Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Michal Javorčák

* 1921  †︎ 2017

  • “Well, we didn’t speak Hungarian, but we saw that it was all wrong, the occupation. They started arresting people and locking up undesirables, so then we agreed, we boys who were summoned to the training, that we’d leave, that there wasn’t anything good in store for us there. That if we’d enter the army, they’d take us and sent us to the battlefront and so on...”

  • “So then the second day we went to work by ourselves. By the time we’d shovelled the snow from around the tree, by the time we’d prepared everything, what with being bent doubled, we were dizzy with hunger. When the tree fell down into the snow, we couldn’t even see it, the snow was soft as flour from the frost. Then we had to trod all around it, cut the branches off. We burnt the branches in winter, not in summer, so we wouldn’t set fire to the forest. We didn’t even saw that one tree up lengthwise and we were already going home, so we didn’t fulfil the quota, and they gave us less food. And because I was young and there were older and more experienced prisoners there, they made me into a cook. So I got 30 dkg, practically a handful, of groats or something like that, and also a metal bucket, but I didn’t have any matches. So I took a twig and a piece of string and made some sparks, then something dry that would catch fire, I got water out of the snow, and when it started boiling, I put the groats in, cooked them in that dirty water, there was no salt, and I hollerred: ‘Lunchtime!’”

  • “One lovely day, it was sometime in early 1940, we got ourselves ready, that we’d leave in the evening. And when I was leaving my home, I looked around, and Dad was only just coming home, he was somewhere on the village square, and we passed by each other on the doorstep. He asked me: ‘Where’re you going?’ I said: ‘Nowhere, I’m just going for a walk, I’ll be back.’ And he said: ‘I was there on the square, there’s nothing there, don’t go there.’ And I replied: ‘I’ll be right back.’ So I left, he went home, I reached the road and turned around to look at the house, and I thought to myself: I’m setting off into the unknown, who knows if I’ll ever see this house and my parents. The boys were already waiting for me on the village square, so we bought ourselves something for the road, some bread and cigarettes, and we set off over the hills. After a while we stopped and looked back, and one boy said: ‘I’m going back, my parents are ill, they’re old, they’d miss me a lot, I’m going back home.’ And I thought to myself that I’m in the same situation, that my parents are also old, my mother was ill. So he shook hands with us and went back home. So in the end there were only six of us boys who left.”

  • “In Novokhopersk they assigned me to the anti-air guns, those were about two-metre-long guns, heavy they were, they weighed 16.5 kilogrammes and had to be carried by two men. And when I then went for a medical check, they told me: ‘Look, this gun’s too heavy for you. We’ve received some anti-air Zenits [37 mm guns - trans.], they need calculations done and getting used to, so we’ll assign you to the anti-air cannons.’ They gave us a Russian manual, and we familiarised ourselves with them. The Russians showed us how to operate it, the cannon weighed 21 quintals, and it could theoretically fire up to 180 rounds per minute, and it had three types of ammunition, anti-tank, anti-air, and anti-infantry. So we trained, and I proved to be a clever person, so straight off they made me into cannon commander, commander of the crew, that was seven people. Most of my crew were women, but they were very capable. I used to set one of them as an example to the chaps: ‘Look at her, a woman, but she’s better than you are, she’s faster at dressing up, she’s faster at everything.’”

  • “Nothing much happened in the morning either, and then suddenly the door opened and my mother was standing there with the mothers of two of my friends. When they had found out that we hadn’t come home that evening, they set off with a mind to catch us up. And because there was snow everywhere, they followed our tracks. They crossed the borders like we did, and the Russians nabbed them just like they did us. And they told them they were looking for some boys, that their children had run away. The Russians retorted ‘nichevo’, bundled them up and brought them to us. Well, and I was completely dumbfounded. They started crying, it was awful, that they wanted to go home, that they should let us go. So I said: ‘Okay, we’ll make that request.’”

  • “We travelled the whole months, until we reached the terminus somewhere high up, I don’t know where it was. We got out of the wagons, we were all stiff and slow from the journey - you can imagine, sitting in a wagon for a month. So they gave us each a salted fish, ‘tyulka’ they called it, that was for food. There was an awful lot of snow, so we automatically started eating the snow to quench our thirst. And then we travelled on foot through the snow for several days. We were followed by a horse and sleigh, so that when someone dropped down or collapsed, they’d put him on it and take him along behind us; if someone died, they’d throw him in the snow and dig him down under - the wild animals would eat him up anyway. And then we came to one house, and we slept there, I sat down all tired, my legs were stiff as wood, one bloke sat on them. We continued in the morning, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t feel my legs at all. So two chaps helped me get up, and I thought to myself: ‘They mustn’t put me on that sleigh because I’ll freeze up there and they’ll throw me in the snow any way, and I’ll die.”

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    Dům s pečovatelskou službou, Chlumec u Ústí nad Labem, 04.01.2013

    duration: 04:25:25
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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When I was leaving, I hoped I would set my eyes on my native house and my parents again one day. When I returned, all I saw was the house

Michal Jvorcak in 1945
Michal Jvorcak in 1945
photo: archiv pamětníka

Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Michal Javorčák was born on 19 June 1921 in the village of Vyšný Verecký (now Verchni Vorota) in Transcarpathian Ukraine. He comes from a complete family with six children. He attended lower and upper primary school and helped his parents on their farm. When the rest of Transcarpathian Ukraine was occupied by Hungary in 1939, young men were drafted into the military sections of Levente. Michal Javorčák certainly did not want to be drafted into the occupying army, and so he decided to flee to the USSR. In spring 1940 he and six friends set off without telling their parents. The group was arrested by Soviet border guards almost immediately after crossing the borders. The following day he met with his mother, who had set off to look for him (together with several other mothers) and had also been arrested. This was followed by confinement in several different prisons, in Vinice in autumn 1940 the group was given their sentence - three years in a labour camp in Siberia. The witness’s mother died in prison. He spent the years 1941-1942 in labour camps in the Vorkut Oblast - he was transferred between several camps and allocated to several different jobs. For example, as a woodcutter in a logging camp, a field cook for a forest work crew, as a barber-spa assistant, and also as a so-called dnivalniy - a cleaner. Seeing that he was young and had a weak constitution overall, he repeatedly avoided more strenuous work. Even so, he fell ill with severe pneumonia. His condition was so grave that they refused to treat him, and they took him straight to the morgue instead. By a miracle he was noticed - still breathing among the other dead prisoners - by one doctor, who then secretly gave him medicine injections the following few days. Javorčák recovered from the worst of it, but insufficient vitamin intake soon caused him to contract another illness, termed the ‘hen disease’ - temporary blindness. And so he was given grated carrots. He knew from the radio that Czechoslovak citizens were to be released; Michal Javorčák was finally released in late 1942. He travelled to Buzuluk, where he joined the newly formed Czechoslovak army corps and underwent training. He was then transferred to Novokhopersk, where he was assigned to the anti-air detachment; he became an anti-aircraft gun-crew commander. He remained in the same brigade throughout the whole campaign and all the battles from Kiev to Prague. After the demobilisation in November 1945 he left on his own request to the National Security Corps; he was stationed in Litoměřice District, working at the transport inspectorate until his retirement. In 1950 he married Libuše Vysoká - they have a daughter and a son. He is a member of the Czechoslovak Legionary Community. He lived in the Assisted Living Home in Chlumec near Ústí nad Labem, passed away on March, 4th, 2017.