Michal Izaj

* 1921  †︎ 2013

  • “All of us began eating. The Soviet border guards sat down on logs, lit cigarettes and smoked, and they began questioning us. We told them we wanted to join the army, join the Czechoslovak legions, which were being formed somewhere near Krakov. Well, charasho, fine. And, when we went out and walked a few steps, they told us to take everything out from our pockets. When I think of it today, it was strange: they should have searched us in the first place already while we were in that cottage. I had a nice pocket knife and I had to throw it away. (...) They didn’t search us. (...) They led us to a house, there were guards, and they unlocked the door and as we looked around there were many men standing by the walls. All of them from Carpathian Ruthenia, aged thirty to fifty. We asked them how long they had been there. ´We don’t know anything, nobody tells us anything, nobody asks us anything, they are handing us food through the window´.”

  • “They bathed us, let us change clothes, they gave us new clean clothes and boots. They dressed us sufficiently. The worst part was when they transported us to Siberia in a cargo train. It was in February or March. The journey there took some two weeks. I don’t remember it exactly, but for us it was like an eternity. (…) When the train made a stop, we had a bucket for defecation. Inside we had a cast-iron stove and a bucket of coal, which was for twenty-four hours--that was ridiculous. We could have frozen to death. Some did freeze to death on the train. They took us to Kozhva, which was a 'peresiločnyj punkt,' an assembly camp where they decided who would be sent where. We lived under tent canvases there. (…) It was high up in the north on the Pechora River.”

  • “I handed them two more cartridges and I ran to the yard to bring more. There was my friend from the second group, and before we parted he told me to reach into his pocket for sugar. I took it, and ate it, of course. (…) All of a sudden there were shots fired right into that cannon, and the cannon was smashed to pieces. The head of one of the shooters or loaders lied ten metres away, as if you cut it. That was the second case that happened there. (…) We went to search the kolchoz, because Germans were supposed to be there. So, we went to look there. (…) There was a guy from the second group and he says: ´I know where it is, I will lead you there.´ But, we had white camouflage uniforms and he was just in his uniform. A young boy, he could be sixteen or seventeen. When we approached the settlement, he says: ´It should be here.´ (...) Suddenly, a shot was fired, he screamed and dropped to the ground, and we fell over him. He didn’t say a word, the sniper probably hit him right into his heart.”

  • “´You can see the president with his wife there. Your task will be to guard him inside the building. I will give you more details afterwards. (…) There are old policemen there, they will be on duty with you.´(…) Only Roman and I came from the army, and only the two us were allowed to watch the door of president’s bedroom. The others were on duty elsewhere and they guarded him during the day. All the time while he was in Košice, we were taking turns in front of his bedroom door. One group was guarding the castle, another was accompanying him. (…) We were there when the Košice government program was being formed. When they discussed Slovakia, and the plans on what will be built there in order to make the living standards even, I was waiting for what they would say about Carpathian Ruthenia. Not a single word was spoken about the region. It had probably been discussed before, that it would end badly, that the Russians would take it. The president’s secretary came, and he told us: 'Boys, I don’t need to tell you; I’d rather packed my bag and returned to where I had come from´. He probably meant England. 'We will probably lose Carpathian Ruthenia.´ We were shocked by that.”

  • “When I talk to young people, I always stress education. I, my life, I have learnt what education means. All the time, everywhere, be it in the War, in the camps in Siberia, in the army, or here in the National Security Corps; everywhere I saw that those who were educated were doing better. I advise to everybody: get an education. As for the politics, I tried not to talk about it, because I didn’t like it to meddle with it, otherwise somebody might just outsmart me or beat me.”

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    Kněževes u Rakovníka, 11.02.2010

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I guarded the door of the President’s bedroom

Michal Izaj in 1945
Michal Izaj in 1945
zdroj: archív pamětníka

 War veteran Michal Izaj, born December 12, 1921, is of Rusyn descent, and he comes from the Transcarpathian village of Kričevo. Since Izaj is a very common surname among the Rusyns, within his community he is known as Michal Izaj Kričevský. He comes from a poor family, and had to work since he was a little boy. Before he turned eighteen, he had tried all kinds of jobs. In 1939, Michal attempted to escape to the Soviet Union for the first time, but he was caught and sent back. He was successful a year later. From the Spring of 1941 through January of 1943, Michal interned in a gulag on the Pechora River. He joined the army in Buzuluk, and he experienced his first combat situation near Kiev. For a brief time, Michal was deployed in the rear near Medzilaborce. He was wounded during the advance onto Dukla, and following his injury, he didn‘t take part in combat anymore. For a short time, Michal also served as a bodyguard to president Edvard Beneš during his stay in Košice. After the War, Michal joined the National Security Corps. Then, in the 1960s, he retired and began receiving a disability pension. In the early 1950s, he settled in Kněževes in the Rakovník region. Michal Izaj passed away on May 28th, 2013.