“I had an unfortunate accident one day. We were cutting down trees, beautiful massive oaks, supposedly for the construction of ships and submarines. I was chopping off the branches when another tree fell down, I was tossed up and I fell down on a tree with my head and my eye came out. It was bleeding, I did not have a handkerchief, so they took me to a cottage and left me there. Since I could speak a bit Hungarian I understood the guards talking about me. One of them suggested that the easiest thing would be to shoot me. But another one, bearded older man took mercy upon me. First I heard him to say: ‘segen gyerek – poor kid’. Then he told me in Hungarian: ‘Pack it in and run up this ravine, there you will get among people.’ He meant partisans. Maybe he was a Hungarian communist. And he added: ‘Run slowly so that you don't get shot.’”
“When you were at the partisans, did you take part in some actions?” “No, I was too young for that so they did not want to let me. They told me I would do a messenger. Then I always stuffed all the orders somewhere, for example behind my shirt, or between the legs. We often went to the other group somewhere far, through the snow. There I had to say the password in Russian. The password was always different – for example axe, saw, filly... I did not know the content of the messages. They were written on a piece of paper and folded into a triangle. I could not read the messages because if they caught and tortured me I would certainly say it and give away the whole group.”
“I also had to go on guard. One day I was guarding the transformer where the gunpowder was stored. Suddenly there were four giants of a man. They came to me. I had a submachine gun on my neck. They say: ‘And you what, give us something to smoke!’ ‘I don’t smoke.’ ‘So what you’re doing here?’ ‘I’m guarding.’ ‘And what do you have there?’ ‘It’s not your business what I have there!’ ‘Do you know Hlinka?’ ‘No, I don’t, who is he?’ I stepped back a bit and he, such a burly sportsman, touched the barrel of my weapon. I released some four bullets. He screamed and I could see another one with a knife. I tell myself: they were after me, bastards! The idea made me all sick. They started up the street and I one more time fired at their feet. One of them fell and the others grabbed him by his arms. I had probably hit him. I was in a shock so they poured me a short of spirits and took me to the kitchen to lie down.”
“The disaster happened in the village of Jamník. To theses days I have not understood how it could happen. I was just making breakfast. Suddenly, I hear an enormous bang and see a blinding glare. The boys from the 3rd and 4th operations of the guns were burnt in spasm. They were burnt to a cinder, just like in a crematorium. One of them was still alive, Nikolaj Savljuk. He did not have hair, everything was burnt on him, there were pieces of meat and skin hanging from him. He was my playmate and I could not recognize him. He came to me and says: ‘Ivan, please, have mercy on me, take a gun and shoot me, you see, I’m going to die anyway!’ ‘Nikolaj, I can’t do anything like that!’ I could not recognize him; he had even his lips burnt. ‘No, I’m not going to shoot you, I’d rather shoot myself.’ So he gave me his watch to hand it over to his mum when I got home. ‘I’ll die in an hour and I won’t live anymore...’ They put him in a car, went for a few kilometers, and he died.”
“There was such a concentration camp, fenced in like for cows. There were concentrated mainly Germans. They said they were collaborationists, some gamekeepers and foresters. One hunchback got shot there. He was such a poor man, cripple with a rucksack. People who called themselves partisans shot him in front of some chapel, saying he was an informer. It looked a bit fishy to me. He was standing there calmly, they even let him smoke a cigarette, and one of them shouted at him: ‘Come on, come on, finish it so that we can shoot you down!’”
I ask the Czech nation to remember our soldiers and also Russian and American ones having fought honestly for freedom and truth.
Ivan Picura was born on April 30th, 1923 in a town called Rachov, at the eastern tip of the former Czechoslovakia. He had seven siblings, four sisters and three brothers. The family was very poor. He had to work regularly starting at age ten to be able to stay in school. Consequently, he rafted logs for paper production. He spent the earned money on school supplies. His father, the breadwinner, was a farmer, his mother was a housewife. Ivan trained to be a confectioner at the company Purma with the confectionary master Jaroslav Glos from Bohemia. The Hungarian occupiers cruelly suppressed any resistance, and introduced obligatory “voluntary” recruitment. Young Ivan nevertheless did not want to go to the front either obligatorily or “voluntarily”. As a punishment, he had to go - together with his father, cousin and uncle - to the forest forced labour camp at Kobylecká Polana in the middle of the 1940. He managed to run away to the partisans. Because of his slim figure and innocent appearance that did not arouse suspicion, the partisans made him a messenger. He refused to enter the Red Army as he wanted to join the Czechoslovakian Army Corps. In Rymanów he joined the 8th battery of 5th artillery regiment where he fulfilled the function of both a cook and an operation of the gun (loader and fusilier). His unit continued from Rymanów to Dukla, Svidník, Stropkov, Levoča and Prešov to Liptovský Mikuláš where the artillery entrenched itself at the village of Jamník. After fierce fights at Mikuláš where these artillerymen helped the infantry to batter the German observation posts on factory chimneys, Ivan Picura got through Vrútky to Žilina. The end of war found Mr Picura in Olomouc. The soldiers at that time heard the call for help from Prague but had to stay where they were. After the war, Ivan took up the offer of the Ministry of Defence and joined the police corps. At that time he was arresting various collaborationists and thieves. Later, he moved to prison service. Progressively, he served in the prisons in Pankrác, Liberec, Ústí nad Labem and finally in Litoměřice where he guarded even the infamous commander of the Little Fortress in Terezín, Heinrich Jöckel. After the Bolshevik coup in 1948, Ivan Picura found it hard to put up with the cries of the tortured whose echo spread all over the prison. In the end he had to leave the prison service because he did not want to join either the Communistic Party, or the National Secret Police. After training as an electrician, he worked first as a radio and TV repairman, then at the transmitter on Buková hora. He has a daughter and two sons with his wife Vera, née Rampousková, who is originally from Volhynia.” Ivan Picura died in 2004.