“And that night the officers came for inspection. And the sergeant had been in command, and when I came back, he blamed it on me, saying that I was a commander. And to be a commander you needed to have the sergeant’s rank at least. So the next day I dug a hole for myself, one metre by one metre, and a soldier was put there to guard me. He stood on the edge of the hole all night. And at that very moment they were just discussing the promotions, I was to become a sergeant. I was not sentenced. He told me: ´You will be waiting there till the tribunal comes.´ So I waited for the tribunal, but it never came. Because all the others had already been promoted by now, and I was not promoted. And that sergeant now became afraid. I waited for the tribunal, that everything would be clarified then. I had my uncle there, he was a second lieutenant, and the other, Baloun, was a lieutenant. They were in the Polish army. And whatever rank you held in the Polish army, you got the same one in the Czech army as well. So I went to ask him for advice, asking him what to do, as I was awaiting the trial. And this uncle, my mother’s brother, tells me: ´Sergeant is the worst position in the army, because he needs to march with the company.´ And this sergeant of ours had been hiding, otherwise he would have been degraded. He had just married a Czech girl in Rovno. And he had been at home for about a month after their wedding. So he blamed it on me, to avoid his degradation.”
“Under Torcin, near Lucko, we faced the airplanes. And I shot one plane down there, I was a good shooter. My brother was younger, and he was a sniper. This plane was the Rama, a two-tailed heavy bomber plane. It dropped down. And the Russians were on the other side, but they acknowledged it as ours. They were shooting at Lucko, and it was easy to see. Our machine-gun shot through two milimetres of the armour-plate. So he flew above him and was shooting, and I was shooting from the other side. And every fifth cartridge, there were fifty of them in the feed belt, was a luminous one. It was at night, around midnight. Under Torcin. And the Russians were standing on the road from the other side. And this is where the plane fell down. And the Russians acknowledged it was our hit, but it was not attributed to me. They ascribed it to one corporal, a Slovak. He was a leader on duty, but at that time he was not there with us at all.”
“As we were approaching the place, we stopped on a meadow by the forest. It was in the evening, the sky was already getting dark. An order was issued to go to pee to that forest. And as I’m standing there and peeing, suddenly I recognize a man’s figure and some shot soldiers lying there. There were about twenty of them in front of us riding horses, a recon unit, and the general was waiting what they would do, whether one of them comes back or what. And the Germans had already seen it, and they took them all. So we went on. We reached that meadow; they distributed rations for the whole day to us. Such artificially tasting cans. So we got out of the car, put the machine-guns down and began walking. Just as we sat down on that meadow, the Germans appeared, approaching us from that hill. Five tanks, the Tigers. And firing straight at us. We had about hundred soldiers, one battalion, and I don’t know how many were left. These machine-guns... Twelve of us were assigned to carry those machine-guns. I was with Effler, he was a hunk of a man, he weighed over hundred kilos. And we began to retreat when we saw those tanks heading towards us. We had to retreat. And there was a barn, which had been burnt down, made from adobe bricks, and only the charred walls were left standing. And the generals were hidden behind these walls, the Russian general, and Svoboda, too. And some other officers were hiding there as well. Sergeant Cupa, he was a Slovak. And when the staff captain Sedláček saw us dragging the machine-gun all by ourselves, he says: ´Put down the names of those boys.´ And this sergeant Cupa got out of the barn, he had been hiding there. He was a kid. And had that Russian nahan with him. Which he had grabbed on some toilet in Poland when we had stopped there. These iron chains, that hang on toilets, he took them all and was wearing them. Such a fool he was. And when we got into real fighting on the front, he was hiding himself. So only after we had seen him like that, we realized what kind of a guy he was.”
“From there we moved under Dukla. Many of us lost their lives there. One time we seized Dukla, and then we had to retreat again. And I was wounded, my hand was severely injured, I have somebody else’s bone in there now. I had to bite off my thumb, because I had my knife in my right pocket and I could not reach it. The hand was broken, not really the bone, but the nerves were torn. And a splinter got stuck in there. And then we came to a village . we slept in a cowshed, in those troughs. People from the village brought us blankets there. And from there we rode to the Caucasus, all the way to Krasnodar. I spent four months in a hospital there, and it was of no use. They could not get the splinter out. And in winter the doctors left. Usually, on the front there were already some female doctors, the men doctors were in Russia. So they went on a leave, and only the head-nurses remained in the hospital. And my hand turned blue. I got fever, and I knew this was the end. And were not allowed to do anything without the doctors. So I went to that head-nurse and told her: ´Nurse, cut it.´She looked at it and said that it was not possible, that I would not endure the pain. And I said: ´I will!´ So they bound me to a chair. And when she cut into it, a cupful of black blood gushed out. And the splinter also came out. But the nerves in my hand were already severed anyway.”
“Usually, when we captured a German, they spoke in their language. We had nothing to do with them, we just passed them on to the staff. But other soldiers, the young ones, took them and escorted them to the staff. They were young boys, about sixteen years old. And we wanted to go the staff quarters, and we overheard them saying: ´You go there and shoot them.´ So these boys were doing it. I don’t even know what his name was. Some were good, some, if you captured them, started showing you pictures of their kids and begging. The older ones. But there were not so many of them.”
I had to bite my thumb off, because I had my knife in my right pocket and I could not reach it The nerves were torn, but the bone was intact
Alexandr Štípek was born February 29th 1920 in Zálesí in the Volyně region, which is present-day Poland. He joined the Russian army on March 1943 in Rovno, received almost no training and he was immediately assigned to operate an anti-aircraft and anti-tank machine gun. He took part in the fighting in Machnowka and in the Carpathian-Dukla operation. At Dukla, his hand was injured by a splinter and he was transported to a hospital in Krasnodar in the Caucasus region. After the war he was further treated in Brno, and due to his long-term stay in hospitals he was eventually dismissed from the army. In 1953 he permanently settled in Újezd near Uničov.