Colonel (ret.) Pavel Švec

* 1924  †︎ 2017

  • “With the advent of 1968 the most fervent Communists started to be very active, Dubček and co., right. It somehow turned around as far as I can remember. I was the supervisor of the airport and one day a long convoy of tanks rolled by the airport. They were passing the main barracks that were located just by the main road. Suddenly, a crowd of officers, pilots and navigators assembled by the road and wanted to throw stones at the tanks. I told them: ‘Boys, out of the title of my momentary function, I’m ordering you to leave immediately’. They haven’t been at the front lines. They don’t know what it’s like for a soldier when somebody starts throwing stones at him. It’s like a declaration of war – he responds by mowing down the attackers by machine-gun fire. Well, in return they started to scold at me that I was, that I wasn’t… Then the occupying soldiers – those that occupied the airport – came to me and asked for water. I led them to the fountain, took a sip so they could see it wasn’t poisoned and told them to serve themselves. They thanked me and that was all. But those pugnacious officers started again to insult me, telling me that I was no front soldier and I don’t know what else. I told them: ‘boys, I know how it works. It’s not possible to do things in your hurray manner’.”

  • “The ex-Communists assembled and wanted me to write reports on certain people so that they could fire them from the army. I told them: ‘Boys, I’m sorry, but the one you want me to write the report on was with me in Guinea, he was my best friend there, showed me everything, I had no problems with him and you want me to smear him here so you can kick him out? I’m sorry, but I won’t do that’. So they said that if I won’t do it, I’ll go with him. Then I was supposed to write a report on another guy, a certain Sykora who served in my squadron, but I wouldn’t do it again. I said: ‘no, I won’t. These are good boys. What have they done to you? Why do you want to fire them? Because they didn’t agree with the invasion? Well they’re right, it’s a bad thing’. And that was it, I was fired along with them. Well, actually I stayed till 1974 and these boys left already in 1970. You know, there wasn’t a lot of older, more experienced pilots and the ministerial officials didn’t want to fly with those freshmen. That’s why they kept me till 1974, when the young pilots got enough training.”

  • “The machine gunner was very disadvantaged because he was facing the tail and had a machine gun and a parachute in front of him. He was actually sitting on the parachute. It wasn’t solid – when we were attacking, I was upside down. My main task was to defend our aircraft’s tail from enemy aircraft. The worst thing that can happen to you is when an enemy plane comes close unnoticed from behind. Then you’re doomed. My pilot was sergeant Hauliš Ondrej. I flew with him on my first mission to the front line. Our assignment was to destroy a German convoy. I observed what happened and he instructed me via radio what I was supposed to look for because he had no time to look. The attacks – the air raids – were conducted in a circle by eight airplanes. While the pilot was maneuvering the plane, the gunner was supposed to watch what was happening and to report to the pilot if the target was hit. I saw that the convoy was torn apart in the middle so I reported : ‘the middle part was hit’. That’s how I reported to the pilot. The pilot had little time to watch or control what had happened. When he flew down, he had to properly maneuver the aircraft and make sure he wasn’t pursued by a fighter. My task was to protect the tail of the aircraft and to inform him what was going on in the back. There really is not that much time in such a melee. You pick some target, for example a tank or an artillery battery, and attack the target on the ground. There’s not much time left. Everywhere around you, there’s grenades exploding and flares lighting up the sky. Things often seem to be much closer than they really are and you have to decide when to pull up.”

  • “We did it together with a certain Švarný from Slovakia. After we unloaded the armaments from the airplane, we simply crept in and hid there. It was a cargo airplane and we stayed in the back where it was dark so nobody would see us. The pilots had to keep the lights off as lights could have attracted enemy bombings. So we stayed in the dark and took off. When we were flying over the Carpathian Mountains, the Germans were firing at us from the ground. The mechanic went to the back of the plane to check if we weren’t hit. When he spotted us he said: ‘What are you doing here’? We explained to him we were Slovak aviators and wanted to get to Russia to fight against the Germans. So he took us into the cockpit to the captain who was quite nice to us. He told us: ‘we’ll get you to our army and we’ll see’.”

  • “They loaded us on trucks and took us to the garrison in Březno. They armed us there and then we marched at Telgárt. That was my first assignment, my first encounter with the enemy. The Germans had burnt the place down to the last house, because it was a large village with only wooden houses, so it burned well. We defeated the Gerrmans and drove them out of the village. Then they transferred us because we were a very well organized unit. They sent us on another mission, this time to Handlová. That village was burning as well. We were deployed as infantry units.”

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    Praha, 05.12.2006

    duration: 01:23:17
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Eventually, I had to go as well. Like the westerners

Pavel Švec during the war
Pavel Švec during the war

Pavel Švec was born on January 26, 1924, in Pružina, Slovakia. His family soon moved to Horní Lieskov. His parents worked as seasonal agricultural workers. They regularly left Horní Lieskov to work on large landed estates in Bohemia or Moravia during the summer and autumn season. As Pavel Švec was the only child, he went with them. His father later worked as a construction worker at nearby sites and his mother was running the little household they had. In 1934, Pavel Švec enrolled in the flight cadet school of the Slovak army. The students of the school participated in the Slovak national uprising in 1944 fighting in the battles at Telgárt and Handlová. During the uprising, Mr. Švec got into the Soviet Union. He was trained as an aircraft machine-gun operator in Przemyśl. He then served with the 1st Czechoslovak air-force division of the 3rd regiment of the Czechoslovak army corps. He started to fly missions in April 1945 and flew about 100 missions. After the war, Mr. Švec stayed in the army. In 195O, he attended the flight academy in Hradec Králové. He was flying bombers. In 1964, he was sent to Guinea as a flight instructor for one year. After his return, he served with the government’s air fleet. In 1970, he refused to produce negative evaluations on his colleagues and was threatened with dismissal from the army. He was eventually fired in 1974. Afterwards, it was hard for him to get a job. He eventually became an ambulance driver. Pavel Švec passed away on June, the 22nd, 2017.