It was (Sokolovo) naturally our first combat, there’s always no experience in there. What remained in my memory – we acted rather irresponsibly. We would for instance say: „I won’t be afraid of the German machine-guns.“ We would walk in spots where they were shooting and actually ignore that. No sooner than in some time we started to respond as true soldiers. But there we acted big-headed. We didn’t understand, we had no experience. After having the first dead and injured we managed to understand and learned that at front a soldier needs to act a bit differently than in the rear, during a training. And I can say that we managed quite quickly.
At that time, our signalmen, not to be forgotten, made their mark. Those guys could speak German – they were Jews, mostly, there were lots of them who ran away for racist reasons. And Jews could usually speak German. So one of our signalmen established contact to a German bomber pilot. They would send each other to someplace I cannot remember but they were not very polite to each other. They lead that bomber which was supposed to bomb an only bridge someplace else – as they tricked him at first. That German thought they were his signalmen. And not before he dropped the bombs aside of the bridge did he realize that he was tricked. So then they exchanged such courtesies between him and that radio-man of mine. It is such story for fun but the fact is that it saved the bridge then – there was a single one there.
We were arrested by the Red Army as an „armed horde“. Because we had no uniforms but we had some weapons. Firstly, the Poles gave us some machine-guns and then we bought some rifles from the Polish soldiers. So they called us an „armed horde“ and took us captive for some two or three months. Then they formally changed that to internment, as the Soviet Union was not in war with Germany then. So they concealed our presence there. We were interned at first in Kamenec Podolský in Ukraine, then they drove us around some other camps in the territory of USSR. We counted on leaving Russia for the West. There were such discussions between our government in London and the USSR – all those intelligence services and such. But we simply counted on leaving for the Middle East at first – because 11th battalion already existed there and later eventually for England. The idea of pull-out was also slowly being carried out and from our group which originally consisted of about 800 men, most of them were pulled out to the Middle East and later became the core of Klapálek’s 11. battalion which fought by Tobruk. In the meantime it was decided by our exile government in London and the Soviets that there would be Czechoslovak units in USSR and that some essence would be needed. And that essence was to be made of so-called Oranek group, called after the place we were at the time. Those were 25 officers and some 70 non-commissioned officers who created the essence of the to-be military units.
So we were preparing for that (creation of Czechoslovak units) in the camp already – we had the whole of years 1940 and 1941 for that. And when we later moved to Buzuluk, our stay there had two principal phases – we spent there a year altogether. The first one – about six months until summer 1942 – was such preliminary one. As we needed to prepare everything for the stay – create barracks for instance, build beds, create facilities, accept those people who subsequently arrived. People were often in a poor condition – be it physically or mentally, as they came from much worse camps than we did. So there was such phase when we simply speaking needed to arrange for our very living and get those arriving people in some solid shape. This took about six months – until the summer. In summer, minister of defense arrived and made an arrangement that we would go to the front sooner than was expected. And such second phase begun when we on one hand had enough people to create a battalion, we had troops and organic units already, which could function and work. Then in fall we received weapons and we could start shooting training and such. But until January or February 1943, when we left for the front at last, we didn’t have enough time to prepare our soldiers for front embattling.
Figuratively speaking, we walked all the way from Buzuluk to Prague on foot
Miroslav Šmoldas was born in 23rd of December 1917 in Olomouc. After gratuation from high school, he underwent compulsory military service and after the proclamation of the „Protectorate“ he along with other soldiers left for Poland. As the war broke out, his unit left on foot for Romania, however they were arrested by the Red Army on their way. As a captive, he went through several camps in USSR. Later it was decided for Czechoslovak units in USSR to be created and he got to the city of Buzuluk in early 1942. There he at first worked on creating basic facilities and later on training the arriving soldiers. He fought by Sokolovo, Kiev and in Carpatho-Dukla operation. At Dukla, he was wounded by a splinter into his leg during a German air-raid and thus could not take part in further combat. By request of general Svoboda, he organized the creation of signal-school in Poprad, later, shortly before the end of the war he got to Ministry of Defense. After the war he was chosen for one-year studies at military academy in Moscow. February 1948 meant enclosure of borders and Miroslav Šmoldas was to organize the frontier-guard. At the time of the Prague spring he was appointed general inspector of the army. In the 70‘s he spent five years in a demilitarized zone in Korea. After his return, he worked at Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He died in 27th of May 2003.