“Suddenly the fire began and we hid in the surrounding Polish houses and barns, wherever we could hide. The shooting went on and they launched flares to light the area up. We didn’t know what was happening. I was hidden in one of the barns with some senior commanders from the Russian legions. They were arguing with one another: ‘Go there to find out what is going on, you can speak Russian!’ But nobody wanted to go. Finally, two young Russian officers went out, one had a white sheet on the rake, the other one was lighting with a candle, to find out if it was a German or Russian attack. Luckily it were the Russians.”
“We were leaving from Odessa to Istanbul on a luxury ship. They said it was built in Belgium and purchased by the Russians early after the outbreak of the war and used for transportation across the Black Sea. We were harboring in Varna but we were not allowed to come to the deck because there were German spies in the harbor.”
“We got off the ship and were staying in a camp, I don’t remember, it was in some park. And I got infected with tuberculosis. In the camp, they told us about a visit from the president Edvard Beneš so we trained for a march in the African uniforms. Then I went to the doctor and they found out that I have tuberculosis.”
“We were replaced by South African units. We handed them the positions and the weapons and it is interesting that three months after we left Tobruk it was captured again. There were about twenty thousand men who were captured.”
“They were also diving to shipwrecks and there was an army supplies shop, the NAFI, with supplies found on the sunken ships. What is interesting that for example once the tide brought a bag of flour to the shore.”
Retired Colonel Ladislav Lehár was born on 25th July 1920 in Rovensko in North Moravia. He finished a grammar school. In 1938 he had to move out of his home town because it was situated in the Sudetenland. He later decided to cross the border to Poland where he joined the Czech and Slovak legion on 21st July 1939. After the German attack on Poland and the retreat to the Soviet Union, the Czechoslovak units were interned in Jarmolińce, Kamieniec Podolski, Oranky and Suzdal. After the release, Ladislav Lehár traveled across the Black Sea, through Istanbul to Palestine where he joined the 11th Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion - East under the command of General Klapálek. He took part in the occupation of Syria, where he was infected with malaria, and the battles at Tobruk. After the reorganization of the units to the 200th anti-aircraft regiment, he defended Beirut and later Tobruk during the so called second Tobruk operation. In 1943, after the end of military operations at the Middle East, he sailed through east Africa to Liverpool with the Mauretania ship. At the ship he was infected with tuberculosis and spent the rest of the war in a sanatorium near London. After the war he worked in a chemical factory in Pardubice. Ladislav Lehár passed away on October, the 1st, 2015.