“The benches in the class were quite wide, there were three of us sitting in one bench. There was me, a Ukrainian, and a German, Arthur Hildebrandt was his name. It was fine with us. And across the aisle, a Jewish girl was sitting there. The others were Polish. It was a mixed school, and it would never happen that one would bully another because of his nationality.”
“I grabbed him by the collar of his overalls and I pulled him by the upper door outside and behind the tank, so that we would be covered, because they were still firing at us. His leg was just dangling in his trousers. He was moaning terribly. He kept reaching for his rubber boot, we wore our guns hidden there. But his leg was torn of, and he was not able to reach into his boot. He wanted to shoot himself. And I took the pistol and put it out of his reach. Several infantrymen gathered around him and he entreated them in Russian: ´Kill me, kill me!´”
“Before I returned to my tank the Germans suddenly spotted us. A line of fire behind our last tank! And another blazing fire – at the middle tank! And the third rank – the one next to me! Twenty metres away from me. The tank was hit in the ammunition storage section, it was torn into pieces in a second and it immediately caught fire – when all those sixty cartridges went up at once…”
“They ate leather straps from their boots. They ate their belts. And grass, with roots. It was bare ground, all eaten, all grazed. They were transporting the dead on wagons, day by day. In the huge Starchevsky Park the captives themselves had to dig their graves. They were bringing corpses there every day!”
“We backed about one kilometer with the tank, then set full speed and we literally flew. When we crossed some uneven terrain, the Germans spotted us – there was a blazing line behind us! A blazing line following us, as they were firing upon us from their canons. Nobody can imagine that!”
“I saw the bombs leaving the airplanes and falling directly on us. We fell down, looking for some ditch in that yard, the women managed to run to the basement. And now – boom, boom, boom! And windows smashed right next to us – the glass falling upon us. We were completely covered with glass fragments, but luckily we were not hit.”
Bedřich Opočenský, a retired colonel, was born May 24th, 1924 in Boratín in the Volhynia region. He attended a Polish school in the town of Luck. The beginning of the war thwarted his hopes for studying at a technical college in Lvov. He was instead, forced to stay in his native Boratín, where he actively participated in the anti-Nazi resistance and in the organization Blaník. After the occupation of Volhynia by the Red Army in January 1944, he joined the Czechoslovak Army Corps in March of the same year. He was trained as a tank driver and later as a commander. Throughout the war, he served with tank T-34, the same model he fought in during the Carpathian-Dukla operation, Jaslo operation (suffered a minor injury) and the Ostrava operation (there together with his crew they managed to defend the strategic Sykora bridge until the arrival of Soviet reinforcements). Immediately after the end of WWII, on May 9th, 1945, he suffered another minor injury during a car accident. Subsequently he served as a tank commander in northern Moravia until early 1946. After he left the Army, he obtained a farm with a locksmith’s workshop in Sedlc near Litoměřice. In 1949, he married. After his workshop became appropriated by the state, he worked in the local agricultural cooperative’s tractor station, and then as a supervisor in a textile factory, where he was employed until his retirement. Bedřich Opočenský passed away on October, the 29th, 2016.