Ing. Arnošt Karas

* 1924  

  • “In 1945 it was the first time I got into a fire-fighting action. It took place on April 30, when all the units failed. Except us, the volunteer firefighters, who remained. We had a truck pump, hoses and tools. We drove it on a four-wheeler like marketmen. The radio building in Šmeralova Street was on fire. We put out the fire. There were Russians already. We went home, as it was a night already. And a Russian called out something. Because I didn't know he was calling at me, I went on. And he shot. He hit me, but because we wore helmets, he hit the helmet. She spun on my head and tore my skin. I was hurt and fell down to the ground. Then I reached the station and walked with my bandaged head. This was the first time my wife said I was shot. That stayed with her all her life, and when she didn't like something, she said I was shot crazy. It was my encounter with a death that had not taken place.”

  • “Another encounter with death was in connection with firefighting. In 1944, there was an air raid on Allied aircraft in Ostrava in August. The bombs went down the track. It started at the National Moravian-Silesian Theater, but at that time it was called differently because it was acted only in German. It started there and ended in Slezská Ostrava on the hill in Hladnov. During the Protectorate we had a wooden house for our congregation at our disposal, so that we had a place to dress. So we were in that house. And now the wave came. That was horrifying. One of us did not believe the house and ran away to hide elsewhere. His pressure wave caught up with him and he died. So it was the first encounter with death. It was enough for any of us to come out of the wooden hut. The lodge then collapsed, but all of us, who were there, actually survived at last.”

  • “That armory stands there until today. There were a number of vehicles labeled 8, 16 and 24 depending on how much water they gave per minute. Sixteen and twenty-four had their tank, which contained about four hundred litres of water, and already had a foamer. So it happened, when the roof of the house in Kunčičky was on fire that we had arrived, but the vehicle 16 sank and became immobile. There was no way to get to the water. We silly firefighters did not know that we had four hundred litres of water and a foamer to really be able to save the house. It was our big mistake. We didn't know the possibilities yet, because by then we had been driving with open cars without water supplies, and we were relying on a water source, whether natural or not.”

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    Ostrava, 05.11.2018

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I survived the war only through luck

Portrait of Arnošt Karas in 1949
Portrait of Arnošt Karas in 1949
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Arnošt Karas was born on 7 January 1924 in Kunčičky near Baška in the Beskydy Mountains. His mother was insane and had to be hospitalized at psychiatry clinic. His father divorced her and married a woman of German nationality. The family moved to Ostrava. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Hitler‘s Germany, Arnost‘s stepmother sympathized with the Nazis. Her son fell as a German army soldier. Arnošt trained as a locksmith and spent the war in Ostrava. He was one of the founders of the local fire brigade. For the first time he got into a fire-fighting action during the liberation of Ostrava in April 1945, when a fire broke out in the building of the local radio. Shortly afterwards he was shot by a Red Army soldier. He graduated in metallurgy at VŠB and worked in a leading position in the coking plant named Victorious February in Ostrava. He joined the Communist Party, but was expelled in 1969 because he expressed his opinion at the party meeting that popular militias ought to be abolished. At work, he was reassigned to a less important position. He spent his whole life working as a volunteer fireman and is considered a legend in this field in Ostrava. At the time of filming in 2018, he was the last living witness to the establishment of a fire brigade in Ostrava.