Sergeant Antonín Slavík

* 1921  

  • “While I worked in that bakery on the front, we would change shifts. One day I could do something in one place, and the other work somewhere else. But the conditions on the front were terrible. The Soviets watched over us. The Soviets had two armies - the normal one and then the communist one. And when one of them wanted to retreat, they would shoot them all. It was horrible, they could not retreat. After the war I lived here in Prague, worked in the physiology department, in the animals section. And then they called me and asked me to come back to the army. It was in Prague, on the Náměstí Republiky Square. And their condition was that I would become a party member. I said: ´No.´ That was in 1946. I said no because I had seen it all. What the women had to endure there. When they were transporting us to that labour camp, we rode in cattle trucks. There were eighty of us in one wagon. We had some makeshift bunks along the sides and a bucket in the middle...for peeing and for you know what... And when the train stopped in some station, we went out to empty it. And we pounded on the wagon door, asking for water. We were terribly thirsty. So they let one person out, and when he brought a bucketful of water, we all jumped for the bucket and the bucket dropped and spilled.”

  • “We were going hungry. They would send us to a field, for example. And there were some bunkers or something like that, and they would keep us there, for three or four days. Without food, without anything, it was freezing. And on the Arctic Circle – unless the temperature dropped to more than 42◦C below zero, we had to go to work. And it was horrible. All we had were the clothes we had on, nothing more. Some of the guardsmen were great. Some were even secretly taking care of us, while others were terribly strict. But we had to endure it all. Then they occupied Ukraine, and they deported all the intelligentsia, all who have studied at universities, to the camps. There were so many corpses every day, so many. There were piles of corpses. Then there was a trial with us and we were sentenced for espionage. I did not even know what a spy was at that time. I got a three-year penalty. They transported us to the Arctic Circle, to the Pečora and Inta camps. In Pečora I worked in a sovchoz, it was a huge labour camp. And then all the way to Inta. There they began to dredge coal mines. We were just beginning, so we first had to remove the moss from the tundra ground. We had to remove ten square metres of moss daily. And then they began to dig the shaft, all done by hand. And at thirty-eight or forty metres there was coal. So then we started digging the coal, and for bringing it to the surface we used horses to pull these loads out. And afterwards, after the signing of the treaty with the Allies, they released us. But the conditions in the camp had been terrible. No beds at all, just bunks, made of round logs. Every tenth day we would go to ušobojka (delousing). They would give us a shower, and steam all our clothing in those boilers. It was hot when they took it out, then they sent us to the barracks, and all the clothing was wet. But in the evenings there was some cultural program. So this is how it was done on every tenth day.”

  • “I was sleeping and suddenly someone kicks me and says: ´Get up!´ ´What?´ - ´You are to go to the bakery right now.´ And he showed me how to get there. I came to the bakery and there was the bakery leader, a first lieutenant, and he told me I was to work in that shift. There were only two shifts. And I told him: ´Sorry to ask, but wouldn’t it be better to do it in three shifts, to let the boy get some rest?´ So I divided them into three shifts. There were both boys and girls. And we set to work. Whenever we arrived to some town, we would seize a local bakery. And if this was not possible, we would use the field wagon we had. Ours was a fine set, the Englishmen had sent us everything – ovens, mixers, electricity generator, all that was needed. We had it really nice. And then we got to Slovakia, taking the Slovak territory. I arrived to Liptovský Mikuláš, and there we separated. I was put in charge of the bakery, became the bakery leader, I had four people to work with me. And this is how I got to Poprad. In Poprad, there was a bakery, Kadlečík´s bakery, and so I seized it. And we worked in this bakery till the war was over. And from there I eventually got to Prague.”

  • “I don’t know how exactly I got to the Red Cross. I stayed there several days, I was about six years old then. This was in Nelipin, and I started to go to school there, to a Rusyn school. And suddenly I got to Svaljava, to an orphanage again. Everything was moved there, our foundation built a new orphanage there, so this is where we came. There were about forty of us children there. And Pavel Černý was coming there every Sunday to lead the Sunday worship. And his son’s name was Sváťa, and he befriended me. We would play together. And one day auntie Karasová took me to a photographer’s. I asked: ´Why?´ and she replied that the police wanted my picture. And about a month after this, they brought me to prison and there was my mother. What her name was, I really don’t know. And from there we went to Poland, it was still Galicia at that time. And I had some money with me. Which I received when I was then in Bohemia, from one farmer. And the police brought me to Uzhhorod again, to the prison. There was my mother. And they brought us to Poland. I had some money from that.... He gave me... Then we returned to Uzhhorod, and my mother had some friend there, so we stayed with her for about a month. And somebody turned us in, she ran away again, and I was on the street again. I was about fourteen then. So I wandered the streets. I did not dare to steal when I was hungry, I simply could not do it. Because I remembered the Ten Commandments, that Thou shall not steal. So sometimes the police would take me to the station, they gave me some food there, and they released me in the morning. And I would be immensely happy.”

  • “After the treaty with the Allies had been signed, all the Carpathian-Ruthenians were released. And they brought us to Buzuluk, Svoboda´s army was already there. But we were so emaciated. I weighted only....I don’t even remember, how many kilos. At first they put us in a hospital till we got better. After that, I was in the infantry, it was the end of 1942. The army that was in Buzuluk was to move towards Sokolovo, they fought there, and we, the freshmen, stayed in Buzuluk. Then, general Kratochvíl arrived there from England. So we remained in Buzuluk for some time, and then we moved, I don’t recall the name of that town, and the Czechs from Volyně joined us there as well. I was in the first division, the first battalion, serving in the infantry. Then they trained us for mortars, the type fifty. There were six of us. I was a shooter, we were two, another guy was carrying that mortar, and I was carrying only the support component. This was when we were fighting for Kiev, Charkov and Bílá Cerkev. And I was shooting from that mortar again while we were near Kiev, and the shell did not come out, so I had to kneel and get it out carefully, because if it had fallen on the ground, it would have exploded. And at the same moment, a German soldier was taking aim at me, but luckily a sergeant who was on the line at the moment knocked him down. And so he could not shoot me any more. Then, the Czechs from Volyně came, and everything was being organized in preparation for Dukla. And when we arrived to Kiev, they gave us a wonderful welcome. They gave us food and everything. And President Beneš was scheduled to visit us there as well. He just had some talks in Moscow then, and he was to meet us in Kiev, but Stalin eventually did not allow him to. And afterwards, as we headed towards Dukla, I became sick the front. Some bomb exploded, and I was hurt by the falling debris, so the put me in a field hospital there.”

  • “And the Hungarians have occupied Carpathia-Ruthenia all the way to Košice. And their army was not even so well armed as ours. It was totally different. We were baking bread for the army as well, and I was bringing it to the army daily. Each soldier would receive one little loaf of bread a day. It was completely different. After the Hungarians occupied the place, worked us hard, we had to participate in drill sessions every week. They also taught us some songs and so on. So together with some other boys we agreed we would escape to the Soviet Union. There was the Polish border, and our border, and do not know how it was called, I did not care. And the Soviets were already on the border, so they arrested us right on the spot. And sent us to prison straight away.”

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    Praha, 09.05.2003

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“In that bakery on the front, we would change shifts. But the conditions on the front were terrible. The Soviets watched over us. The Soviets had two armies - the normal one and then the communist one. And when one of them wanted to retreat, they would shoot them all. It was horrible, they could not retreat.”

Antonín Slavík
Antonín Slavík

Antonín Slavík was born December 10th, 1921 in Uzhhorod. He grew up as an orphan. After the Munich agreement he illegally crossed the border to the Soviet Union, where he was however sentenced to three years for espionage. He was imprisoned in the Pečora and Inta camps. Afterwards he was drafted to the army in Buzuluk and trained as a mortar shooter. He participated in the liberation of Charkov, Kiev and Bílá Cerkev. Then he suffered an injury, and therefore took part in the Carpathian-Dukla operation only as an army canteen worker; he worked in a bakery. With the army he thus arrived to Poprad, where the end of the war found him. After the war he worked in the Physiology department of the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University in Prague.