“Once we went there and there were two houses, one inhabited by Serbs and one by Croats. The guy who lived there – I don’t remember his name but he was in his twenties – was a former member of the Yugoslav national basketball team. And he was Croat. And I asked them: ‘He lives here… He lives close by the river, and behind the river, there is Croatia. Will he not run away?‘ And the commander told me: ‘No, this one will not run away. First of all, we will keep an eye on him. Second, on the other side, they would shoot him dead.‘ And then he explained me their strategy. They would take hostage, for example, ten Croats. They would force some of them to shoot other Croats and then they would let one go. This one would tell back home and the others then could not return back anymore. This is how they were forcing people to stay obedient. Because at home, they would get shot or hanged.”
“It was often not possible to recognize [where the mines were] because for two, three years, nothing was happening there. People were afraid to go there so it was all more or less covered in grass. For example, when we were working close to Novi Grad or Bosenska Nova, I had a soldier in my troop, who was the one who actually had placed the mines in there. But he was not sure himself where he had put the mines and what he had done there. Many times, when he found the mine, he would put it on some kind of a small hook and – hidden behind a tree – he was lifting it up because he was not sure whether he had not placed, for example, a triggered grenade beneath. They had put it there for the case someone would be de-mining the area because they did not know for how long they would be staying there. They were in the territory of Croatia but [the Croatian army] had chased them from the Krajina area. They did not know whether they would stay there and so they were creating various kinds of booby traps.”
“I have three types of anti-personnel mines with me here, which I brought back as a memory of Bosnia. Type one – two – three. This one is type number one, they would put 200 grams of TNT inside and the lightning was on the side. Here is type two, we called it pâté, because it has the shape of a paste, 100 grams of TNT, a step-in mine. All of them were anti-personnel, step-in mines. And this is type three, we called it a puck, you see, it looks like a puck. Here, the explosion was caused by the edge collapsing. Normally, you would need around five, seven, or maximum nine kilograms of pressure to initiate the explosion. So even the Serbian de-miners were afraid of these mines, especially the type three. When they were searching for them, they would put on the protective waistcoats, helmets and were extremely cautious. When they were looking for the anti-tank mines, they were searching them in shirts or top-less. They were not afraid, because there you need 80 to 130 kilograms to initiate them. With the anti-personnel mines, they were worried and also, they were often demining areas which they did not know at all. So we had to be maximally cautious because for some of the fields, we only had a map drawn on the basis of recollections of those who were there or the locals, who were present in the area around that time and who would say: ‘Around here or there, they did something.‘“
“Come on, let me show you where it tore my leg off”
Jaroslav Kužminski was born on 3 July 1960 in Teplice. Having successfully completed the grammar school in Duchcov, he went to study at the Antonín Zápotocký Military Academy in Brno. Between 1984 and 1988, he was the commander in chief of the ammunition warehouse at the tank unit in Žatec. His career prospects within the Czechoslovak People’s Army were nevertheless interrupted by his marriage. His wife’s relatives were living abroad, hence he was considered a security threat for the country. He worked in an electricity company and in an insurance company. In 1997, he returned to the army. He completed bomb disposal exams and went to Bosnia and Herzegovina to take part in the de-mining efforts of the SFOR mission. For thirteen months he was commanding a unit of Serbian soldiers with whom he was clearing the mine fields close to the Sava river and its surroundings. He also served at the SFOR headquarters in Bosanska Krupa. Following his return to Czechia, he served in commanding positions in Větrušice, České Budějovice and Prague. Having retired, he accepted a placement in the Všehrdy prison. He is married with two children.