Marie Kvapilová

* 1921  †︎ 2017

  • “On the second day the Germans started to shell us again and our medical center – where I served – was hit by three mortar shells. I got hit by a splinter of one of them. It was in the thigh, in the ‘velkej oskolok’ – I don’t know how it’s called in Czech. It was a fragment from the shell that hit me in the thigh. I bandaged it myself but they had to transport me to Kharkiv because I could not have pulled out that splinter from the wound myself and there was risk of infection. So they put me on a truck with three other wounded and took me to Kharkiv. The hospital in Kharkiv was located in a former school building. There was a lot of wounded there, not just our soldiers, but those of the Soviet army as well. Everyone was afraid there because it was generally expected that the Germans would retake Kharkiv in the morning. In the meantime, Russian women would come to the hospital telling us that we couldn’t stay there, that the Germans would slaughter everybody when they got there. So we left with them, they took some of the wounded Czechoslovaks into their families and it was agreed that should the Germans come round we’d say we’re a sister or a brother of theirs. I was asleep and then I was looking out and observing whether the Germans had come to Kharkiv. I didn’t see any so I came back to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital Sochor told me that a Russian woman with a little boy came to him and told him that she’d take anybody able of walking out of the town, that she knows intimately the right paths that are clear of landmines and could sneak us into safety. So Sochor, me and two more Czechoslovak soldiers that could walk went with her – those that could not walk stayed in the hospital. That Russian woman really led us through tiny streets and paths right out of the city to the Russian units waiting behind the battle line. They put us into a train that was supplying the Soviet troops with weapons and ammunition. We were sitting in that train and I was bandaging the others as one of them had a shell splinter in his head and the other one got hit in his arm. Later we found out that those who couldn’t walk and stayed in the hospital, like for example Král, were killed by the Germans. The Germans tortured them and poked out their eyes, the next day, Kharkiv was taken by the Germans.”

  • “The fighting in the Dukla Pass was very severe. We were ordered to come to the aid of the Slovak National Uprising in Banská Bystřice. The task of our unit was to take the village of Machnowka. It was on a foggy day and our unit moved to Machnowka without knowing beforehand where the enemy was located. When the fog lifted, we were revealed to the enemy, who was in a much more advantageous position as he was higher up the hill. The Germans could see our troops that were downhill in the village, they could see our cars, our equipment, and they opened fire at us. They were blasting at us from every gun they could muster. I was in the village with my fellow medic girlfriends. We had a truck full of medical equipment. Me and my friend, Jiřina Kopoldová, got out of the truck and went to one of the houses to get something to drink. The other girls stayed in the truck. As soon as we walked away from it, it got hit by a mortar shell. The girls that stayed in it were very heavily wounded – they got hit by splinters in the belly region. I took care of Liduška Mrázková. I had to stop the bleeding and I knew that she needed to get to a hospital quickly. So we set out to the field hospital but on our way there, we got stopped by our soldiers who didn’t want to let us pass as the Germans were too close and we would betray their position. I told them that this is an emergency case as our friend was seriously wounded and needed treatment. Eventually, they let us pass and they were right – the Germans were very close and opened fire at our car. Luckily, they didn’t hit us and we arrived at the field hospital unharmed. The hospital was crammed with wounded but I was a good friend with one of the nurses serving there so my patient got priority treatment. They took her to the surgery room and did the best they could for her but in the end, she unfortunately died all the same. It was a very young girl that fought for a fatherland she hadn’t seen. She gave her young life for her country.” “Could you tell me her name again please?” “Wait, what was her name again…Liduška Mrázková.”

  • “Well, we came to Buzuluk in July 1942 and I remember that the mood there was already much better than it had been before. The barracks had already been cleaned and packed with troops, mostly young lads waiting enthusiastically for their first action. These guys were mostly Czechs who fled from occupied Czechoslovakia to fight against the Nazis but weren’t given the chance originally. In the garrisons, we used to talk and sing in Czech a lot. We also used to train a lot at the drilling place. Then we got a bigger room for girls only with bunk beds where you had about 45 centimeters of space. I remember that Markéta slept next to my and Danuta Drnková slept in the other bed. The beds and everything there had to be neat and tidy when we left the room for training. The training was every day, we trained shooting our rifles and for us medics, there was a special medical training in the hospital with doctor Engel where they taught us how to bandage wounds and that sort of medical stuff.”

  • “Our troop marched on Sokolovo to retake that town. I was one of the medics who were at the rear of the troop following the soldiers closely. We crossed the river Mže and were quietly creeping toward the first houses at the outskirts of Sokolovo. All of a sudden, the enemy sighted us and opened fire ferociously. The crossfire that followed had utterly devastating consequences for our troops as the terrain on which we proceeded was frozen and there was nowhere to hide, there was not a single bush or tree. Our soldiers still managed to get to the outskirts of Sokolovo and took a couple of houses but it was an unequal fight and the troops were gradually ordered to retreat. A lot of our soldiers fell in that battle. We medics had a lot of work to do as we had to drag the wounded from the battleground to the field hospital and treat them. We pulled out and treated as many wounded as we could but we still suffered heavy casualties at Sokolovo. A lot of our friends died there.”

  • “We were three sisters. My dad was given a plot and grew hops on it. We had two big hops fields and a drying room where the hops were being dried. We were well off. It was a very prosperous business to grow hops and we could soon build a nice family house. My mom stayed at home and took care of the household and the children. My mother came from a Czech family and had four sisters and two brothers who came to visit her from time to time. We used to sing Czech songs and play the mouth organ. We also used to visit my mother’s parents where we rode on horses. I remember that when I was about five years old we once were at their house and they had an old gramophone that played old Czech songs. We were singing and talking and it was a very happy atmosphere that I remember. We mostly spoke Czech there.”

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    Praha, 18.03.2010

    duration: 01:14:43
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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We pulled out and treated as many wounded as we could

Marie Kvapilová
Marie Kvapilová
photo: Foto Marie Kvapilové převzato z

Marie Kvapilová, née Pišlová, was born on 18 November 1921 in the village Malá Zubovština in the Žitomir region in the Ukraine. Her parents were growing crops but their farm was collectivized and they were expelled to Belarus in 1929. Her father found a new job as a railroad construction worker. Marie went to a Russian school. In 1941 the family was on its way to Bohemia when war broke out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. They got stuck in Moscow and because they were foreigners, they were transferred to a detention camp. After about six months they were transferred to Kazakhstan. Her father went to Buzuluk where he joined the Czechoslovak army corps; the rest of the family went to Gurjevo. In July, 1942, Marie with her mother and sisters came to Buzuluk as well and gradually joined the army. Marie became a medic and was involved in the Battle at Sokolovo, where she was wounded. Afterwards she was recovering in Buzuluk and was part of a delegation to Moscow. That delegation participated in a pan-Slavic rally in Moscow and Marie also spoke on the radio appealing to the Czech nation to sabotage the German war effort. Afterwards she returned to the battlefield participating in the battles at Kiev, Žaškov, Bílá Cerkev, Dukla and in Slovakia. At the end of the war, she was in Košice. After the war, she got married to a Czechoslovak soldier who had fought in the east, Mr. Oldřich Kvapil. She studied at the Pedagogical Institute and has the rank of a pensioned Colonel. marie Kvapilová passed away on September, the 22nd, 2017.