Avraham Talmi

* 1920  

  • “I was on the Atlantic, and so [when] we arrived, the English knew it. Palestine was still under English rule. The secret service knew there were illegal immigrants on the way, so they prepared a big ship that sailed from Toulon and Saigon, the Patria it was called, it could fit three thousand people. Our transports were three ships, that was about three thousand emigrants, they were loaded straight on to the Patria. We arrived in Haifa.”

  • “We were there for a year, the youth, the Czechoslovak youth got in touch with Beneš’s government in London, they reached out to the British government and obtained permission for the emigrants in Mauricius to be able to volunteer into the Czechoslovak army. So there were eighty of us boys wo volunteered and left Mauricius and went to South Africa. There, the English gave us uniforms, and Mr Kováč, who was a pilot, was chief of this group, and I was his deputy. The English made me an acting sergeant. So we came to Suez, there we were welcomed by a Czechoslovak officer, and so we who were already in the army, we went to Haifa. There was an anti-air unit in Haifa, and those who weren’t there, say me as a new recruit, we went to Sidi Bishr, near Alexandria, where they had a boot camp.”

  • “The English were looking for some fifteen thousand new pilots. So even Czechoslovak boys could sign up, so I applied for a flying course. There were about eight of us boys who passed the exams. We were to leave Haifa for the course in England on 1 October 1942. We arrived in Haifa on 25 September, we were immediately given leave, a five day pass, and we were to return to the camp on 1 October. But I didn’t return, because the new contact officer declared that we weren’t going to fight, we weren’t going into combat, we were the core of the next Czechoslovak army in Czechoslovakia after the war. So I reckoned - I spent three years travelling to Palestine, that journey, suffering from hunger, just so I could become the core of the next Czechoslovak army? So I went to my friends in the kibbutz, who I’d been with for the Hah Sharrah in Ivančice, and I joined the kibbutz.”

  • “I felt more antisemitism when I was in the Czechoslovak foreign army. For example, for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, we were on the front, sleeping together with the aspirant school. I had a good friend who was a professor at the American university in Beirut. We didn’t make friends with him until there. At nine p.m. we heard the radio, BBC London, our president wished Jewish soldiers a happy new year and that we’d live to see our homeland again and reunite with our family. All of a sudden, I hear a priest from the Catholic faculty in Olomouc, saying: ‘Our president has no business talking just about Jews.’ So I reckoned: ‘There you go, you say there isn’t any antisemitism, and what’s this, this isn’t antisemitism?’ And he said ‘Don’t take that seriously.’”

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    Izrael, 01.11.2015

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I didn’t go to Palestine to come back as a Czechoslovak soldier

Avraham Talmi
Avraham Talmi
photo: Jitka Radkovičová

Avraham Talmi, né Ervín Farkaš, was born on 19 February 1920 in Krásnovice, a village in the district of Michalovce in eastern Slovakia. He comes from an orthodox Jewish family, he was one of six children. His father was a businessman, his mother kept the house. After graduating from grammar school, Avraham was supposed to study at the University of Commerce in Prague, but when Czechoslovakia was occupied in March 1939 he decided to prepare to emigrate to Palestine. He undertook a six-month Hah Sharrah course as a member of Makabi Hacair - doing farm work - and on 29 November 1939 he left with a group of Zionists from Prague to Bratislava, whence they were supposed to set off to Palestine. The group was detained in Bratislava for nine months; they continued to Romania in September 1940, where they boarded the ship Atlantic. After a stop in Crete they arrived in Haifa on 24 November 1940. However, they were not allowed into Palestine, instead they were interned with other groups on the island of Mauricius in December 1940. In March 1942 he volunteered into the Czechoslovak foreign army, he fought in northern Africa under General Klapálek, but when his unit was stationed in Palestine and awaiting transport to Great Britain, he deserted. He settled in the kibbutz of Kfar Ruppin and changed his name to Avraham Talmi. From October 1947 to February 1949 he was posted as a Makabi Hacair ambassador in Hungary, where he drafted volunteers into the newly forming Israeli army. In 1949 his parents, who had survived the war in Slovakia with false documents, also moved to Israel. He later left the kibbutz, married, and raised three sons with his wife. He completed a long-distance university course and worked as a lawyer. Avraham Talmi is a widower, he lived in the Israeli town of Kiryat Motzkin.