“We wanted to go back to Czechoslovakia as things were getting heated up there. In between the wars, the Poles behaved quite decently to us but as soon as Hitler occupied Moravia and Bohemia it took a turn for the worse. Posters started to appear in the streets saying ‘Away with the Czechs, away with the Jews’. This was bad enough but the worst were the Ukrainians. They were extremely xenophobic. They said they wanted to have the Ukraine as clear as a glass of Vodka. They didn’t want any Poles, Jews, Czechs, Russians, no one.”
“It was eleven o’clock, May 8, 1945. I went to bed and suddenly, there was this loud bang. I woke up, grabbed my machine gun and got outside the house. The sky was burning, rockets everywhere. It was an astonishing sight. O course that I fired my machine gun into the sky as well. There were rumors circulating at that time already, that Hitler would sign the capitulation. But we didn’T know yet that he was already dead. I have no idea where the soldiers got that firework. The commanders had signal rockets of various colors. Some of them even had a little parachute to it. We were all very lucky that the war was finally over.”
“Our neighbors’ kid, Andrej Douhopoluk, was in the militia. But he didn’t survive for long after the arrival of the Russians. When Boratín was liberated, he threw his rifle and the Ukrainian national militia uniform into the well and was hiding in his house. His former friends from the Ukrainian nationalist militia slaughtered him, his sister-in-law and his mother-in-law. The only one to stay alive was his wife that was hiding at the neighbors’ house. Then they also killed his two sisters. All these murders were committed in a rather sadistic manner. They cut away their breasts, cut out their tongues, etc. That’s what my mom told me. It happened the day after we enrolled into the army. More than fifty men from Boratín left the village to join the army. In the village stayed only women, children and the old.”
“It was mess, total chaos. We, the signalmen, had not much to do at that point and so we were helping the others to carry boxes with ammunition. I was just about to pick up another box and put it on my shoulder. Tuháček, a barber from Luck, was a couple of meters in front of me. All of a sudden, he was blown to pieces, torn apart. At first, I had no idea what happened. I thought that he must have dropped the box with the mortar shells. But then I took a second look and saw that the box is in one piece and burning. There was a doghouse right next to the place where he had stood. It was shattered and the dog was smashed as well. Then I realized what had happened: a shrapnel hit him and tore him to shreds. The explosion blew me away, I ended up underneath the car, but I was unhurt. A friend of mine that stood on the roof of the car before the blast was blown off it, but also wasn’t harmed. It was the first shell that hit us and it was just the beginning. A true inferno unleashed shortly afterwards. The Germans were shelling us from all sides and we had nowhere to hide. They had an excellent aim and we were forced to retreat. We had to load our mortars back into the trucks and slowly back up – under this hellish cross-fire.”
“Sixteen of the wealthiest families from Boratín were declared to be Kulaks and were supposed to be exiled to Siberia. They were supposed to walk the 3000 miles on foot! The mayor, Bedřich Švejnar, had already prepared the lists. He was a great mayor. He knew how to get along with the Germans and the Soviets. He did a lot for Boratín.”
“The ‘Jaslo-Dukla’ operation was prepared and laid out very well. It began on January 15, and on that first day of battle, I was stationed on the lookout post. I observed the surrounding landscape; it was covered with beautiful white snow. Then the first blast came, I remember it as if it was yesterday. Black spots started to appear on that white blanket. The artillery fire lasted for three hours. It was 500 cannons per one mile of battle line! It was really amazing. When I later climbed down from that observation tower, I saw piles of boxes and ammunition, horses, cannons, mortars… there was so much of it. I was surprised because I walked past that place every morning and every evening and there was nothing. It remains a mystery to my till today how they could have hidden such vast amounts of war material there. But the artillery operation was indeed brilliant.”
“The sky was burning – it was from the firework. It was an astonishing sight. Finally the war was over!”
Jiří Opočenský was born on March 30, 1926, in Boratín in Polish Volhynia as the second child of Josef Opočenský and Ludmila Opočenská (née Albrechtová). He enrolled in the Czechoslovak army in March 1944 and became a signalman in the second division of the first artillery regiment. He witnessed the battles at Machnówka and Wrocanka, where faulty communication between the military intelligence service and the command resulted in a tragic mistake - our soldiers came into the direct line of fire of the German cannons on a field with no shelters. He participated in some tough fighting in the Battle for the Dukla Pass or in the offensive at Jaslo that took place in January 1945. He saw the end of the war nearby Kroměříž. Then he was reassigned to Žatecko, where the soldiers were supposed to keep order and fight possible insurgencies. He was demobilized in the fall of 1945. After he left the army, he settled on a farm in Horní Řepčice, which he ran till 1950. In the sixties, he studied at the Agricultural College. Then he worked in agriculture, becoming the director of a collectivized farm syndicate. He was a member of the Communist party between the years1951 to 1969. In 1969 he revoked his membership in the party in protest of the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia (he was officially dismissed from the party in 1971). He is a member of the Association of freedom fighters.