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Michal Demjan (1921) - Biography

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The forgotten soldier

Sergeant (ret.) Michal Demjan was born on the 19th of November 1921, in the village of Vyšny Verecki in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. His parents worked in agriculture, and the poorly developed region in Czechoslovakia could offer Michal Demjan no vocational education. He completed seven years of primary school and then began working on various farms. After Subcarpathian Ruthenia was occupied by Hungary in March 1939, he was forced to enter the Hungarian semi-military organisation 'Levente'. The newly established regime was not to his liking, however, and so on the 31st of March, 1940 he and some friends headed off to the Soviet Union for a better life. They were arrested on the borders and were imprisoned in Skole, Stryi and Vinnytsia, where Michal Demjan was sentenced to three years for illegally crossing the borders; and then in Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk, before finally ending up in a Soviet gulag in Siberia, near the town of Ivdel. He was released in November 1942, when he decided to join the newly founded Czechoslovak military units. He arrived at Buzuluk on the 9th of January 1943, and after a short training period was assigned as an assistant light machine-gunner to the 2nd company of the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Field Regiment during the defence of Sokolovo.

During combat at the River Mza, on the 9th of March 1943, he was wounded, receiving a bullet to the face and a bullet through his right arm. He was treated at the field hospital, before being transported to the hospitals in Kupyansk and Michurinsk. After his injury healed, he was placed in a Soviet reserve regiment, and even an intercession was not enough to get him back to the Czechoslovak units. He was assigned to the Red Army, he underwent sapper training and in 1944 he took part in the Kursk Offensive as an assistant heavy machine-gunner. There, on the 24th of December 1943, he was wounded once more - taking a shrapnel to the neck and the left leg. He was treated in the Gorkovsky District. He then returned to the Soviet reserve regiment, from whence he was sent directly to Rovno. There he signed up to the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. One caveat existed, however, that the soldiers had already left the city, and so he journeyed to the Czechoslovak reserve regiment in the Romanian city of Sadagura, where he was assigned to a mortar company of the 1st Brigade, with whom he took part in the Carpatho-Dukla Offensive. He then contracted a stomach disease and was sent off for treatment to the hospital in Humenné. He found himself in the Czechoslovak reserve regiment in Poprad, where he was subsequently reassigned to a guard company protecting the sanatorium in Vyšné Hágy from Hlinka's Guard. After the war, on the 15th of August 1945, he was transferred to Ústí nad Labem to guard the deported Sudeten Germans. In 1945 he accepted an offer to serve in a guard detachment of UNRRA; he was in Germany, France and Italy before being demobilised in 1947. He made a living as a prison warder, he was stationed in Valtice, at the District Court in Mikulov and in Pankrác until 1949, when he was discharged. He found work as a manual labourer and a pressman at Pergamenka in Prague, where he remained until his retirement in 1976.

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