“About the jump from a balloon… two strange things happened. We were about six or seven hundred meters high… the temperature was -30 °C. There were five of us in the gondola, two Russian instructors and three soldiers… to jump. There was the first one, the second one was Ukrainian, some forty years old and the third one that was me. When we reached the altitude of six, seven hundred meters, they shouted: ‘prigotoviťsa!’ to get ready and then the first one jumped. Then they came to the other one. ‘Davaj!’ But he wouldn’t let go… the gondola started to swing… it was cold… a terrible feeling! The instructors came and wanted to throw him over the edge but they couldn’t. When they found that there was nothing they can do, they came to me… and so I jumped. I landed well. Then I saw the Ukrainian. They didn’t make him jump. They had to send him to the Svoboda’s army. Then another strange thing. We were training and we saw one of the soldiers jumping from a plane… The first parachute didn’t open, the second one didn’t open either (that was the reserve parachute). And he hit the ground. They run towards him, the ambulance came… and he survived! He fell into a swamp, so he was injured, unconscious, he had some bones broken, but he survived and later he got a two weeks vacation somewhere in Russia.”
“We had some Yugoslavian prisoners and they begged for some food so I gave them four potatoes. An hour later they called me to the officer… He took out a gun and started shouting insults at me and I thought that he would really shoot me. But I begged him that I had had a clean record so far and that I never did anything subversive or political. He let me go but he said that he was going to keep an eye on me.”
“Later we all moved to the airport at Rzeszov – Jesenka. And from there we flew to Slovakia so support the National Uprising. I personally flew twice. For the first time we didn’t land because the weather was bad, second time we didn’t land because the weather was even worse – we had to return back to Jesenka. Third time we flew, the Russian pilot made a mistake. We were supposed to land at Tri Duby, which was an airport held by the rebels. And there was another airport held by the Germans. And the pilot started landing at the wrong airport. And when we were about one hundred meters above the ground they started shooting! So we had two soldiers dead and some injured. And then we returned to Lvov instead of Rzeszov.”
“In 1943, all the younger soldiers went to the front line to fight the Russians. And I want to stress that it was an awful war, it was the Fascist discipline that our task was to fight at the front line, Tiso offered us to the Fascists for that purpose. And these were the younger soldiers because we weren’t married, we didn’t have any children and they counted on the fact that if we die at the front there would be no orphans left. The discipline was awful, it wasn’t the bullying as people now say… if a soldier was older than you, he didn’t have to be of any higher rank, he could hit you in the face and kick you! It was unbearable… it was the most disgusting discipline. They already knew that we were going to the front line and that was why, they did it on purpose… it was torture! We would have an alarm four times in a single night. You came back, took your gear off and the alarm went off again! And than the kicking and the beating again. After this, a lot of us were looking forward to going to the front line.
“At the headquarters they said that the Russians were far, some sixty kilometers away. It wasn’t true! The Russians attacked us the very next morning! The Germans fought back. It was a mess! We were trapped and we couldn’t go anywhere. It was a flat land without trees. And the Germans came with planes and started a fire, bombs were falling. A lot of soldiers died. We were lucky, they put us to the back and of course we were happy that we survived. We had been so afraid during the battle! Four German tanks were fighting at the place where we had been, and where the Russians were as well. We also belonged to those who wanted to defect to the other side. And if the Germans had found out they would have shot us all right there on the spot.”
The only thing we wanted was to get to the other side
Ludvík Rapan was born in 1921 in Dlhé Pole near Žilina, West Slovakia. At the time of the break of the First Republic, he studied for a locksmith in Eastern Bohemia. After a short stay in Slovakia he was looking for work in Germany and later in Austria. In 1942 he was drafted into the Slovak Army. He was trained as a telegraph operator and sent to the eastern front in 1943. In the same year, he managed to desert into the Soviet Army, where he was kept a prisoner for a short time. Then he was trained a parachute and fought in the 2nd Czechoslovak Parachute Brigade. He fought shortly in the Carpathian Mountains. The brigade did not manage to provide a planned direct support of the Slovak National Uprising due to bad weather conditions. After the failure of the National Uprising he entered the 1st Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron and he operated a machine gun on bomber planes mainly in battles over North Moravia. After the war he left the army and worked as a telegraph operator at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.