“When the Germans launched their air attack, the Russians locked the cattle cars and disappeared into the forest. They just left us there in the cattle cars. But we were lucky because about four cars in front of us there were tanks and gas storage tanks. There, we would have burned to ashes.”
“They told us to go to Buzuluk, that we’d be taken over there by our own people. They made us sign a declaration that said that they had treated us right and that nothing like a Gulag existed. We signed a confidentiality agreement – we didn’t see or hear anything. We signed everything they wanted just to get out of there. Then they gave us two loafs of bread and a bottle of sunflower oil and let us out. At the train station after our release, it was just gorgeous.”
“Our platoon got to this village – that was still at the time when Vít Nejedlý was with us. We occupied the village pub and we said that we should put together our band. The idea was to play again. Because Prešov was almost liberated. And there, Vít Nejedlý got ill and died. We did it all in that pub. We were reconstructing it. And during the reconstruction, I ran a splinter in my hand. The next day, it got swollen and it hurt and a red line was visible. They told me to go to the doctor because it was an inflammation.”
“When the machine-gun fire started, my dad told me come down to him. I was sitting on the top of a bunk bed and I jumped down and smashed myself flat on the floor. We were both lying on the floor next to the bunk bed. I could hear the bombers coming and then I heard a sound that seemed to me like green peas rolling on the roof. And for a second time they raided us, now there was a loud bang. It was… it’s impossible to describe this.”
“They told us to stay. We were supposed to load it all up and follow them later. We were annoyed by that as we thought that they would already be in Prešov by the time we would finish it there. So we loaded everything up and we set out. As we were approaching the town of Dukla, there were jeeps coming in our direction on the road. ‘Don’t go anywhere, a catastrophe! There has been a mortar ambush’. They allegedly didn’t bother to do a proper reconnaissance of terrain and went directly to Dukla. They Germans let them come into the city and then they ambushed and thrashed them.”
I can’t sleep at night cause I’m still haunted by the war images. I scream and jolt out of sleep at night. That’s the war syndrome I’m suffering from.
Sigmund Hladík, a retired major, was born on March 1, 1927, in Mainz on the Rhine in a mixed Czech-Jewish family. His father was born in Prague and his mother came from Latvia. His parents were performers and were on the move frequently. They were residing in Prague in April 1939 but in order to save themselves from the Nazis they fled to Latvia. In this way, they were able to escape the Nazi regime, but fell into the hands of the Soviet dictatorship. On June 23, 1941, the day on which the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany, the family was arrested and transported eastwards. However, the transport was attacked by the German air force nearby the town of Or and little Sigmund lost his mother during the air raid. Together with his father, he was taken to prison in Oranky and then transferred to a Gulag camp in Akťubinsk in Kazakhstan. On February 21, 1942, he joined the army in Buzuluk as a private. He quickly advanced and in Novopechersk, he was already a signaler and helped with supplying the units. He saw action in the battles for Kiev, Vasil‘kov, Krosno and the operation at the Dukla Pass. He also fought in a number of other battles. Since February 1944, he was a member of an army music band and played at the declaration of the government program of Košice. After the war, he worked as a performer and he currently lives in Prague.