"When Hitler came in 1933, refugees from Germany were arriving across the border and through Ostrava and Bohumín. We provided a room for those fugitives. And as we sometimes dined or sat together we had precise information on what was going on in Germany. Hitler's and Nazi's Anti-Semic politics were know to us. I even remember this big fuss once as Thomas Mann spent the night at our place. I only learned later because back then as a young boy I hadn't known who he was. But later I learned and were able to appreciate it. So we learnt many details and therefore my parents decided that the only option for us to avoid this, would be emigration. Because of that I left grammar school and went to do a professional training. Obviously emigration was thinkable mainly to Palestine where the Jewish state should have been created. And as it was known that they do not need intellectuals as much as practical crafts, most of all welcoming agricultural experts, I took up training in a dairy factory."
"Look, of course that every artist must put in a part of themselves. My opinion is that for instance the way they showed the training - climbing up the hill and so on - truly reflected the reality. Even the conditions they hinted to looked alike at the beginning. Including that Jewish boy who couldn't handle it all. But eventually one third of the unit were Jews. One, two or ten or twenty of them may have been weak. But the others were capable and resisted everything. Some of them were sportsmen, even famous ones, who were swimming or doing other sports. Yet, in my opinion, some of the scenes were practically impossible. For example this crazy boy could not be running around as it is shown in the movie because at the time everything was mined. It would have blown somewhere long ago. Or shooting the hostage Italian, that was a drastic thing. This would have been punished strictly. And shooting hostages - that was completely unacceptable by the Englishmen, unless they would have attacked you. So that was not realistic. But every artist has the right to a certain licence to make it more interesting. They create films not to show the precise history but to attract audience, for it to be seen."
"As we had been flying in the North Sea, it was suddenly May 1945. We caught up various things on the radio, only a few airplanes endangered us. We were looking for submarines and sending radio messages. One day some crew which was also up in the air on some mission, established connection and told us there was an uprising in Prague. So we instantly tuned Prague and heard a call for help. We returned to the base, all being convinced we would go and help Prague. Armourers were arming machine-guns and mounted fragmenting explosives instead of depth ones into the airplanes. All preparations were underway. That first night, from the fifth to the sixth, we stood by our airplanes all night waiting for permission to go help Prague. But it did not come, neither on the second day, nor on the third. The captains got together and decided to fly without permission. It went so far that somewhere the engines were already running as the commander came in and ordered for them to be turned off. And we learned we cannot go help Prague, that the Britons forbade it. And that if we tried to, the British fighters would shoot us down."
“On 14th March I was at school and my father called me on a phone and told me that the Germans crossed the border and they took Ostrava and the whole area. I told it to my schoolmates and we went to the town, people had already gathered because they heard the news and they had known it would come. Nowadays, most of the people think that the Germans lived only in the border areas. But they lived in towns all over the republic and if they supported Hitler, on the 14th they already hoisted German flags with swastikas.”
“If you pulled the trigger it immediately exploded. Those mines were especially annoying because they jumped up about 60 centimeters above the ground and the injuries were around the belly and the groins. And as I pulled it I stood still because I heard that the fuse went off and hissed – and nothing happened. Later on we dug the mine out and I suppose that it didn’t explode because of the heavy rains a few days earlier. I was really lucky. A lot of men were injured or died.”
“There in Oranki, there was a building with a large hall and a stage which served as a community centre. They put hay on the floor and we got some blankets or we already had them, I don’t remember, and we slept there. And for the first time in my life I woke up with itching and then I found that we all had lice. So we started to pick them out and the more we did it the more lice we seemed to have. So that was for the first time. Another bad thing in Oranki was that there were no toilets and the surroundings were full of excrements because there were Polish war prisoners before. So you had to watch out not to step into something.”
“For Christmas, we got five roubles each. And we put the money together and bought a kettle and soap and we started doing the laundry. It was in winter, outside, the temperature was thirty degrees bellow zero. We did it for a month, the price for one shirt was one rouble. So we worked like this and we earned some money. It lasted for a month. We had chapped hands from the cold, we had to melt snow. Finally we earned some money and we could go to the village for two or three times to spend it, even though it wasn’t much.”
“A man must have control over his life. You can’t take life as it comes, automatically, because then you could get somewhere you don’t want to. That is one thing. It means to always think about what step you do in your life and not to do it mindlessly. Also, you have to have anchors in life. These days, most of the younger generation are somehow cosmopolitan, there is the EU, borders disappear, but I feel that you can’t live without an anchor. That was my credo: I was born here, I went to school here, I fought for this country and even though I had thousand opportunities to stay abroad, I never did because during the war I found out that you will always remain a foreigner, a stranger if you don’t live in other country than your own.”
“There were also pre-war communists in the unit [in Oranki] and they tried to agitate and recruit new members. And a conflict emerged between the group and the communists because at that time, they kept in line with the contemporary Comintern. We didn’t know it then but we know now that it was an imperialistic war and we had nothing to do in that war. And they prepared people to leave and settle down somewhere in the Soviet Union.”
Even though I had thousand opportunities to stay abroad, I never did
Major Pavel Vranský was born on 29th April in Lipník nad Bečvou. He grew up in Frýdlant nad Ostravicí, Bohumín and Ostrava. He attended a grammar school and professional trainings in the dairy industry. In 1939, he left (with his father) to Poland and then to the USSR. His brother lives in Israel, his mother died in a concentration camp. He passed the basic training at the Czechoslovak armed forces and in 1942, was transferred to the Czechoslovak units in the Near East. He fought at Tobruk, then he enlisted to the American anti-submarine air forces. After the war, he flew a modified military aircraft Liberator between Prague and London. Later, he worked in the Czechoslovak Airlines. He retired at the age of 55 and together with his wife, he organized children camps for example in the Jizera Mountains. He was decorated with a number of Czech and British decorations. He lived with his wife in Horoměřice. Pavel Vranský passed away on June, the 24th, 2018.