“When we were in the trenches, those comrades-in-arms of mine were all youngsters, they weren’t even eighteen years old, the ones assigned to me. One of them once put their head on me so I said: “What are you doing?” And he said: “I’ll hide my head at least. It’s alright if it tears my legs off. I can live without my legs as long as my head stays on.” So I asked: “Why?” “Because you believe in God and God will save you. The rest of us won’t be saved.” And I said: “No problem. Have faith and you too will be saved. Believe in the Son of God Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved just as I will be. I have faith, I’m not afraid of death, I only ask of the Lord not to cripple me; to take me if he want’s to take me. I know where I’m going – to eternal life.” Those were the kind of problems we had in the frontline.”
“In November 1940 I was forced to enlist. We were told to get a supply of food to last us a fortnight but we weren’t told where we were supposed to serve or where we were going. We always travelled by night and spent the days standing in one train station or another. We had access to boiling water at the stations so we could make ourselves a cup of tea, but my journey ended in Leningrad, today known as St. Petersburg. It was the Military Artillery School. When I arrived we were conscripted, but they tried to make us join the Communist Party. I refused because of my religion. So I wasn’t allowed to study at the Officers’ School but was assigned to be a driver. So I began to train as a driver. Now, in January, there was the compulsory practice of what they used to call “Zakalky” in the Red Army. This meant that we all had to run outdoors with only trousers on for fifteen minutes exercise first thing in the morning. I wasn’t used to exercising in cold weather because I usually did my tailoring in a flat and so I caught a cold, developed a high temperature got pleurisy. They took me to a military hospital in Leningrad. I spent more than two months there. I was discharged from that hospital only in the begining of April. But because I had had pleurisy and they hadn’t extracted liquid from my body, only prescibed medicine (called Salycil), a doctor later discovered that they had ruined my heart, that I had a heart problem, so I was discharged. I received a White Certificate and was discharged in 1941.”
“When it started, a little Jewish girl came running to us. There were hop-fields there and she ran out of one of those fields and said that she had run away and that her mother and father had been taken away by the Germans. She said she was hungry and wet through and could we help her. So we took her home, my wife gave her some dry clothes to wear, she had a bath and we gave her some supper. We told her: “You can spend the nights here but the Germans musn’t see you during the day. Because if the Germans found out that she was staying with us it would be off with our heads. It was brutal. So we made a tunnel for her in the hay in our barn. She stayed in that tunnel during the daytime. We gave her a bucket to use as a potty. And she would come back down to us in the evenings and have something to eat. Untill the Russians came with the front. That way she was saved. I don’t have any futher information about her. She was a very small girl, not even ten years old. We knew her; she came from a Ukranian Village. The Jews used to come to our village sitting on a cart. They’d come to the Czech village to buy a calf or a pig, that sort of business. The little girl always used to sit on the cart. So we knew her, knew who she was, so like this, at least, we helped her.”
“I was wounded on the thirteenth. As I was watching our artillery and the German units I had a pair of binoculars in my hands and there was a loud crack above my head, it tore my arm here, and here, knocked my teeth out, so I reported to the commanding officer that I was no longer watching the operation because I had been hit by splinters from a hand granade. So he said: “Come over to me, put someone else in charge.” There was one private from Subcarpathia slightly older than the rest of them (they were otherwise all young boys), Remeta I think his name was, so I put him in charge and went over to Staff Captain Sedláček. I drew him a plan of where the Germans were positioned and how they were provoking our soldiers. Because they had taken up position in a sort of triangle and every now and then they would come out of one of the corners walk across to another corner, a whole soldier would appear in order to set our machine guns off. As soon as they heard a machine gun they destroyed it at once because they had the entire area covered. Well, I drew him that, the way the Germans were provoking. He said: “Run along this ditch, there’s a first aid room at the end of it, they’ll take care of you there.” So I went along the ditch from which we drew water from at night, washed ourselves in it and filled our water containers with it. “And as I made my way through that ditch to the sick room I saw there was a heap of dead soldiers on the hillside and the water in the ditch was all bloody!” So I said to myself: “Perhaps it happend this morning.” And so I looked into my container thinking I still had clean water, that it had all happened later on. But no, it was red, blood stained water that we had been drinking at night and washing ouselves with. It was dark, so we hadn’t seen it.”
“On the 9th of September 1944 we arrived at the frontline and first thing in the morning, before six o´clock, Commanding Staff Captain František Sedláček gave orders to cross the river. So we crossed the line via the river and came to a road and he drove two hundred meters down the road and came to a forest on a hilltop. And right away they opened fire with machine guns. He immediately turned back and saw there was no defence in front of us; his vehicle was full of bullets, only his tires were untouched so he managed to get back to us and give the order: “Back across the river because defence is not in place.” We were all wet and had just started to wring our trousers to dry them a bit and he goes and gives the order to cross the river back again. It was early morning and there was heavy mist, but then, at about ten o’clock, when the mist began to disperse, Jerry got a good view and a good shooting spot because he was in the forest on the hilltop. There was no defence in front of us so he set tanks and the infantry against us. Then chaos broke out, there was a huge scuffle, hand granades and everything, because our entire army corps of fifteen thousand men with all their supplies were packed into one area. Now when Jerry saw what was going on he opened canon fire, shellfire, brought out the tanks, and all hell broke loose, no one knew what was happening, whether we were being taken prisoners or not. We had no defence and there was such awful chaos everywhere. No one cared about where their unit was any more and whoever could hid where they could. During that week of fighting at Dukla only twelve out of a thousand people survived in our battallion. Everyone was dead or wounded, everything was shattered.”
“So I went home to Mirotín and when I came home, it was on a Sunday, one of my wifes’ friends – her name was Marie Jelínková - came to visit. And by the time she left our flat evening had fallen. The mayor of Mirotín, a certain Němeček, lived across the road from us. Well, I suddenly saw there were soldiers in our garden, all of them with machine guns and barefoot. When they saw me, when Marie opened the door, we went out into the street and were hidden by a shadow. They ran up to us straight away, one of them put a machine gun into my face and said: ‘Ruki věrch, ruki věrch!’ [Hands up, hands up!]. So I said: “What do you want?” I had my hand tied to my neck because I was wounded. So I was told to go with him. We went to Němeček the mayor and when we got there the soldiers’ commander was sitting behind Němeček’s desk. I was confused because there were Russian partisans and there was the Organisation of Ukranian Nationalists. I thought that these were Russian partisans who are against the Ukranian Nationalists. So we were at Němeček’s and the commander sitting behind the table asks me in Ukranian who I think they are. I waited slightly, I hadn’t said anything yet when he answered: ‘We are the UPA!’ That’s the Ukranian Rebel Army. So I said: ‘I’m in unsafe hands, I walked all the way home from the front and now these people here are going to kill me.’ Then someone in a Czech uniform walked into the room. And the commander said: ‘See, even the Czechs are on our side.’ By that time I knew what he was aiming at because he had these shoes on and he took those shoes off and gave them to the bloke who was barefoot. He ordered me to do the same: ‘Shoes off and hand them over!’ I hesitated but my wife nudged me and said: ‘Hand them over and be quiete.’ So I took my shoes off and handed them over, but I was also wearing flannel feetcloth and I said to myself ‘I won’t give him the feetcloth, at least’, so I tucked my feet under like this...Well, go on, put those shoes on, barefoot”.
And as I made my way through that ditch to the sick room I saw there was a load of dead soldiers on that hillside and the water in that ditch was all bloody
Mikuláš Matuševský was born on 8th May 1919 in the village of Korostovo in Volhynia in a region that belonged to Poland between the two World Wars. Due to the difficult social circumstances of his family he did not receive a proper education and instead trained as a tailor. After the region was taken over by the Soviet Union in 1939 as a result of the divison of Poland, Mr. Matuševský was conscripted to the Red Army. As a Christian he refused to join the Communist Party, which is why he could not enrol in the non-commissioned officers‘ school. His poor health (pleurisy and a heart defect) meant that in 1941 he was relieved of military service in the Soviet Army. In December 1941, i.e. at a time when Volhynia had already been occupied by the Germans, Mr. Matuševský married Alžběta, née Nesvatbová, lived in the village of Mirotín and earned his living as a tailor. It was then that he witnessed the oppression of Russian captives and the murder of the Jewish population. He saved the life of a ten year old Jewish girl by hiding her in the hay in his barn until the liberation. After being liberated by the Soviet Army in 1944, Mr. Matuševský enlisted in the Czechoslovak Independent Brigade. He graduated from the non-commissioned officers‘ school with honours and became Chief of Warrant Officers. As part of the Dukla Operation he fought at Machnowka-Wrocanka and at spot height 534, where a great many lives were lost. Within several days Mr. Matuševský was also injured. On regaining health he returned to a reserve regiment where he worked as Chief of Guards, later as Accountant Staff Sergeant. Mikuláš Matuševský saw the end of the War in Martin, after which his unit redeployed to Kroměříž and liberated Prague. Due to, among other things, his unfortunate experiences in Volyně (repeated attacks of the Banderovs), Mr. Matuševský, as a Volhyia Czech, requested repatriation to Czechoslovakia. On being demobilised in 1946, he and his family settled in the Sudetenland on a farm in Sulejovice u Litoměřic. He ran the farm unil 1959, due to his weakened health caused by the War he was forced to retire and live on pension for the disabled.