“(Anyway, how come it was possible to leave the Soviet army and join the Czechoslovak one? I imagine this was not easy...) We were transported there, given over, in – what was the name of that place - in Slovakia, there was one Balabán Vasil from Carpathian Ruthenia. But the Russian NKVD wanted to kill all the three of us, for desertion. But we did not run away, we were carried away. Honestly. And there was the Carpathian-Ruthenian NKVD, and this was how he saved us, because they really wanted to treat us as deserters... (So you really escaped?) We escaped, because we did not want to stay there. (And how did the Czechoslovak army receive you?) Normally. (But you were better off there, weren’t you?) Yes, it was better then, they spoke to us... Because there were many of our people, or Czechs who served in Carpathian Ruthenia, so they treated us normally.” (52:22-53:31)
“So my name is Irena Trojanová. I was born May 11th, 1926 in former Carpathian Ruthenia. When the Hungarians and the Germans came, I was thirteen years old. And I am of ten children, but we have never met in my life. (How come?) The war had caused this, that we did not know each other, did not see each other. (And when have you joined the army?) I joined the army on November 18th, I believe, or around this date, I don’t want to go through the documents now, it was November 18th, 1926, and it was in Carpathian Ruthenia, you already have it in your notes, so you will organize it afterwards. (1926, no, you were born in 1926, you said 1944). I was born in 1926. I joined the Red Army. There was a call for volunteers. But volunteers – you know how it is. You will go, and no doubt about it! So I joined the Red Army. At first we, the would-be nurses went through some training for nurses, but it was for a very short time. Simply, we had to learn, because basically we lacked any education.”
“(I wanted to ask about anti-Semitism during the war, have you perceived it, experienced it in any way?) I did not experience it during the war. However, unfortunately I had to face it during a time of freedom, under the communist regime. And they were intelligent people, doctors, and such. So I experienced this from them. They are all dead and gone now. (And how specifically was it expressed?) In different ways, after 1968. Because I come from Carpathian Ruthenia, if you know what it means. (In what ways?) I don’t know, for instance you want to ..., or in other words, you want to be right in something, you know the truth, but you can’t speak it anyway. Because I have been in a situation like this, I’m not generalizing, but for example, when my superior dared to tell me I should realize who I was and where I came from...You know, I was born during the first republic, and when you then meet people like him, who are able to say something like that in your face....do you think you would be happy about something like that? Do you understand?” (71:50-73:48)
“I knew only one of my sisters at home, I met her when I was going to the army. Her name was Irma and she was four years younger. But Julča, Marie, Anka, Justina – one died – they were already gone, went to earn a living to survive... The first republic was a good thing, but in reality, when you had nothing, you needed to move somewhere else to earn some money, at least to buy yourself some clothing. (But a great number of people from Carpathian Ruthenia were running to the Soviet Union, because they believed there would be job opportunities there...) Sure, they went there, I had three of my cousins there. And they had to leave, because the republic was in ruins by then, or almost ruined. And so they had to move elsewhere to live. The cousin I had there left for the Soviet Union in as early as 1938. (And later they were sent to the gulags, and then to the army? Or what happened to them?) They imprisoned them, locked them up .... Because they considered them traitors. This is what I can tell you, I cannot tell you their names. Simply, they were interned. (And do you know what happened to them afterwards? If they perhaps also managed to join the Czechoslovak army?) Yes, the Czechoslovak one, because there were also people of my age. Mostly boys. Or men, who had run away and they were two or thee years older than me. I remember them. They were interned, almost all of them except those who already joined as the Volyně Czechs, after they had been liberated by the Russians. Do you know what I mean? But they joined the Czechoslovak army instead of the Soviet one, for instance, because they had been liberated by the Czechoslovak army and we had been liberated by the Soviet one.” (15:27-17:51)
“We did not ride trains, during the first republic, there were no trains. The republic was being built, no mistake about that. (When you said you followed the front, you mean you walked?) Sure we walked, if someone gave us a ride it was an exception, only if it was very far. Really, bridges were gone, everything torn down and destroyed... And in Poland, in one town or a village, we had nothing to eat for five days. Nothing to feed on. And then they came. We had nothing for five days. And we ate frozen potatoes. And they let us ride on a train, I mean the Russians, the allies. And we rode on a train like cattle, but there was nothing either, so we had to wait for five days to get some food. And we went to the Polish people to beg for bread but they said they did not have anything. We waited, thinking that they would drop something for us to eat from airplanes. But we were told that there was no food at all, that cities were in ruins after the bombing, and planes were God knows where in the skies. So they threw us some smoked goat ribs. And we gnawed on them. Till they gave us bread.”
I cannot tell you anything; I can tell you only this: Do whatever you can, but never desire war!
Irena Trojanová was born May 11th, 1926 in Nižní Remeta in Carpathian Ruthenia. She was of a family of small farmers with ten children, however, she did not even know most of her sisters well, since she was the youngest of them and they left the house at an early age to go to work or serve in other people‘s homes. Her parents were of poor health, and thus Irena left school after completing her fifth grade in order to provide for the family. Other reason for this was that in 1938, Carpathian Ruthenia became occupied by Hungary and the children would have to learn Hungarian and German, which they refused. The family was relatively poor, they grew all their foodstuffs by themselves. In November 1944, Carpathian Ruthenia was liberated by the Soviet army and Irena Trojanová was drafted into this army as a nurse. In January 1945 together with her girl friends she escaped to the Czechoslovak army, where her brother-in-law and a cousin were serving as well. The nurses walked behind the front, took care of the wounded, washed clothing and did whatever was necessary. Their life was difficult and they often suffered from hunger, After the war she stayed in Czechoslovakia. She left the army and completed her studies at a nursing school. She married Vasil Trojan, a Czechoslovak soldier fighting on the eastern front, and they have been living in Prague since that time. She has worked in hospitals, but also in the state police in a prison. Due to her Carpathian-Ruthenia origin, she also experienced negative reactions from Czech people in 1968.