Jaroslav Kulíšek

* 1953

  • “It was boiling in the army. I think it really got out of control for the command. The army also had an internal function - it was supposed to suppress any internal opposition or rebellion in the country. So besides the external enemy, it was supposed to be used against the internal enemy as well if the need arose. For instance our regiment set aside a hundred men for this scenario. We were intended to march on Pilsen in the case of civic unrest. The division in Slaný was intended for Prague. There were designated troops for this task in every army unit, the men were carefully selected for this task. So when it happened, we knew that we'd be sent to Pilsen. The army had its inner control mechanisms. But on November 17, 1989, the army collapsed and the command was unable to initiate any action. It was already falling apart. For instance, the 49th regiment rebelled. The regiment was at an exercise at that time and the troops refused to carry on in the exercise any longer. The regiment command was withdrawn for its failure to handle the situation. It got out of their control. It was in the winter in the VVP Hradiště. So even though the army declared its readiness to carry out its task, it wasn't in fact capable of doing it. It wouldn't happen.”

  • “A Hungarian officer was supposed to be the operational supervisor but he asked me if I could take his shift instead of him, because he wanted to visit a colleague. I said sure, no problem and took his shift. A major from Sweden was driving the stand-by vehicle as there always has to be a vehicle on standby. The first thing that surprised me in the morning was that there was one Georgian security guard who was responsible for keeping us safe as we weren't supposed to be armed. This is in order to avoid any impression of a military presence. He came to me in the morning scared as hell and told me that he urgently has to go home because his wife was sick. That they had just called him on the phone and that he has to go home immediately as something had happened. He told me that they'd send a replacement for him. The changing of guards was at 9:00 A.M. When he disappeared there was a sudden shooting from machine guns. I looked out of the window and saw a Georgian with a machine gun running down the stairs. I grabbed the telephone to call out for help. I called, but as the guards were probably shaving in the morning they weren't picking up the phone. He ran inside and smashed the telephone with his rifle butt. He snatched away the receiver put his Kalashnikov to my head and said: 'let's go'.”

  • “We were leaving the village of Sabchota Chai in an armed transporter vehicle and we were passing an old graveyard. The interpretor was sitting opposite to me and all of a sudden, I see ten masked guys with machine guns scattered around the graves aiming at us. I told the interpreter: 'they're aiming at your head'. They opened fire and a bullet hit the window right next to her head. It didn't come through though as the glass was bulletproof. We managed to get away driving on the rims as our tires were pierced. No bullet came through to the compartment however. I immediately used the radio and informed the headquarters that we had come under fire. When we arrived to the nearest check point, we decided to change the tires of the transporters. Three guys had to do it as they weigh over 170 kilos each. At first sight, we didn't notice they were pierced. But when we put them on the transporter, they went down...”

  • “They freed the Swede but it was a bit more complicated with me because they started negotiating with that deputy, Sury Schonia, the Colonel of the secret police, and he wanted the head of the leader, Goča Esebua. It was their condition. I came to realize that they were plotting something, the Georgians are champions at this sort of thing. So I guess that the government condition was the handover of the leader and the freeing of the hostages and the rest of the group would be left untouched. But the leader was a smart guy, he figured it out and he disappeared in time. When I found out that the leader was missing in the morning, I went to the toilet and reported it through my radio. Unfortunately, the guard caught me doing it and he started threatening me with his machine gun. He yelled at me that he'd shoot me. He put his machine gun to my head. The second guard came and told him to calm down. He said that the reporters were going to be there any minute and that he didn't want them to see that blood bath. So they locked me up in the next-door room. I looked at the bars and realized that there was a Czechoslovak lock on them. It was a small padlock. So I pulled out my swiss knife and dismantled it. I also tried to expand the bars and found that this works as well. That was good. I went back to my bed because the guard came very 30 minutes to check on me. He came inside and saw me lying on the bed. Then he went away and as he disappeared, I jumped out of the window without a hesitation. The spot where I got out was about five meters away from a maize field. I ran into the field and made it to the adjacent tea plantation where I disappeared. And before they realized they were missing a man, it was already too late. I think my escape dishonored them greatly as the Caucasians aren't used to their hostages running away, just like in Italy. The habit there is that a hostage has a similar status as a guest. If he runs away, he indicates to them that he wasn't satisfied with them.”

  • “At first, they took away our radio but then Goča Esebua gave it back to us. He instructed us to call our sector commanders and to inform him about our situation. He later even gave me a satellite telephone because he wanted me to call my minister. But I had left the note with all the telephone numbers where they caught us. So the observers from Uruguay could immediately call their ministers because they carried the emergency phone numbers with them. I was given the number of the Moscow embassy. When I called the embassy, I tried to explain to the lady that was in charge of the telephone switchboard at the embassy what had happened to me. I told her to put me through to the ambassador, that I was in the Caucasus and that I had been kidnapped by insurgents. She told me to breathe and to count to ten. So I counted and then she asked me what I wanted and I told her that I needed to talk to the ambassador. She hanged up on me because she assumed that I was simply insane. I called again and tried to explain to her my situation. She hanged up again. Later, when it had already appeared in the news, I called there again and she immediately put me through to the ambassador.”

  • “We were charged with the investigation of an extraordinary incident in a village where a land mine blew up and tore off the leg of a peasant. The sector commander sent us there on a fact-finding mission to determine what had happened. It was strange because it was thought that there were no mine fields in that sector. So we arrived there and started taking pictures of the crater and drawing up a plan of the location and we discovered that it really was a peculiar case. That peasant found the mine on his field when he was plowing it. It's really hard to understand the thinking of that man. He took a stone and he would repeatedly hit that mine with it! This has been confirmed to us by his wife and several neighbors. He wanted to find out if that mine was functional! But it didn't blow up. So he placed it on the pavement and he would drive over it with his plow and his horse! As it didn't explode he thought it was a strange mine. It just didn't work in his eyes. So he took it home and put it in his cupboard where he kept his dinner. He came up with a great idea. He'd use it as a mock mine to scare off any thieves that might come to his house to steal his livestock. He planted it in the mud in front of his pig sty and attached a trap wire to it. He thought that this would scare off any potential thief that might come this way. It was raining the whole night and in the morning, he put on his jackboots and overcoat and went out to check the pig sty. As it was heavily raining, he was in bad mood and scolded at the weather. In his anger, he kicked the mine and suddenly it blew up, tearing off his leg. When we came there, the leg still lay there in that jackboot next to the crater, it was a bloody mess there. The investigation revealed that the mine had been jammed by the clay in the mud. But the rain washed away the clay and activated the mine again so in the morning when he kicked it it blew up.”

  • “They loaded us up and we drove through Zugdidi, through the town. They would keep shooting in the air from the windows. He threw me an empty magazine and told me to reload it. So we would reload their magazines. I saw a police car at one spot but they were apparently too afraid to chase us. When we left the town, they stopped an off-road vehicle on the road and I could see that they had a stormy argument with the driver. From what I observed, it was obvious that the needed another vehicle but the driver was not in favor of handing over his car to them. They didn't want to rob him because they didn't want the locals to perceive them as bandits. They needed the support of the local population. So they left him alone and we continued in our journey. We arrived in a village. It was called Džichaskari and we drove to the house of the mayor. A Georgian flag was flying there and Goča Esebua, their commander, told us that he was responsible for our kidnapping and that we were probably to be shot. He would negotiate with the UN and the government about the situation in Georgia. He wanted to stage a coup against Shevarnadze. It was wild there.”

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    Olomouc, 30.06.2012

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Abducted by Georgian insurgents

Jaroslav Kulíšek with daughter
Jaroslav Kulíšek with daughter
photo: VLK, D., Týden v zajetí. Dramatický útěk českého pozorovatele OSN Jaroslava Kulíška. Praha: DUEL, 1998.

  Ing. Jaroslav Kulíšek was born in 1953 in Krnov. At school, he voluntarily enlisted in the Czechoslovak People’s Army. He stayed in the army and studied at the VVS PV LS Vyškov (1977), VAAZ Brno (1985) and at the Integrated Academy of the Dutch Royal Armed Forces NIAGOS (1999). He served as a staff officer in several missions in various locations. In the Czechoslovak People’s Army, he attained the rank of a company commander but in 1996, he lost this position in the course of the reorganization of the army. He was looking for a substitute and applied for a job in monitoring missions of the UN which he eventually got. He became a UN observer and was sent on a mission to Georgia. His task was to monitor the adherence of Georgia and Abkhazia to the peace treaty they had concluded. In 1998, he was abducted by insurgents near the border to Abkhazia together with several other UN observers and they were kept in captivity for a number of days. After seven days, he managed to escape from captivity. He returned to Georgia in 2000, when he was sent on another UN monitoring mission. He participated in a number of other missions and he was in charge of a whole contingent in former Yugoslavia. He took part in the EUFOR RD CONGO mission and in a training mission in Iraq. Today, he lives in Olomouc and works as a civilian employee of the Ministry of Defense.