Staff Sergeant Jaroslav Balák

* 1927  †︎ 2006

  • Now we are talking about the 1930s. I can tell you that not only myself but also all my friends lost our childhood when we were twelve. The war started. They closed our Czech school. When I was seventeen, in February 1944 the Czechoslovak army corps of general Svoboda came to Rovno. In March all my friends joined the army, but I could not, because I was still underage. But I managed somehow and they accepted me. We all went on our own will, voluntarily. Not for adventure or profit, nothing like that. We were resolved to go fight for our country´s liberation.

  • With supplies it was not easy. We got rations of dehydrated food every two weeks, but it was all gone within two days. What else was there to do than look for subsistence elsewhere? We would go from one house to another, politely asking them for something to eat. Some of them were good people, and they gave us something, others would not give us anything. That´s how we passed time.

  • When I graduated from the NCO academy, I had the rank of a lance-corporal. Sadagura was far behind the front, and I got a map and an order to find my unit. And when I finally found them, I was shocked. I was only seventeen, and the men I was to command were in their forties, fifties. They could be my fathers... Luckily for me, they did not laught at me when I explained that I had orders to be their commander. So I led this unit, I served as a signallers unit commander. I worked at establishing connection between the staff and the front. The telephone, that was the only nerve the front had, as we used to call it. And when a nerve fails, so fails the whole front.

  • I have never had any contacts with any other army. My first and last meeting with other soldiers took place in Moravia, there I saw Romanian soldiers cutting growing rye with a scythe. I almost wanted to shoot them, you cannot do things like that. That rye was not fully grown yet, and they were cutting it to feed their horses.

  • When you hear the first shot, it is not easy. But then you get used to it, so that you no longer realize that you are in fire, in the midst of fighting. One cannot express it with words. When you have your goal and you know why you go there...then you see no obstacles in your way. I felt fear in Krosno. But then not anymore. It just wears off.

  • In summer 1945 there was an army training camp in Ruzyně, and general Svoboda delivered a speech there. He said that we have liberated our country, and that we should be patient and wait for the arrival of our families and loved ones, that they will come to Czechoslovakia. He did not speak about the expulsion of the Germans from Sudetenland, but he said that empty areas will have to be resettled. So the Czechs from Volyně answered this call of the Czechoslovak government and began to return to Czechoslovakia."

  • When no shooting was going on, we had free time. The fighting did not last from morning till evening, there were breaks in between. But it was not such a free time, that you could go for a walk, go to the woods and gather mushrooms...You had your position, which you had to watch. What if... One always had to be on guard.

  • In the first postwar days one did not notice how they treated the soldiers who had fought on the Western front. We began to take notice only after 1948, and we were not indifferent to what was happening, not at all. They fought for the same purpose as we did. They also wanted to defeat fascism in the first place, and it did not matter that they were fighting it in one place and we in another, this is just the way it was. I believe that they also regard us in the same way. And therefore, we also felt concerned for what happened to them after the war.

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    Karlovy Vary, 29.08.2008

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When I heard the first shot, it was not easy. But then you get used to it

Mr. Jaroslav Balák comes from a Czech family who lived in the Volyně region. The family has preserved its Czech identity, Jaroslav attended a Czech school, and in 1944 he accepted the offer to join the Czechoslovak army in Rovno. He was sent to training in Bessarabia, and in August got into action for the first time near Krosno. He became a commander of the signallers unit; later he took part in fighting at Dukla and Liptovský Mikuláš, and he advanced with the army all the way to Moravia, where the end of the war came. After the war, Balák did not intend to pursue a military career; instead, he studied a business school and found employment in the Hotel Imperial in Karlovy Vary, where he worked in the administrative department. He lives with his family in Karlovy Vary. Jaroslav Balák died on January, the 10th, 2006.