Ludvík Drahokoupil

* 1920  †︎ 2012

  • “When we were moving in a column from one place to another, some soldiers were not able to survive. Some dropped dead, some were shot by Germans. If some girls or women along the way brought food for starving soldiers, those quick enough to snap a bread were harshly beaten with rifles. In some cases Germans shot someone and the column moved on.”

  • “Russians had informed us about existence of the Czechoslovakian Foreign Army after the frontline rolled over. But Russians were not interested in letting Czechs go. Decision depended on individuals. Someone got notice he should enlist. Around thirty men from our village came to a recruiting center, but we had to wait for three days there. It was not in Russian interest to send us to the Czechoslovakian Army. They didn’t approve it. But we insisted on it in spite of a danger we could face. It is necessary to remember what kind of regime ruled in Russia in those days. Everybody who was in any contact with a foreign country was automatically suspicious and severe punishments were given for this. We stood there and we wanted to get into our army. But finally we have succeeded. I moved to Jevrejov where a 2. independent Czechoslovakian paratroop brigade has been forming. This way I have joined paratroop units.”

  • “Within a month an area of uprising was continually narrowing. We were not able to sustain whole German forces. Numbers of our troops have been decreasing, our territory has diminished. The end of uprising was coming. On 28th of December an order came to start with guerilla war tactics. We were advancing on Bánská Bystrice via Zvolen. An exchange of prisoners took place there. Germans were holding our troops so we could not act otherwise. Then we have proceeded on Motyčky, Staré Hory and then into the mountains. Sunny weather dominated the day of 28th December. Our retreat path to Staré Hory proved horrible. The road led trough a deep valley and was completely blocked by civilians, horses, vehicles, by anything you can imagine. Germans took advantage of sunny weather and strafed us from the air. Fighter planes were flying over our heads back and forth constantly. In one case we took shelter under a small bridge. I have suggested we should leave, because a pilot had seen us and on the way back he would bombard us. We moved away a little bit further in spite of lack of any better shelter, only steep rocks were around. The place under the bridge was immediately occupied by other civilians. The fighter plane really came back and carnage took place. In the afternoon the sky clouded over and in the evening it was raining. Within few days the snow fell. We left for the mountains without drinking water, without any food, exhausted, chilled to the bone and unarmed. We have been hiding in underground shelters which we had to dig out. Thus we have survived the winter. Germans reached our place Kaliště in December after they had got information that our unit has dwelt there. They have encircled us and I was injured in both legs. A bullet broke one my leg bone; the other leg suffered only penetration wound. I was hit by five bullets, but only two hit me directly, the rest had been stopped by my gum boots. However I was eliminated from the fighting. I had to spend the winter in an underground shelter. Friends guarded me by all means so I have managed to recover. I have fastened a plank to my leg and it healed up gradually. On the Saint Joseph’s day on 19th of March front units arrived to Bánská Bystrica. They have reached the area of our underground shelters. Suddenly a burst of machine-gun fire hit my shelter. I understood what is going on. A soldier shot one burst and then he waited a little before repeating the fire. He observed what was going to happen. So after one burst I jumped out before he fired again. I have escaped. Finally such a mass took place that it was impossible to fire. We and Germans were so intermingled that we would shot down one another. At the end of March we crossed a frontline in Magurka and Prašivá and reached a Russian army heading for Březno.”

  • “I had planed to become a teacher, so I have moved to Žitomir to study at Pedagogical Institute after finishing high school. But we were mobilized in spite of a promise we would by absolved from military service, this was one of my reasons to study there. I was sent to 48. special chemical defense battalion in town of Volsk on the banks of river Volha. I have passed trough a basic military training and after one year (as a reserve lieutenant) I was supposed to leave to continue in studies. But on Sunday morning on 22nd June in 4 a.m. Soviet Union had been attacked. Everything has changed.”

  • “German guards were shooting without warning to keep order among so many hungry soldiers in transports. Once we were transported in coal wagons and there was no place left for me. I have tried to explain it to one guard but he shoot at me immediately from a very short distance. He hit my cap; I was almost burned by the powder. Smoke and smell dispersed around. A place for me suddenly had appeared, so I had to continue with others. A lot of horrible unbelievable and unspeakable events had happened during the transports.”

  • “We have lived in poverty during our military training. There was not enough food; we got rations of drinks, whereas the paratroop training was pretty exhausting. You had to be very precise to fold up your parachute. In case you had to wait by gondola on a field more than hour standing in a mud two parachutes hanging on your shoulders you had really enough of it. You had lost at least one kilogram of your weight after each jump. We had jumped several times. It became even worse when we were jumping from an ordinary plane. I had made around six parachute jumps. Someone always got hurt. The paratroop brigade constituted a part of Czechoslovakian army at the first time. It really surprised me when our well trained brigade ready for fighting in enemy’s rear was deployed in a battle of Dukla. It is still unclear who and why ordered this. The paratroop brigade fought two weeks in Dukla, then it was withdrawn and sent to Slovakia where a national uprising erupted.”

  • “I don’t like to cast my mind back on war because it is all coming back and than it gets out of my control. Things are different today but after the war bad dreams had been returning to me again and again, so I don’t like to cast my mind back. If I do, strange thoughts are running trough my head the whole day; I can’t sleep well, etc. The more the thoughts refer to the war the more of them is coming. As I am getting older my memories are fading away. Despite of this I will realize what I should tell you after you leave. It will stay with me for several incoming days. Especially things which I didn’t mentioned or which I should have described in a different way...”

  • “Germans had overwhelming force at their disposal against Russians, who were not ready for such an assault. Stalin counted on international treaties. He didn’t believe in a sudden attack until the very last day. This caused heavy losses. Nobody was ready. Germans gained a huge advantage by their encircling maneuvers. Russian retreat turned in a complete chaos, factories were dismantled in a hurry, nothing was prepared ahead and mayhem has ruled. Kyjev hold out the best during the retreat fighting. I was captured somewhere between Poltava and Charkov.”

  • “They started to sort us in Kremencuk. It was in November, bare trees stood in the yard of the barrack. If Germans realized someone was a Jew or an officer for political issues, he had to shin up a tree into the very top only lightly dressed. He had to hold out there the whole day or wait for permission to climb down.”

  • “Horrible carnage took place in the battle of Dukla. Intelligence and reconnaissance had failed. Soldiers have marched straight toward the enemy fog-shrouded without a warning. Than the fog dispersed, sunrise came and soldiers lied opened clearly in front of the enemy. I fought as a foot soldier. A Second Brigade had stayed in a village Tylova about two weeks. We were withdrawn after 14 days. Who had his pants shred he got a new one and we were swiftly transported to Slovakia.”

  • “I believe in fortune. I believe some supernatural Power must exist, because I had passed trough numerous live threatening accidents and in each case I have somehow escaped from an apparently desperate situation.”

  • “I was captured somewhere between Charkov and Poltava. I had escaped several times before, but this time there was no chance. After we were dispersed some of us managed to retreat towards a nearby wood for a while, but there we were encircled again. I have heard Germans shouting and someone speaking Czech as well, Russians understood better Czech than German. Then a burst came. I was quick enough to dodge but my friend was shot in his belly. The only option was to surrender. While we were surrendering our weapons and a searching was going on, I dared to speak to a soldier who was speaking Czech: ‘Sir, are you a Czech?’ He sized me up – I was dressed in a Russian uniform, he had a star on his garrison cap: ‘How can you dare to ask such question? When I’m German I can’t be Czech.’ However he got interested in my fate and asked me where I came from shortly afterwards. I didn’t want to describe my native village Česká Kolonie situated between Žitomir and Kyjev, so I answered from Kyjev. He eyed me again: ‘I came from Kyjev as well.’ But he originated from Moravian Kyjev. He treated me well. He allowed me to keep my quilt and some other stuff. When Germans realized he was talking to me, they put me back to the line among other captives. We formed a whole column. One German then realized I still have the quilt. He kicked my ass and confiscated all my things. I stood there empty-handed like every body else.”

  • “I believe in fortune. Every time we were moved to work somewhere out of a camp, I took a piece of paper and wrote a message home in order to inform my parents I was going to die in the prisoner camp Proscurov. I had sent several messages. Home laid about 300 km far away, no post office had been working, and everything was out of order in occupied territories. People simply handed over my messages among themselves. One message reached through this way a dairy in our village and was finally handed over to my parents. My father mobilized my uncle. They threw food supplies (smoked meat, bacon, butter, spirits etc.) and fit horses together and set out. Nearby the camp they had found a local mayor who used prisoners from the camp for work. Germans asked food in return, so he was able to manage things. Once we were returning from work and my uncle was standing along side the road. We recognized each other luckily. Otherwise it would be a miracle if he would be able to find me in the camp. The mayor succeeded in getting four men out of the camp. I was among them and Stanislav Drahokoupil too. I was completely exhausted already. They brought me home just before Christmas and I was immediately sent to a hospital. I had been injured by mine shrapnel in my belly before my capture and the injury started to fester. A quick operation saved my live. I have returned home but I was ailing for a long time.”

  • “I felt chauvinism in Slovakia. When I spoke in Czech people immediately asked me if I was from Prague. I explained them that to speak Czech didn’t mean a Prague origin necessarily. Whoever had cash was an interesting guy. But we had no money. I coped with the situation – I could speak Russian, Ukrainian, Czech and I had learned Slovak in 14 days. My situation improved rapidly. People’s sympathy clearly improved.”

  • “I have nothing against friendship with Germans. Men who were shooting at each other on the battlefield never saw each other before. Regimes had caused this. Of course, Germans should acknowledge that they had started the war. They had initiated the worst and the bloodiest war in human history. They must not forget this. They are reprehending we had transferred them out of our country. When I saw them leaving I felt sympathy with them as well. A lot of Germans in our country were not guilty in the same way. But they are reprehending only our faults as if they were innocent, as if we had caused all the mess.”

  • Celé nahrávky
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    Plzeň, 19.12.2002

    délka: 01:27:27
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

I believe in luck I believe some supernatural power must exist because I had passed through numerous life threatening accidents and in each case I have somehow escaped from an apparently desperate situation

Ludvík Drahokoupil was born on December 27, 1920 in the village of Česka Kolonie, Volyň. He decided to study at a local institute for teachers because students were exempt from the military service at the time. This rule, however, was reversed and Drahokoupil was forced to enlist in the Red Army. After his one year commitment was up, the Second World War broke out. Drahokoupil took part in the retreat of the Red Army, and in the autumn of 1941 was captured by the Germans. He was detained in Kremenčuk and Proskurov. It took almost a year for his family to succeed in getting him out of the labor camps. After one year of medical treatment, he decided to join the Czechoslovakian military in March 1944. He passed trough a parachute military training, but his unit was committed to fight in Dukla. After the unit suffered heavy losses it was withdrawn within two weeks and sent to support the Slovakian National Uprising. The unit was deployed in Tri Duby area. At the end of the year 1944 his unit had engaged in guerrilla war. In March 1945 the unit successfully passed through frontlines and joined the Rumanian army. After the war he left the army and settled in west Bohemia. He passed away on October, 9th, 2012.