Captain (ret.) Vladimír Ponikelský

* 1923  †︎ 2015

  • "It was possible to defend myself. So I did it. Some of the others thought they had a ´lawyer´. He did not help them even though they might have paid him some money. I told them, ´You morons.´ – ´And how did you defend yourself?´ (there is Mr. Ponikelský's wife in the recording.) ´Well, I described my life since my birth. I talked about everything and the judge even started crying. I had a speech, thanked them and went to prison.“

  • "I don't know if I was lucky or unlucky – I was in a cell with a lunatic. A real madman. There were the two of us. And then he had visitors and they brought him some new clothes ... He tore the shirt into pieces. He had a bed and I just had a mattress on the ground. There was a light bulb on the wall. And the light was shining in his eyes and then I took a sock and covered it. But it was a problem: the warders arrived and ordered us to be in the darkness. There are windows quite high up in Pankrác. So there is a pole that you use to open the window. One night I was lying down and woke up – I saw him standing over me with the pole which was made of iron at one end. ´What's happening?´I asked. ´Can't you see the tiger over there?´ he replied. So I said, ´Look, give me the pole and we will kill it somehow.´ And then I put the pole under my mattress. When we were given soup, he washed himself in it. So I told the warder,´Officer, I will do whatever you like – put me in the corridor and I will be cleaning the railings, just, please, take me away from the lunatic. It is not possible to be with him.´"

  • "Do you know when conflicts started? When there were Bandera's fighters – they were not soldiers – during the day they farmed the land and at night they went to kill. They were mainly against the Poles. They killed people very brutally in incredible ways. And in the morning it was peaceful – they put the guns in the corner and went to the field. They set whole villages on fire. They spotted the places and you could see at night fires. People who got in their way were killed."

  • „There was one warder called Šeketa from Carpathian Ruthenia. During the war he was in a reconnaissance unit in our corps. And very often these people from Carpathian Ruthenia went to work for the police or railways. But this one was an incredible monster. We were allowed to receive a packet at Christmas. He arrived and I had to put the packet on the chair and unwrap it. An he kicked it! There were the cookies all over the cell. I don't know what it was but I jumped over the chair to him and started strangling him. I would have killed him – he was turning white … But there was an alarm and the warders came running. The officer was called Pytlík – he was an old man I think he was sympathetic towards the prisoners.“

  • "We were on one large farm in Machnowka and there was a gamekeeper's house in the forest for the wounded. So it was a bit peaceful there even though we were ready to go. I was walking along a stream near the house just to look around near our firing position. And there I found a blanket. It was quite a large blanket and in one corner there was – they probably threw it away because it – sorry to say this: shit. I took the blanket and washed it in the stream and I had something to sleep on. And then I came to the logistics officer and said,´ Láďa, we are near the border and look – there is my ass coming out of the trousers and my shoes are also broken.´ But he had excuses, ´We have nothing the warehouses burnt down.´ Well, the warehouses burnt down so I went a bit further along the stream and found a dead German. What beautiful shoes he had! And so I checked whether he was reall dead and took the shoes. And I had them till the end of war.“

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Levonice - dům Vladimíra Ponikelského, 08.07.2009

    (audio)
    duration: 02:37:39
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Bandera’s fighters were people who farmed the land during the day and killed people at night ...

Ponikelský Vladimír
Ponikelský Vladimír
photo: Pamětník

Vladimír Ponikelský, retired captain, born on 10 November 1923, is not only a witness but also an active participant of the battles fought by the First Czechoslovakian Army Corps. He entered the forces in Rovno in Volhynia in March 1944 and thus he was one of 12,000 volunteers who entered the Czech army on the east front. His father Václav, brother Rostislav and uncle joined the army together with him. His sister and stepmother stayed on a family farm in Máslenka, which is a village near Dubno where the family was from and where Václav Ponikelský was a mayor. Originally, it was Vladimír Ponikelský’s great-grandfather who arrived in Volhynia; his father Václav was born there. The family had a small farm in Máslenka and they even entered the Orthodox church. It was usual then for the Czechs to speak more languages in Volhynia because the area was multinational. There lived the Polish, Ukrainians, Jews, Germans and Czechs. The national ambitions of the Ukrainians became a threat to vital interest of other nationalities which were threatened also by the advance of the German army that came to Ukraine in 1941. So in 1944 Volhynia was an area where there had been several waves of violence - committed by the Germans and Ukrainian nationalists. But the Soviet Bolsheviks were becoming the major force. Vladimír Ponikelský served in artillery units and was trained in Romania for several weeks. He first participated in real fights during the Battle of the Dukla Pass - first near Krosno, Jaslo and Machnowka near Dukla and then in the pass which was infamous for the great losses that Czechoslovakian troops suffered. Finally, in May 1945 he and his unit arrived in Prague. At that time he knew that his brother Rostislav had died during the Battle of the Opava nad Ostrava because his tank was hit by a mine. Also his uncle was shot dead by the Germans - it was during the Battle of the Dukla pass when he was in the kitchen. Vladimír Ponikelský and his father decided to stay in Czechoslovakia for good. They settled down in Levonice u Postoloprt where they received a small field with the area of 12 hectares and they started a farm. So Vladimír Ponikelský had to leave the army because of his father, even though he could expect a promising career there. He, like many Czechs from Volhynia who fought on the eastern front, did not want to go back there - the Soviet communists were not preparing a good future for Volhynia. However, the communist did not prepare a good future for him in his new home. He was arrested in 1949 because he did not report a crime. He did not report a friend of his to the police, who, according to the court, committed high treason. During the trial forty people were sued and Vladimír Ponikelský was sent to prison for 10 months. However, before that he had been tortured by secret policemen in Most during several-month investigation. He served the rest of his punishment in uranium mines in Jáchymov. After he had left prison he was offered to cooperate with the police several times. Nevertheless, Vladimír Ponikelský refused that and he did not even join the communist party, although it would have been beneficial for him as a former farmer, now the worker of a cooperative.