Colonel Tadeusz Oratowski

* 1943

  • “People from the village were coming to us, assuring us that there was no counter-revolution, that they had no bad intentions. We started talking, an older man sent a little boy for a jug of beer, and a completely different discussion began. We talked about a lot of different things and eventually I had to go back to the unit. There were three nice young men around me. I told them: 'This stupid war will end one day and we Czechs and Poles will live together in peace as neighbours. Give me your addresses, I'll write to you, we'll meet, we'll talk, and it'll be fine.' But no one had a piece of paper to write it down, so the boys wrote their addresses on a lottery ticket that I kept for many years.”

  • “My wife was very happy to see me, but she was also a little frightened when she saw me in uniform with a gun, such a terrifying man. We decided to go to the cinema, I still remember the movie was called Red Desert. During the screening, a man shouted angrily behind me: 'Occupier! Occupier!' And he called me other terrible names. I couldn't react during the screening. When it was over, I wanted to see who was shouting at me. And it turned out to be a young man. When he realized that I wanted to talk to him, he jumped over the seats of several rows and ran out of the hall. But I felt that the atmosphere in the cinema was not very pleasant, so my wife and I left quickly.”

  • “My unit stopped on the Czech side of the border, I don't remember the name, in the village of Bernartice. There was a small village shop right next to the road. We needed to buy a pair of scissors and a glue. One of our colleagues was once on a trip on the Czech side of the Giant Mountains, and we thought he was multilingual. He said: 'I speak good Czech and I still have some Czech money, it will be enough to buy what we need.' Three of us entered the store, the tankers looked like pirates: black skin, black berets, pistols on the side, bayonets, faces all black with smoke, only their eyes and teeth were shining. We entered and greeted the girls, and our colleague said, 'Miss, show me your legs!' The girl blushed, then turned pale, not knowing what to do. But since such terrible occupiers ordered her to show her legs, she rolled up her dress with two fingers and showed her legs. We burst out laughing, we realized that it was a language misunderstanding (t/n: nožičky is Czech for legs, whereas nůžky is Czech for scissors). Our colleague showed with his fingers that we were talking about scissors. The girls laughed, they gave us what we needed, we paid for it and went out to glue the maps together. We laughed a lot, but it was the only funny moment on our route, because later it wasn't cheerful at all.”

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    Praha, 21.05.2021

    duration: 01:39:17
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 22.05.2021

    duration: 41:46
    media recorded in project Soutěž Příběhy 20. století
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When a soldier was given a task, no discussion was allowed. It had to be done

Tadeusz Oratowski at the end of the 1960s as commander of a tank platoon of the 11th Mechanized Regiment of the 4th Division.
Tadeusz Oratowski at the end of the 1960s as commander of a tank platoon of the 11th Mechanized Regiment of the 4th Division.
photo: Tadeusz Oratowski

Tadeusz Oratowski was born on 17 May 1943 in Lublin, Poland. His father worked as a carpenter, his mother took care of their household and four children. Tadeusz spent his childhood in the Old Town of Lublin, where he completed the elementary school in 1957. Then he attended the high school of construction and joined the scout group called “Black Thirteen”. In 1964 he became a scout instructor and he decided to pursue a career in the army. In 1967, he graduated from the Officer School of Armoured and Mechanized Forces in Poznan and he joined the 4th Mechanized Division in Krosno Odrzańskie, where he became commander of a tank platoon in the 11th Mechanized Regiment. In August 1968, he participated with his unit in the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the troops of the five armies of the Warsaw Pact countries. Until the beginning of November 1968, he guarded the military airport in Milovice. In the following years he worked at the headquarters of the same regiment as the operation officer and studied at the General Staff Academy. From 1978 to 1988 he worked at the General Staff in the Department for Mobilization, from 1988 to 1994 he worked at the National Civil Defence Staff and then until his retirement in 1997 at the Control Department of the Ministry of Defence. He published his memories of his participation in the occupation of Czechoslovakia in the book called “1968. Tank to Czechoslovakia”.