Lieutenant Colonel Jan Bohdan

* 1921  †︎ 2016

  • “My name is Jan Bohdan, I was born on 25th January 1921 in Klučárky near Mukachevo. It was the Czechoslovak Republic back then. My father was a small farmer and he had about 1,5 hectare of land. His name was Jan, same as mine, and my mother’s name was Anna. My mother was at home and I had five brothers and sisters. One brother and four sisters. I was the third child. My brother was not in the army. He went to work to Prague and stayed there until the beginning of the War. Then he was arrested and he spent the War as a captive in Germany. Then he came back home.”

  • “The the heavy artillery prepared and the battle was scheduled to eight o’clock. Five to eight, the sun went up and I remember the sight clearly, it was beautiful. Then it was eight and the Katyusha rockets began to fly from behind us. They were flying above like hot flaming fish, you could see them quite clearly. We were in front of them because the Katyusha launchers, after they had fired, had to move away quickly so that the enemy can’t spot them by the smoke. And we would stand in their way. So the gunfire began and it lasted for 70 minutes.” [Interviewer:] “Did you use any ear protection?” “No, and I didn’t go deaf. And as the fire started, the sun disappeared in the smoke and the shots became a constant batter. It lasted more than an hour. Then it stopped. All went quiet. The Germans didn’t do anything. Our infantry and the tanks started to proceed and we were also about to move, but we couldn’t. We saw German planes coming in large flocks. Bombers and fighter planes. They started bombing us and we were afraid to be hit but we weren’t. And then Soviet planes came out in large flocks. But imagine, they didn’t fight against each other. They just passed by and were flying to bomb the German side.”

  • “The interrogations started with questions like: why we had come there or who sent us. If we had any connection… to a foreign intelligence agency or something. I didn’t understand: ’I came on my own, I didn’t expect that you were going to arrest me.’ There was nothing I could do, I was in custody for six months. They didn’t beat us, but when you went to the interrogation, nobody was allowed to be in the corridors. We weren’t allowed to see each other. The interrogations usually took place at night. They woke you up and took to the room where the offices were sitting and it looked like a military court. They asked for my name and I told them. They ordered me to stand up and I did and then: ‘In accordance with paragraph 80, we sentence you to three years in the labor camp.’ There was no advocate, I couldn’t even say if I pleaded guilty or not.”

  • [Interviewer:] “When you worked in the agriculture section, did you get to food?” “We could get to potatoes. If you were on the other side from the guard, there were boxes with potatoes. And when it was safe, I sat down and ate the potatoes raw, And when we were planting the vegetables you could eat some. Then we went to the other side of the river where we cut the grass with scythes. The grass was still fresh and when we chopped it and then picked it with salt. The next day it was a delicious. This is how we feasted on food, eating grass.”

  • “We fell asleep and at about one o’clock in the morning, the German planes came and started bombing the train. I slept in the third wagon and one of the bombs fell on a wagon in the middle of the train. It was a massive explosion. Luckily, the wagon was on the bridge, so that the bomb fell through it and exploded under the bridge. Some of the wagons were broken and they caught fire. Some bombs fell beside the train but they didn’t explode. They were bombs of 250 kilograms. I jumped out of the wagon and it was smashed to pieces. It was made out of wood. I flew for about 30 meters and felt that I was hurt at the back. I touched it and I felt blood. I ran towards the wagon and it was on fire now… and I saw the bodies, soldiers on the fenders, bodies on fire, torn, heads, limbs and I saw my friend Honza Kušnír. It was a good friend and I saw him lying there and begging for water. I came to him and he had shrapnel in his head about the size of a palm. He died on the spot. There were 54 casualties. The commander was all right. He said he didn’t know that anything was going to happen.”

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    Litoměřice (asi), 21.04.2004

    délka: 01:41:51
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
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“I would like to tell the younger generations to value their freedom. You have everything when you are free. But if you are not, you can’t decide freely and you are always being pushed somewhere.”

Bohdan1.jpg (historic)
Lieutenant Colonel Jan Bohdan

A retired second lieutenant Jan Bohdan was born on 25th January 1921 in Klučárky near Mukachevo. The financial situation of his family wasn‘t very good and Jan had to start working as a young boy. After the treaty Munich 1938, the part of Subcarpathian Rus with his home village and the town Mukachevo were take by the Hungarian army. His direct experience with the Hungarian rule became the reason why he left to the Soviet Union. He crossed the border together with four fellow countrymen on 14th November 1939. Their arrival was not what they expected. They were arrested by the first patrol and treated as criminals. Jan Bohdan was sentenced to three years of prison in Soviet labor camps. The prisoners in Soviet labor camps were forced to work in extremely hard conditions and they were provided with insufficient food rations. In February 1943, Jan Bohdan, after the appeal to all Czechoslovak citizens in Soviet labor camps, joined the new forming Czechoslovak forces in Buzuluk. After years spent in the hell of communist labor camps, the warm welcome at Buzuluk left a very strong impression in him. After the basic training in May 1943he was transferred to the 5th reserve company, with which he traveled to Novochopiersk, where the Czechoslovak forces were reorganized. After additional training, Jan Bohdan joined the heavy artillery as an operator of the 122mm howitzer cannons. He participated in the fights at Dukla, Torčina, Krosna, Jasla and Liptovský Mikuláš. He was released from the army on 1st February 1946. He settled down in Litoměřice and found a girl, Vlasta Kočová from Chrášťany u Třebenic, whom he married on 10th of October 1946. They have a daughter Jana. Jan Bohdan worked for thirty years in the state penitentiary in Litoměřice. He passed away on January, 27th, 2016.