Major (ret.) Josef Kovář

* 1924  †︎ 2015

  • “I fell out as well. I wasn’t exactly at that shield but as it fell, I fell as well. We fell in a fortunate way. The next day morning was the line-up. We got horses and some clothes. I was still wearing civilian clothes. I had been assigned to the second wave behind the front lines.”

  • “... Silský, right? He was in the Slovak army and surrendered. At the time, he had the rank of a sergeant with the artillery but they wouldn’t grant him his rank. And then as a soldier he was supposed to carry the sources. I told him: ‘Silský, but you said that you were with the artillery. ‘Well I was’. I said: ‘But we’re supposed to dismantle them, how’? ‘They said remove the breeches’. ‘Well that’s funny’. So he went and took the breeches off. But now, what was he supposed to do with the breeches?’ So they dumped them in a creek. So I could report that the task had been accomplished and that the breeches had been removed. We had again fulfilled our mission very well.”

  • “He was trying to pack it all but there was a soldier standing in front of the gate. So now: ‘Hände hoch!’ But he would keep standing there. So our captain started speaking Hungarian to him and he put his hands up. He was Hungarian. The place was being served by Hungarians. The Germans, when we surprised them, ran to the forest in their underwear. They had their anti-tank artillery by the forest. Our boys were of course drinking alcohol because the Slovaks, when they saw us, gave us rum and some cakes (it was at the time of Easter). So they would drink instead of pursuing the Germans – there was no time for it. And the Germans recovered and fired a couple of incendiary anti-tank rounds on the village and put two houses on fire. And we were busy getting away.”

  • „So they buried him there later on, but of course it was at night and without any ceremonies. He was the first one to be shot so the Ukrainian nationalists would have a coffin for him and they even took a pastor to the burial. They planted a wooden cross at his grave with a blacksmith’s pin to show that he had been a blacksmith. I asked where that grave was located.”

  • “We only had six hectares of land but it was Volhynian land which is much more fertile. It was equal to at least ten hectares of normal land because 30 to 50 centimeters under the surface, you had the most fertile black soil. Under the rule of the Soviets and Germans, growing sugar beet and then tobacco was made compulsory. My dad was a smoker and so he decided to grow tobacco. We grew fifteen are of tobacco – that’s a fair plantation. It grew like crazy and all the work was up to me to do – a little boy. Tobacco earned us a lot of money.”

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    Třemošná u Plzně, 18.07.2012

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I remained faithful to agriculture

Josef Kovář in Letná, Prague 1945
Josef Kovář in Letná, Prague 1945
photo: archiv Josefa Kováře

Josef Kovář, a retired Major, was born on 8 June, 1924, in the village of Romanov in Volhynia in what used to be Poland at that time. His father owned a farm, ran a blacksmith shop and in general was very active in the village that was inhabited by only a handful of Czech families. During the German occupation, the brother of Josef Kovář was shot while trying to escape from a transport taking him to forced labor in Germany. Josef Kovář studied a ten-grade school (grammar school during the Nazi occupation), but on 20 March, 1944, shortly before his graduation, he joined the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps in Rovno and served in a cavalry squadron in a mixed reconnaissance Brigade. He saw first action - still without a proper uniform and training in the operation of firearms - in the defense of the city of Kivertsi. Then followed his departure to Romania to Sadagura where his training took place - he became a radio operator and afterwards he was sent to an NCO school. He took part in further combat operations in Krosno and Machnówka. In Machnówka, he suffered a slight head injury from shrapnel from a grenade. His division suffered heavy losses and Mr. Kovář was transferred to another unit where he served as a signalman, radio operator and scout. In this position, he witnessed the Carpathian-Dukla operation, the struggle for Liptovský Mikuláš and other battles in Slovakia and Moravia. After the war he settled in Žabokliky and Sedčice in the Žatecko region, but he accepted the challenge and returned to Volhynia, where he served in a replacement regiment and then taught military education. Finally, he re-emigrated to Czechoslovakia in 1947 and settled in Zhoř nearby Stříbro, where he worked as a private farmer. In the 1950s he was sentenced to two years in prison, but after having joined the agricultural production cooperative (JZD) he was eventually pardoned his sentence. He would later even become the chairman of the JZD. Eventually he went to Třemošná nearby Plzeň, where he lived until his nineties. He died on 13 January, 2015 in Třemošná.