Juraj Janko

* 1921

  • "They chose us because as drivers we could be expected to work with machinery. So they took us into the parachuting course. The second thing was you had to be one hundred percent healthy, because otherwise they wouldn't take you on. (Q: "How many times did you actually drop into action?") "I did eighteen drops. wasn't till then I found out what a real drop was. You didn't have anywhere to dry the parachutes if you got them wet. And the cold... So it even happened that a parachute froze stiff. The soldier jumped, but it didn't open for him. Those things did happen. I was with fellow soldier Přikryl that time when we saw the paratrooper flying down with his parachute not opening. We saw what was left of him afterwards. That was really nasty."

  • "I called the guardsman and said: 'Listen!' I spoke perfect Russian. They called me the Russian joker. That's the nickname I had. I told him that my convoy was all numbered and that we'd be taking civilians. You weren't allowed to take a civilian into the car, they'd remove you immediately. Because they'd [the civilians] would give you something to drink, and then accidents occurred... A car was worth something. A person, no, but a car, that was something, because that was the only thing we could make use of. So first I talked to them and said: 'Look, you'll get Tatra cigarettes, white bread and plum brandy. Okay!' To the boys I said: 'We'll stop and pick up children especially. Parents with children.' You couldn't sit on the bench in the car, it was standing only. East of Trenčín. The people were so glad, as if the Lord God himself had come to them. Then I told the boys: 'They'll offer you lard, drink, or whatever. You can take it, but you mustn't drink it.' "

  • "He said: 'Boys, you've got two options...' But he didn't say what. Just two options. And dismissed. Back to our cells. So I reckoned what they were: the rope, a bullet or... But then it was suddenly decided and he was counting out: 'Either the transport leaves now, and you leave with it, or you don't.' And the transport arrived, so we went to Russia. They took us there, and of course all the way to Henichesk by the Black Sea. That was a largish village. It wasn't tell Dnipropetrovsk that one started to think of the power within. Because we'd never seen that: a rail track, and the tram pulled up six metres above it. We just stood gaping. Already in those days the partisans worked so well that they allowed us to cross the Dnieper, but immediately behind us they sank the German transport that was following. In those days already. But we ended up okay."

  • "We were tearing along towards Prague. The Dodge in front of me was pulling a long-ranged cannon. He signalled me that I could overtake him. When I'd built up speed, he dragged the cannon into the middle of the road... The field was a bit lower down. I drove off past some trees, a pillar, and ploughed into the field. The officer got himself a bump on the head - a concussion. He started looking for his hat. Just for his hat. I went to have a look how I'd get back on to the road. When I got back on to it, he found his hat and said: 'I'm not saying you're a bad driver, but none of that funny stuff with me here!' I said: 'What would you have done?!' He replied: 'I'd have shut my eyes.' "

  • "The lieutenant I chauffeured kind of suspected I would want to desert. But I didn't know if he wasn't testing me maybe. So I pretended not to hear and so on. Then night came. I saw a haystack. The cattle had eaten a hole in it big as a barn. So I hid my car there. It was getting cold, I had some candles, so I let them and tried to warm myself a bit. Suddenly Russian Ratas flew past and started bombing. When the noise stopped, I decided it would be better if I come to them without the car, just as I was, on foot. That I'd meet up with them and tell them I'd join them. And that's how it was: suddenly I heard two of them talking. I called out... I had a leather jacket. I wore that, wanted to take it for civil life, it was new. But then when I saw it was all over, I put on me. They thought I was a general. I told them I wanted to talk to their commander. So they took me to him, one kept an eye on me, the other went inside. They had a candle for light. So the second one tells [the commander] about me, and he says for me to come in. He also didn't think I was without rank. I said not to worry if my unit was fighting somewhere out there or what - not to worry. I said no, that I'm not an officer of any sort, that I'm an ordinary driver, and that I've got my car back there, and that I can be their driver. So they were okay with that."

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    Byt Juraje Janka, 10.11.2003

    duration: 01:26:57
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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A car was worth something. A person, no, but a car, that was something, because that was the only thing we could make use of.

Juraj Janko
Juraj Janko
photo: Soukromý archiv Juraje Janka

Juraj Janko was born on the 13th of December 1921 in eastern Slovakia, in the village of Čukalovce. He was prevented from starting business school in Subcarpathian Rus by the onset of World War Two. He attempted to hide from the war in the Tatra Mountains, but he was caught after three weeks and, after some interrogation, sent to East Front in a German uniform. There he served as a driver. He subsequently managed to run over to the Soviet side. He served in the Red Army for some time, and was then transferred to the Czechoslovak units in Buzuluk. There he was chosen for paratrooper training. He completed eighteen drops throughout the war. He also served as a driver, and later as the commander of a supply convoy. He took part in the fighting at Dukla and in the liberation of Czechoslovakia. After the war he left the army, in 1946 he started his own freight company, which was confiscated after February 1948. He was persecuted further - spending two years and four months in Communist prisons.