* 1925 †︎ 2015
”I came to the house and knocked on the door but no one would open it. I just wanted to ask where to go and get some useful information. All of a sudden, the door opens and a middle aged woman falls down on her knees right in front of my feet. She started to embrace and kiss my boots like a madman. Well, I backed off because I knew that this was a person frightened to death. Later on, I found out why she was scared like this. It was because the Germans had seen her just before we arrived and they scared her by stories of Red Army soldiers pouring into her house and raping her and her seventeen-year old daughter. I looked at her and tried to calm her down. It helped that I talked Czech to her. So she believed me and led me into the cellar where we really found her seventeen-year old daughter. So I assured them that nothing is gonna happen to them and that they ought not to believe such crazy stories. Well, of course there was no time for a real conversation. Eventually, I asked her for directions, because I was the leader of the military column and we were heading to Stará Ves. Of course that I knew where to go because I had a map. But it was common practice to ask for further details to clarify some decisions.”
“The anti-tank barrier was more or less where the “Ostrava” plate is located today. I was in charge of the convoy and I didn’t attempt to drive through the barrier because such a anti-tank barrier is always targeted by tank destroyers. Therefore I turned left, away from the main road, to the forest. We then proceeded through the forest, we were breaking the trees, of course. When we reached the level of the tank barrier, we were met by a German soldier wielding a panzerfaust. He aimed at me but we disarmed him very quickly. I pulled out my revolver and aimed at him. It was important to be quick. So I showed him my revolver and told him to lie down his weapon. He did it and raised his hands. He was captured. I have to tell you that I wasn’t of the type of people who liked shooting at others. I didn’t like it and I didn’t have to kill people at all cost, especially in the end of the war.”
“About that March 23. We had been deployed and it just happened that he got sick (A. Kusý) and that they had to give me another driver. The name of the other driver was Joseph Kopp. This Mr. Kopp was originally a member of the Wehrmacht from Brno. He got caught by the Soviets while fighting at Leningrad so he simply joined the Czechoslovak army corps. We spent about a week, maybe ten days with him fighting. There were many wounded soldiers and whoever was wounded but didn't have to stay in the field hospital had to fight on. Well and when they send Saška Kusý after his recovery to the front again, he insisted on joining my unit. But this Kopp wanted to be stationed in my unit as well and he wouldn't give in. So they both came to me and asked me to decide the matter but I wouldn't. I didn't care so much about who would join my unit, if it was this or that one. Eventually Saška joined Vladimír Ponikelsky's unit and died in a tank. I think he must somehow have sensed it. He must have had a premonition. I tell you, I can still remember Josef Mrázek and Kusý, for instance. I also still remember Boris Pochožaj, he has a small grave here in a forest. That's the place where he died. There's something that just stayed engraved in my mind. I remember that the people were behaving in a different way then they normally would have. We're probably not even aware of it, but there must be something like a premonition or something like that. Somehow the general mood is different in such a situation.”
“Dad was a teacher like I said. So dad... I had studied a ten-year school. I started studying at a grammar school under the Poles and finished my studies under the Soviets. So I had a secondary education and my dad arranged for me a position at the elementary school, where I started to teach. The school kind of became my shelter, a refuge. I didn’t want to become a teacher initially, but my dad had a great authority with me and he simply forced me to become a teacher. I have to confess that after a while I liked it a lot. I enjoyed the trust of the kids, it was a small school, just four class rooms and the treatment of the kids was very cordial. It was in a Ukrainian village and the kids were very close to me. They liked me and I liked them. The conditions in the village were, however, quite harsh. For instance, there were the Ukrainian nationalists’ units, who were observing my activities. They were watching me teaching the kids from the neighboring house, for example. I have one recollection. I was walking home every day taking this path by the river, it could have been something around four kilometers. One day, a young man walks out of the bushes, heavily armed, carrying a machine gun and hand grenades. I recognized him, it was my classmate from the Soviet school I attended. I knew that they were watching me. And he said: “You don’t have to worry, nothing’s gonna happen to you.”
“I got hit on September 30. They hit my tank just in front of the state frontier. They hit the tank and destroyed it. This whole operation was a disaster anyway. It was a mess because the weather was so bad. There had been downpours for days and the ground turned into mud. The terrain was rugged and flooded with mud, so it was extremely hard to navigate through it. This is something that’s almost impossible to tell today. But we had to start the offensive anyway – we received the order to attack the German positions on September 30. The distance to the state border was just a stone throw away but our tanks proceeded at an incredibly slow pace because of the rugged and muddy terrain. Therefore we presented excellent targets for the German anti-tank guns and the Germans were constantly shelling us. That’s when my tank was hit in the petrol tank. The tank caught fire and we had to get out and run back to our own positions. But this was in the midst of the German trenches, in the midst of the battle, so you can imagine it was hell on earth. We were under constant German fire. Then we took over a tank with a 76-caliber gun. This tank was Captain’s Vrána, who was a hero of the Soviet Union as well as of Czechoslovakia. He got killed in this battle. Their tank was hit but it didn’t burn out and was still operational. Captain Vrána and the rest of his crew, however, were dead.”
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I didn’t have to kill people at all cost
Mikuláš Končický, a retired colonel, was born on January 1st, 1925, in Volhynia in the district of Dubno. During his childhood, he experienced both the Polish and the Soviet rule over Volhynia and the subsequent German occupation of Volhynia from 1941-1943. After the arrival of the Red Army, he joined the Czechoslovak army corps in 1944 and became a tank crew member and commander of the tanks T34/85 and T34/76. He participated in combat operations in Dukla, Jaslo and Ostrava. After the war, he stayed in the army where he worked as an instructor, tank mechanic and technician. He was discharged from the army in 1968. He passed away on December, 13th, 2015.