Kurt Markovič

* 1917  †︎ 1991

  • “To find a place in Lvov, to survive - that was extremely difficult. As a young boy I had been used to my mother’s skirt and I’d never known such hardness of life, so I was quite wretched to begin with. There was no lodging, I had to live in a church, on the stone floor where I contracted dysentery and goodness know what else I wasn’t aware of at the time. I wasn’t the only one sleeping there, but I didn’t have a blanket, a duvet, whereas some of my fellow lodgers did. That was our temporary home, that and struggling to survive the day, to get a bite to eat, where to find a job - that was beyond our hopes. The first thing was I received a permit from the local city council and I was thus allowed to remain in the city. There were work unions for the various professions. So I applied to the union of musicians, electricians and drivers and declared myself as the graduate of a business academy. They kept a list of names, waiting lists for each union, and if a place happened to free up somewhere, we could eventually apply for the job based on the list. Until then the unions gave us so-called ration stamps, ticket for soup in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Of course, you could question whether it was actually soup - it was more of a lukewarm dirty water, but considering the circumstances what we had to suffer, it was easily good enough.”

  • “Even a function which was considered a big advantage - a water carrier for instance. That was a person who had a large barrel on a sledge, and he had to fill the barrel with water and take it through the whole village, Pevná, and to distribute it to all the houses before the people came home. Well, at a glance that wouldn’t seem too difficult. Except that the banks of the Chulym River were so deep and so steep that it took him a good while just to get the pony, sledge and barrel down to the actual river, which was covered in a layer of ice two metres thick for eight months of the year! (Let me just note that we had eight months of winter and four months of tropical heats of up to 50 degrees centigrade.) In winter it took all his effort and two hours of cutting to get through the ice, after which he used an ordinary ladle to scoop the water from the small hole and into the barrel - until it was full. Of course his hands copped it, they got frostbite. And the same every day - like Artur Alter for instance, he was one of the water carriers - for a year and a half.”

  • “In late June of that year (1940), the Russians did it in exactly the same way as the Germans had when they’d taken us to Nisko, that is they prepared wagon trains, cattle wagons, not passenger ones, and they prepared them at the same time in various places in various regions, and they took all such people deep into the back country, to Siberia and goodness knows where in that enormous Soviet Union. The hardships of the journey, that was a long story, I’ll keep it brief: we travelled the whole month in sweltering 40-degree (centigrade) heats, cooped in the cattle wagons - children, women, the elderly - the train stopped once a day for a toilet break and water rationing and that was it. Until we arrived, our wagon specifically, to the Asian part of the Soviet Union, to the Teguldetsky District in the Novosibirsk Oblast. We got out, it must have been the final train station in the direction, there was just a track leading off along the river and into the jungle. There were some 350 or 360 of us in the train, 60 of which were Czechoslovaks, the rest were Poles; men, women, children. The station master read out all our names and generously implied that whoever wanted to stay there, they could, and whoever wanted to have a ride in the steamboat, could carry on another 50 kilometres into the jungle. It might be a bit of a surprise to some, after all we had gone through in the last month, but most of us chose the steamboat. If you’re a thousand kilometres from home then a distance like that doesn’t make any difference, and we needed to catch a second breath and to get some fresh air after the month in the train. So we travelled another day and a half by steamboat, I’m not exactly sure now, and then we had to march another 50 kilometres by foot, in complete physical and mental ruin, to the place where we were supposed to stay. The Siberian wooden huts we were given had been previously occupied by Volga Germans.”

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    Praha, 27.01.1988

    duration: 01:11:33
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Heroes aren’t born, I’d say they don’t even exist. But as a patriot I have the duty to do what I can in the given situation

Kurt Markovič in his youth
Kurt Markovič in his youth

Kurt Markovič was born into a Jewish family in Moravská Ostrava on the 25th of August 1917. After completing grammar school in Příbor, he went on to study at the Business Academy in Moravská Ostrava. When the Sudetes were annexed in the autumn of 1938, following the Munich Agreement, he had to leave his job of foreign correspondent for a trading company. In 1939 he was deported in the first ever Jewish transport from Moravská Ostrava to Nisko, on the River San in Poland, from whence he and others escaped to the Soviet Union. After a few months his application for Soviet citizenship was denied and he was deported to Siberia, spending almost two years in a labour camp. When the Czechoslovak military mission issued the call, he volunteered into the newly formed Czechoslovak unit in Buzuluk, where he underwent training as a radio operator before setting of for the front with the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Battalion. He took part in all the key combat operations, beginning with Sokolovo. During the Carpatho-Dukla Offensive in 1944, when the battalion had expanded into the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps in the USSR, Markovič was the aide-de-camp of its commander, General Ludvík Svoboda. For his bravery he received a number of high Czechoslovak and Soviet military awards. After the liberation he discovered that his mother, sister and the rest of his numerous kin had died in Auschwitz. For this reason he decided to stay in the army and to accept the offer to study in the USSR. As an officer with the rank of staff captain with no party membership, he began studies at the Military Communications Academy in Leningrad in September 1945. He studied there with top grades for two years. In the summer of 1947 he visited Czechoslovakia as part of a standard holiday trip. His return to Leningrad was blocked, however, as he was expelled from his school with no reason given. He was not allowed back into the USSR, despite having left behind there his Russian wife and their five-year-old son. He was then transferred to Slovakia, teaching at the Communications Secondary in Nové Město nad Váhom. He later worked as an officer at the military command in Ostrava and as a teacher at the Military Department of the Mining University (now the Technical University of Ostrava). During the 1960s and the era of Dubček’s government, he was moved to Prague. He worked at the Ministry of National Defence with the rank of colonel. With the onset of the Normalisation, he decided for early retirement. As State Security documents later showed, he was under surveillance for the whole time of his active service and even during his retirement up until 1984. He died of recurrent myocardial infarction in Prague in 1991.