"And there we got a warning from brigadier Nestajko: 'Watch it, you've got the leader in there, you will have. He's a killer. He killed an agent and a militiaman. Keep your eye on him, although I reckon he's a great person.' So he took us in and he really was great. He told us the NKVD [People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs - transl.] and the militia came, they shot his wife, they shot his children, and he had the chance to defend himself, so he shot an agent and a militiaman and got himself a life sentence."
"Suddenly - I had an 'Ivan', a sub-machine gun, that's what we called the drum magazine SMG. Suddenly I couldn't lift it any more. What's happening to me? My hand was dead. Odd. So I switch my gun to my left side, all the while talking to the soldiers, saying we'd push forward - 'cause we'd all hugged the dirt after coming under heavy fire. So I took my hand and stuck in my shirt pocket. And now, so I'm thinking like this: I'll switch the gun to my left side and we'll go into the offensive. So I took strap, right, and like always, when you get sweaty, you wipe it off. I was so hot, so I wiped my brow, and I'm grabbing the strap and I see it's red. And as I'm looking, right at that moment, I fall down, out cold." (Q: "You fainted?") "No, I went unconscious right that moment." (Q: "Where did they hit you?") "I got a head shot."
"The 17th of November 1989? What I say is: we were happy and content with Masaryk after World War One. Then it was Czechoslovakia, we were happy. Then the Communists came. I didn't say anything, neither for nor against. I was happy and I wasn't. I completed officer school in Olomouc, but they wanted to get rid of me, especially company commander Karlík. Then I heard from one friend at Olomouc, he was from Teplice too, he told me: 'Vasil, get out. I've seen your dossier, you're undesirable.' "
"Suddenly the door opened, and my brother, he was already a soldier, he knew all about it already. And in came the captain with the staff sergeant. You won't believe it, but we went down on our knees, begging them to take us."
"I was fully conscious, and as soon as it got to me, I still remember this, the gun fell out of my hand and I called out to my commander, staff sergeant Kostaňuk, telling him I didn't feel well and that he should take the other platoon, my platoon. But I was conscious. And as I tried to lift my gun, I couldn't. I remember well that I wanted to switch the gun to my left side and then go into the offensive. I shouted: 'We'll push the attack.' I was terribly hot, and as I wiped my brow and I grabbed the strap, I see it's red - blood. I had it trickling down like this. And I fell, I fell, and I don't remember anything. I woke up in the sick bay when they were cleaning the wound out."
(Q: "So you were glad when Communism ended?") "I was in the Party as well, I had to be seeing as I was in the force. Like the staff captain, the regional commander in Liberec said: 'If you don't join the Party, they'll kick your ass out of here.' So I had to join the Party. I was even in Gottwald's appeal, I was a candidate for two years, but I didn't like it. Because I could remember Masaryk's republic. And here, if he was a functionary, he ordered you what to do. And that got on my nerves."
"When we arrived in Stanislavov, we saw lots of Romanian Jews who were fleeing to Russia. But our brother instead of sitting with us, like three brothers would, he left me and Dmitrij and sat down among the Jews. We didn't see him again until here, after the war."
"And when he did something bad, the punishment was, there was this deep rectangular pit. He climbed down into it with a ladder, then they took the ladder away and left him there three days. They called that the carcer. He'd stay there three days, maybe two, according to the punishment. Three metres deep with no food and no water." (Q: "And was it covered?") "No." (Q: "And he couldn't climb out? Wasn't that possible?") "Ne. It was three metres deep, smooth sides. We counted, we could see - they showed us - it was three by three, right into the corners, smooth as a wall." (Q: "What was it made from? Earth?") "Earth. Dug into the ground. No one could climb out." (Q: "Did they put people there even during the winter?") "Yes." (Q: "But the people must've frozen up, no?") "Yes. They didn't care. But did anyone actually freeze up? I don't want to lie, I don't know."
"When I transferred to the SNB in the forty-seventh, that was before Gottwald's appeal, staff captain Pipich in Liberec told me: 'If you don't join the Party at the regional HQ in Liberec, we'll kick your,' he literally said: 'we'll kick your ass out of here.' "
"As soon as they put us in the labour camp, they put us to doing 'korchovka' - they called it 'korchovka' - digging up tree stumps. And those were stumps that three or four people could sit on one of them like on a chair. And I was so worn out I couldn't even lift the pick-axe."
"Suddenly a tank came round the corner at me. A German one. And I'm not kidding, I swear, I don't know if whether was from fear, I don't know, but I threw the bottle at the tank. Again, I don't know whether it was from fear or whether it was because I was a good soldier, but I threw the bottle at the tank and straight away there was smoke pouring out of the tank. And someone behind me, when the Germans climbed out in black uniforms, made them drop. And then we went on and got to the edge of a military forest. I was completely carried away. I still don't know how I could have possibly managed to do that."
I do mind that war veterans receive few national honours from the president for all their services to the country
Vasil Kolbasňuk was born on the 11th of May 1921 in Jasiň, Transcarpathian Ruthenia. As a child he served as a farmhand, later joining a youth union. After the Hungarian occupation in 1939 he was forced to attend pre-military training. Together with his brothers he escaped to the USSR, where he was subsequently put in jail, sentenced to five years of prison and deported to a work camp in Siberia, from whence he was liberated by joining the newly formed Czechoslovak army - he was amnestied, arriving in Buzuluk on Christmas Eve 1942. While there he underwent infantry training, but due to his health he was delayed from joining the battlefront and transferred to a reserve regiment. Vasil Kolbasňuk left Buzuluk for supplemental training in Novokhopersk, where he was finally signed in to a standard company.
His first combat assignment was at Kiev, where he served as an anti-tank crew member - he was promoted to Lance Corporal and received a war cross and a medal For Merit. In late 1943, early 1944, when Volynian Czechs began joining the army en masse, Vasil Kolbasňuk was promoted to Corporal and sent to Rovno to help with their recruitment and their combat and discipline training. After three months of officer schooling he was given the rank of Sergeant.
Immediately after completing the training of Volynian Czechs, Vasil Kolbasňuk returned to the front, acting as second-in-command of a platoon during the Carpatho-Dukla Operation. During an attack on spot height 534 on the 20th of September 1944 he was heavily injured. He was taken to the hospital in Rzeszow and did not return to the front until the Jasel Operation. However, his brother soon helped him get leave so he could visit his family in Jasiň, which was already liberated. At the time he had already been promoted to staff sergeant. After the war, Vasil Kolbasňuk served in Trebušany by the Romanian borders. Just before Subcarpathian Rus was annexed by the USSR, Vasil Kolbasňuk took the opportunity to relocate to Bohemia.
He was stationed in various barracks throughout Prague - on Republic Square, Malá Chuchle and the military sanatorium in Jenerálka. He served with the border guards, but was soon transferred to the National Defence Corps [SNB, state police - transl.]. After joining the SNB in 1947 he was sent to Bečváry near Kolín with the police rank of Staff Sergeant. However he was soon relocated to Habartice and Horní Pertoltice, where he patrolled forests frequented by Banderites.
After completing his assignment he was sent to the SNB school in Liberec, which he completed as the 37th graduate of 130. He was given the rank of Constable and consequently Staff Sergeant. In 1952 he graduated from the SNB officer school in Olomouc. After completing his studies he served in České Kubice in West Bohemia with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
His promising police career came to a sudden end in 1955, when he was framed by his superiors and co-workers and fired from the SNB. He then worked as a bus driver with ČSAD [Czech State Bus Lines - transl.] and a boilerman for high-pressure boilers in the gasworks in Teplice.
In 1968 he left the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia as a protest against the invasion of the country by armies of the Warsaw Pact. He did not lose his job during the normalisation period and continued to work as a boilerman until his retirement in 1976. He met his wife, Anna Kršíková, in a cinema in Horní Pertoltice in 1947. They married in 1950. They had two sons - Vasil and Jiří. Mrs. Kolbasňuková died in 2006.