died on June, 28th, 2014.