“Sometimes it’s like I have a film in my head, you know, when I’m remembering. And I say to myself, if we had had all the options of current medicine, how many lives could have been saved! But you can’t skip time...”
“We had to ready to take in new patients at all times, and it often lasted the whole day through, our legs ached, we were starving, and we were so sterilised that we weren’t allowed to go eat, or to undress. So the orderlies would lift our face masks and put sugar cubes into our mouth, or give us a drink.”
“The Germans killed them all, shot them dead. They took and made a camp outside of the city in the direction of Rovno, where there weren’t so many buildings, and they gathered them there. First they had to hand in their valuables, and then, I don’t know how long they stayed there, not long, and then they shot them all.”
“An armoured train stood in the station, and when there was an air raid, they lighted the flares - you could see like in daylight - so of course the soldiers shot at the planes. And the planes shot at the train. The shots fell all around the station and hit our hospital as well. We had a small isolation ward, they destroyed that completely. The staff and patients all died. After that they moved us beyond the city, because it was impossible to stay there. We had a large estate some four kilometres away, by the forest - they said we'd have more peace there, but two days later they bombed us again any way.”
“For instance at Vrútky, there were so many wounded people there! And they taught us in the course, they said: if he's silent, please, take that one. Because those are people who are in shock or in such a bad condition that they don’t have the strength to complain. If he’s screaming, he’ll be able to hold out a bit longer.”
We were supposed to dance, but with nothing but death all around us
Jiřina Jiráková was born in Zdolbuniv (current-day Ukraine) on the 20th of October 1926 into the family of the Volhynian Czechs Antonín and Věra Křížek. This western region of Volhynia belonged to Poland at the time, it then became part of the USSR, was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941 and rejoined to the Soviet Union upon its liberation by the Red Army in 1943. The witness worked as a nurse in the Zdolbuniv railway hospital, and in 1944 she volunteered into the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps of the Red Army. After training at a military hospital in Kiev, she was sent to the front. Her work with the military hospital had her following the front as it moved through Slovakia: Liptovský Sv. Mikuláš (Liptov St Nicholas), Vrútky, Dukla Pass. After arriving in Prague in May 1945 she was transferred to the the hospital in Slaný. In 1946 she married the Czech soldier Eduard Jirák, who had seen action at Leningrad and Dukla. The witness remained in the army until 1952. She then worked in public health care. Died in January 2016.