Václav Straka

* 1914  †︎ 2011

  • "On May 1st we crossed the Czechoslovak border line by Cheb town in village called Pomezi. We have a monument there which we created back them. Every year we come and lay flowers on it. The sign on this monument says that we have been the first Czechoslovak troop from the West crossing the border. And how did we get there? We were helping the Americans in Cheb town and when we heard that American troop will move forward to Pilsen town our commander named Sítek said: ´ Let’s go, we’re going to Pilsen and then we’ll continue to Prague. ´ That’s how it was. And when we were getting closer to Pilsen town we heard from the radio: ´ The Prague has risen, The Prague is fighting. ´ So our commander Sítek decided that we’ll go straight there. But we couldn’t , because the demarcation line has been already set up. At that moment we have been part of the American army. We became subject to American orders. Vainly Sítek begged the Americans to let us go, but they forbade us to. Later we have moved from Pilsen town to the village called Kysice by Pilsen and there we have waited for the situation to improve. Then we heard that the Russians walked into Prague. Me, Rosťa Kocourek and Karel Lukeš sat on two trucks and we headed to Prague without any order or permission. I still think it was very risky step to do so, because back then we passed few fully armed German troops. We just rode pass them with two cars labeled Czechoslovakia. We arrived to Prague as the first ones from the West. In Prague people have been piling up the barricades. And because I lived in Kosire part of Prague before and because my family still lived there, I turned away straight at the beginning of Prague and after seven years stood in front of our house."

  • "I would say, that the Englishmen, even the poor ones, felt kind of ashamed for Munich. They realized that they have betrayed Czechoslovakia, that they let Hitler to take over our country without any opposition. So now they tried to show us...how would I say that...I don’t want to say regret, but understanding for the situation. They tried to easy our lives any way they could. They invited us to their families for an example. Or when some Czech was walking on the road, he went for a beer to the next village, some car always stopped and gave him a lift. They used to give us the so-called...they were taking us to their families. A lot of marriages developed from these visits too. To get into a family where they had a daughter meant that they will try to get her married. Because at that time there was much more women than men in England, right. And each of these women tried to get herself a husband. We experienced such great relationship also toward other armies. We were great friends with the Norse, or with Poles although our crews were quite far from each other. We always got together in London or on our vacation. There was really good solidarity between the foreign armies."

  • "Well, it was like this. First of all this work was educational. We provided information...That was the foreign reporting. We have been listening, or our colleagues - so called listeners. They had their own stations and were listening for ran example to Ankara. What is the name of the little state in Pyrenees Mountains...it’s Andorra, right, so Andorra because it was a neutral ground , right. Or they were listening to Luxembourg already back then. But off course they listened to Moscow, London or New York etc. They could prepare complete worldwide coverage. We also provided commented news. But beside this we also have... every Saturday there was a tabloid with some stories or coverage...Mr. Zdeněk Ančík, a writer, who wrote mostly about the famous Good Soldier Sveik, was contributing regularly too. He published his novels after the war. But we also stayed in touch with our countrymen living abroad. We were also anxious to get the some news from our country. We have been listening to Prague radio station, of course, we responded to situation that was here in Prague. Also we have been sending our newspaper to our countrymen in America, Africa etc. We used to have quite wide reader spectrum. I can say that our newspaper was worthy, right...We were quite intelligent army, if I may say so myself. "

  • "I built a summer house in Neveklov region. There I used to give the language lessons. At the beginning I taught some McFerar from Reuters and he recommended me on the British Embassy. From here they recommended me to the Swiss Embassy. I also taught the Canadian business attaché Czech language. But I have strictly obeyed the Czech teacher status, right. Because I knew that the StB has been watching me all the time. I have refuse any political discussion. I felt certain pressure on me to get me to...what was the name of the other person I used to teach...he invited me to go with him to some bar in the evening. And as we walked together on the road, we kept hearing some innuendo. But I ignored it. Therefore they (the police) couldn’t accuse me of anything. I stayed completely out of it. That was the good thing that I could retire and build the summer house at the countryside."

  • "There was some educational officer at the headquarters who was in charge of few institutions. And we used to have a library there too. Quite big library in fact. Imagine this, - this is very typical for Czech people by the way - when they ran away from France, they carried also books in their knapsacks. They collected these books later in England and created a brand new library like that. People got used to borrowing the books so the library extended, right. We also have had - you know, except for being the editor I was also starting new organizations all the time - Teachers and lecturers association. Because there were many former teachers or lecturers among us and when we still had some free time, when the situation wasn’t that bad yet, our headquarters allowed us to visit English universities and to get familiar with their systems. We were in Scotland, in Wales etc. We have been also collecting...there were not only soldiers there, but also...You know there was a Czech school in Wales, right? It was a high school and its principal was lieutenant Havlíček - he just died recently at age 100 years. And he was criticized me all the time there that I have talked him into being the principal although he never wanted to, that he wanted to be in the army. But once he agreed he was being great principal. He was a Doctor of Science and used to be a director in...There were these Czech clerks and they have had kids who attended the English schools. There was already the grammar school and also the high school, right. We provided for an example additional graduations. Because there were also some high school students among the soldiers who couldn’t finish the school at home. So we offered them new classes and about ten of our students passed the military graduation exams. I used to be their French teacher and I also assisted by the graduation exams. Of course it was rather a formality, but the main thing was for them to graduate in the army. So that’s about the cultural arrangements we used to have there."

  • "Everyone who becomes an official asks for the salary at the first place. We never thought about that. And that’s the revolution that arose after the November of 1989. The freedom we gained then made people wanted to go to work, but... for each grade they asked the salary. We, who decided to enter the army and went to war, never even thought about asking some salary for that. Everyone wants to get paid these days. The people’s attitude has changed, that’s not good. Our great victory is that we are free to say or do things we desire, that’s a huge progress. But as far as I’m concern, people need to grow more ethically, if I can say so. They need to learn not to think about the money all the time."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 21.01.2007

    duration: 02:35:00
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 18.05.2007

    duration: 01:06:42
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Praha, 20.05.2009

    duration: 31:36
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 4

    Praha, 14.07.2009

    duration: 06:59
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“We - the editors of Naše Noviny newspaper (Our Newspaper - daily news) have always been where our Army was.”

Václav Straka, 1944, Chomondeley
Václav Straka, 1944, Chomondeley
photo: archiv pamětníka

Václav Straka was born on April 8th, 1914 in Prague, in an area called - Košíře. He attended the gymnasium in Prague - Smíchov and then he graduated in the Faculty of Arts and mastered in German and French languages. On September 15th, 1938 he left for Brussels to study at the University because he received the scholarship from the Belgium government. He left Belgium and went to Paris led by Mr. František Langer. From Paris, he traveled to D´Agde where he joined the Czechoslovak Army troop. France after the capitulation, he left for Great Britain. After he underwent the general military training, he signed up for the Air Force unit. Due to his bad eye condition he didn’t pass the exacting exams. The newly established production office called Naše Noviny offered him a job. Along with this organization, he experienced the second Normandy landing. At the end of the war, he joined the special army unit called “combined division,” and returned to Czechoslovakia as one of the first “western soldiers.” After the war, he worked as an editor for the Svět v obrazech magazine. (The world in pictures) During the 1970´s he signed the Charter 77, after that he was questioned by StB (former state secret police) but refused to cooperate with them. After the Velvet revolution in 1989, his name appeared in the “Cibulka´s list “, but after winning a court trial his name was removed from the list of the StB cooperators. Colonel Václav Straka was honored with the Order national de la Légion d’honneur (National Order of the Legion of Honor), the Czechoslovak War Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Ministry of Defense Deserving Cross.