Karel Kuchynka

* 1934  

  • “There it was the worst... they said it openly: ‘If you shoot him, you won’t have any problems.’ And it was said the he’d get a leave of absence.” – “And did you think that you would shoot someone if you came upon him?” – “Never.” – “So what did you do? You would have to go to prison, or...” – “I would pretend I hadn’t seen him.” – “Would that have worked?” – “Well, it depended of course...There was a case of a two-person watch, one started to flee and the other tried to shoot at him and then he turned around and shot the watchman and left to Germany. That happened there.” – “At the time when you were there?” – “Yeah, and then there was another case... They threw a bag of flour on a boy’s back for fun, a bag from the truck, and it killed him. Oh the things I remember...” – “They did it to a soldier?” – “Yep, what else do I remember – a car, a Tatra of retired dogs from service. They killed them by injecting gasoline into their arteries. It was terrible. Those old dogs, spent...”

  • “Gregor, the politruk, the first thing that happened when he got to Prague when the Army General Konev was there was, well, they came... the Russians there called them “gravediggers” – the group which the Vlasovce (The Russian Liberation Army soldiers) had captured, and the ones who hadn’t followed Stalin’s orders. The first thing that happened was that Gregor reported Vasil to the police. And they let him, they came with him to his parents, I was there and he came to say goodbye. It was obvious that it was over and I didn’t hear anything about for a long time after that. Actually, after the revolution some Russian soldiers came to us. He had come from Siberia with his daughter, Vladimír was his name. Still others came and visited us too. When I asked about Vasil in private, they didn’t say a word. They were afraid to talk about even in private.“

  • “There was one maybe sixteen-year-old boy who jumped up and, they were in the lines, so he jumped out from the line and in front of the others and started doing the Nazi salute. He raised his arm and yelled: ‘Heil Hitler!’ And Ivan shot him in the head. So he falls over, and he has him taken away, the Germans had to do it. There were clocks at those stadiums: guests – home, where they put the scores, he had them put him under this clock, the corpse, and then the partisans took over two German freight trucks. They were Mercedes, I remember, but like trucks of a couple of tons or more. We watched it all as boys, it happened in front of the Sokolovna, that’s where the whole crowd was. And one of the trucks was full of German soldiers, all dead. And they took the other car. Mr. Vaňkát was driving one and Mr. Bechyně the other, and he had a driver with him, a Mr. Kunc. And this Mr. Kunc, the driver, was hauling partisans, there was a armored train waiting for them at the station. So off they went but the Germans had damaged to brakes on the truck and they had a wreck. There was a bridge by the station, a stone column was there, so when the brakes failed they ran into the column and killed that young Russian, Ivan, who had stayed with us.”

  • “The German ambulance train ran there, it was marked with crosses, red ones, yeah, and that low-bomber separated from his bunch and flew down above the train. And it started shooting at it from behind, they had anti-aircraft guns and they started shooting at the plane. And then it spun around and started spraying the train with its machine guns. It shot the engine apart. The wounded... I saw everything there was to be seen from where I was standing. A legless soldier drug himself fifty meters to the bushes, with no legs. He drug and called out: ‘Mutti, Mutti!’ And then he died. It was an awful mess. But they brought it upon themselves... because nobody would have noticed them otherwise. It was an experience in those years. It was horrible for me to see. The injured, how they collected them. And not long afterwards I had another similar experience which I can’t forget. I was skiing in a place they used to call Na šibeňáku (The Gallows), where there’s a sort of a highland plateau. And there was another plane, just like the one from before that attacked the wagon, the train, which separated itself from itself group and was flying really low and I told myself that I was already dead, that it was the end.”

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    Plzeň, 28.01.2020

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I was terribly confused inside, something was wrong. I understood that man was worthless

Karel Kuchynka, 1953
Karel Kuchynka, 1953
photo: archiv pamětníka

Karel Kuchynka was born on 17 May 1934 v Nové Strašecí as the youngest of three children. It is highly probable that his father, Richard Kuchynka, was a member of a number of anti-Nazi resistance groups, though nobody talked about it, and he became an obvious model for his sons. Karel Kuchynka already at a very early age tried to help. Starting in autumn 1944 until the end of the war they hid a group of Soviet prisoners of war who managed to escape from a work camp in North Bohemia. It was the crew of a captured submarine, including its captain, who at the end of the war would go to be arrested by members of the Stalinist counter-intelligence group SMERSH. As a captured officer he was considered a traitor and, after his arrest, was certainly executed. Ten-year-old Karel Kuchynka during the war was a witness of many drastic events in the surroundings of Nové Strašecí. Whether it was the Nazi persecution against Czech resistance fighters, the results of the air raids at the end of the war, the Nazis’ actions toward the Soviet prisoners of war, but just as well the actions of Czechs toward the Germans. In the 1950s he married Jarmila Hajná, the daughter of a villager from the town of Řevničov na Rakovnicku. Her father, Rudolf Hajný, during the time of collectivization, was labeled a kulak, was persecuted, and the family ended up in social isolation. Meanwhile, Karel Kuchynka fulfilled his mandatory military service which he served as an electrician in the army unit Border Guard in the Aš salient. He has many memories of the functioning of these units as well as life along the Iron Curtain. For his entire life he stood against manifestations of injustice and oppression and tried to live according to his conscience. He is a widower and has two children. He lives (2020) in the town of Hyršov, not far from Všeruby.