Josef Šamánek

* 1956  

  • "We didn't go far, and the first big accident happened. I don't know if it was in front or behind Hodonice, but there was a right turn in the forest stretch. They hurried us, we were supposed to be somewhere. We were supposed to be in Čáslav with wheeled vehicles, and tracked vehicles were to be in Pacov. In Pacov, planes were ready to move the tanks to Poland. Particularly the command was handed over. The Czech commanders were no longer in charge, but the Soviet commanders [were]. In the meantime, a lot of injuries occurred. The biggest tragedy happened when we were rushing to Pacov, where we were supposed to be at dawn. It was snowing and it was below zero. We were going too fast. The young men, the tank drivers, didn't make the turn. As they were turning, the tank skidded and got on a slope with a small pond below. The whole tank with the turret overturned into the pond. It started bubbling. It was a tragedy. The other tankers stopped, we stopped, jumped out, began to shift to get the tank out. But the regiment commander arrived in the GAZ car and said: ‘Leave it there, let's go’. On top of that, the exhaust went in, mud and water also went into the turret. So they asphyxiated there."

  • "We arrived in Čáslav and the local people knew nothing there. They were living in peace, going for walks and we [were] dirty, hungry, covered in mud and we were expecting to go to Poland. It was said that we were going to Náchod, or Horní Čermná, to the Krkonoše Mountains, Žacléř. So us and our commanders, we were arguing about it, looking at the maps, where we were supposed to go. We spent the first night there, we could take a shower, smartened ourselves up and ate normal food, finally. The next day we were mustered, and the loud regiment commander was no longer there. Or he was there, but he shrank visibly. Suddenly they were walking there, I don't know what ranks they had, but they had red stripes and they spoke Russian, and those people made decisions, they commanded."

  • "And suddenly in the afternoon [there was] a real alarm and muster. We had to go out with everything, even with the depository. That is, deposited vehicles that hadn´t been allowed to be touched. They were supposed to be the best, it was oiled, the best tanks, everything. It was called ‚D‘, and we had ‚O’, which meant operating vehicles. However, when the operating [vehicle] had a breakdown, everyone reached for the spare part in the depository. So the deposited ones were the worst. The deposited machinery did not work well. But everything was supposed to go out. Then we found out that the Karlovy Vary division, the Sušice division, the entire western sector was going to leave. And that we were leaving that night."

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    Praha, 18.02.2021

    duration: 02:15:00
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I couldn’t imagine firing at a civilian

Josef Šamánek was born on March 23, 1956 in Brno as the firstborn son to the family of architect Josef Šamánek. In 1969, Josef’s father was expelled from the Brno University of Technology, where he worked as a teacher, for political reasons. Admission of Josef Jr. to a grammar school was put in doubt, too. The family considered emigrating, but when father found a job in the same line of work in Ostrava, the Šamáneks moved there in 1970. During his studies at a grammar school in Ostrava, Josef volunteered at excavations in Znojmo and prepared himself for archaeology studies. However, for political reasons, the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University twice rejected his admission. After “getting working class background” as a result of working for three-months at the Bruntál State Farm, he was admitted to the University of Agriculture in Brno. In August 1980, as a university graduate, he joined the armoured cavalry for one-year military service in Kdyně. In December, he was forced to participate in the Krkonoše [Giant Mountains] military exercise planned in order to be on alert in case the Solidarita movement in Poland got stronger. In the end, the invasion of Poland did not take place, military units were sent from the Polish border back to their home units. He lived in Brno in the 1980s and 1990s. He worked at the Research Institute for Fodder Crops and at the Czech State Insurance Company as a crop and harvest insurance clerk. During the revolutionary changes in 1989, he co-founded the Civic Forum at the Czech State Insurance Company in Brno. In the 1990s, he worked at the Czech Insurance Company as a member of the supervisory board and a human resource and sales manager at the regional level. He also worked at the Prague headquarters as a trainer. In 2005, 2009 and 2011, he served several weeks on assignments as a volunteer in the rear of the Israeli army. He has lived in Prague since 2004. He is a father of three children.