“We came into town and General Svoboda held a speech to the whole army. He told us that the next day, we would receive artillery fire backup. He said that the artillery fire will soften up the enemy during the night and at dawn, the infantry would finish him off. So we got into action in the morning, crossing the village. When we came to Machnówka village, it was a massacre. There was no commander there. General Svoboda didn’t show up there. We marched and the Germans made space so that our front lines were basically surrounded. I stayed in the village. They were saved there by the Russians. They crawled out of the trenches and said: ‘where are you going? Go to the rear’. So it stopped there. When the mist disappeared, the Germans could see us only too well. When it stopped, a mortar rain ensued. So on that first day of battle, 700 died without a fight. It wasn’t their fault.”
“I think that three people from Bakovec joined the communists and they supported it. The others didn’t want to join and that was the bone of contention. There was a plan to deport the entire population of Bakovec to Siberia. It had all been already put down on paper. My uncle Vladimír Bešta promised a bicycle to one communist for telling him when they were planning to put us on the transport. In this way, we even learned the date. My parents were keeping a big box full of cut bread for the transport. We were really certain that they would deport us to Siberia. It was supposed to take place on a Monday and the Wednesday before it, the German army invaded the country. So they actually saved us from the deportation. Otherwise, we would have been taken to Siberia.”
“Our commander led us underneath the mountain and ordered us to dig in. He said that he’d come for us in the morning and that we’d charge the enemy then. We began to dig but there was just a thin layer of gravel and underneath, there was solid rock. Thus I dug out as much as I could and tried to make a dugout there. But it was very shallow, offering only little protection against mortar and grenade fire. You had to avoid sticking out your head at all cost! At night, it was still okay, but in the morning, when the sun came out, the mortar shells started bursting around us. The enemy could see us from the mountain. We were waiting for the commander to come and take us away but he couldn’t come for us. We had to hold on till the morning, when the mountain was taken. Only then was he able to get to us. The grenades were falling like rain. I got scared because I suddenly had the impression that I was the only one left there. So I raised my head just a little bit from the hole and looked around me. As I was looking, a little grenade explode some twenty centimeters away from my dugout. It basically eliminated my dugout, all the mud and gravel that I had dug on top as protection had disappeared. I thought that that was it. I was all torn up, my legs hurt and I was deaf. I lay there for a while like this and then I heard from the neighboring dugout: ‘they got Ludvík as well’. They thought that grenade hit me directly. Thanks God I survived.”
“At that moment, the mortar fire began and grenades began to riddle the ground around me. I crawled underneath the railway line, hiding in the hollow way. Even before I managed to hide there, one splinter hit me in the leg. It hurt really bad, I thought that it had to be in two pieces. When the fire ceded, I looked at my leg. I had military boots with lacings that went all the way up to the knee. I kept a spoon in the lacings that I would use for lunch. That spoon was bent into a sharp angle. That’s why it hurt so much. Otherwise, I was unhurt, my leg was completely fine.”
The fragment hit the spoon, which bent, but I was unharmed
Jaroslav Ludvík is a Volhynian Czech. He was born on September 4, 1925, in the Czech village of Stromovka nearby the town of Luck in the Volhynian Voivodeship in Poland. When he was two years old, the family moved to the nearby Czech village of Bakovec, where Jaroslav spent most of his childhood. During the war, he witnessed the Soviet as well as the German occupation of the region. In 1944, he voluntarily joined the Czechoslovak corps fighting alongside the Soviet army. In a company of machine gunners, he fought in the harshest battles, including the battle for the Dukla Pass. On September 24, 1944, shortly before he got to the borders of Czechoslovakia, he was severely wounded by a mortar grenade fragment. After recovery, he was reassigned to the rear where he stayed until the end of the war. After demobilization, he moved to Úsov in the Šumperk region, where he privately farmed at his mansion, before he was pressured into joining the local agricultural cooperative. In the cooperative, he later specialized as an animal technician and worked there until his retirement. Today, he lives in Úsov.