Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Hilda Veselá

* 1924  †︎ 2010

  • “After a year I was to report to the military headquarters in Derbent in Dagestan and I was offered the position of the head nurse there. I needed to pass and exam for that, which I did with excellent marks, I was promoted to the officers´ rank and sent to work in the military ambulance train n. 336. We were collecting the wounded from the front and depending on the seriousness of their injuries we would transport them to different cities in the Northern Caucasus. We performed the most urgent surgeries directly in the wagons. There was always one nurse assigned to one wagon; there were many wounded soldiers lying there. In summer it was the worst. There were flies and worms. It was something terrible. White worms would be crawling out of the soldiers´ plasters. The moment when I experienced the greatest fear was during a German air raid. There was no place to hide. In Ukraine, you could at least hide in a wheat field, but in the Caucasus there were bare plains, you could not hide anywhere. They did not care, the German airplanes were flying low and bombing us, the first two wagons were on fire, soldiers who were not so seriously injured tried to run away from the train, the nurses could not leave the wounded, to show that somebody was watching over them, but the reality was different. The Germans paid no attention to international conventions, to the Red Cross. They simply did not care about it. In Krosno we were preparing for fighting at Dukla. As a nurse, I had my own surgery; I also went through the Dukla Pass where I treated our injured soldiers, and I myself participated in combat at Dukla. Then I took part in fighting for Prešov, then for Poprad. In Poprad I worked in air force barracks, I had my consulting room there, and afterwards I was transferred to the infantry barracks. Then I participated in the liberation of the High Tatra mountains, also as a nurse. I had a consulting room in the commandant’s house in Matláry in the High Tatras. One day President Beneš arrived there; there was a muster of all soldiers, and the commandant tells me: ´You will make a report to President Beneš, you are the best and with the highest rank here.´ I answered. ´But I cannot even speak Czech.´ And he told me: ´You will speak in Russian.´ So I reported to President Beneš. And I was given a watch as a remembrance present. So this was the first time I saw President Beneš and spoke to him. It was in 1945.”

  • I remember my first patients as if it were yesterday. There were around 200 soldiers who had not been properly vaccinated. They suffered from high fevers and large festering phlegmons which required excision. Since I was in the surgery by myself, I asked my future husband to hold the receptacle for me so that I could treat these soldiers. I used my scalpel to make about two centimeters long incision and removed the bacteria. My husband fainted immediately; he was unable to look at it. But I eventually managed to save some of these soldiers, in the morning their fever diminished. I sent the others to the hospital in Sambor. Later in Hodonín and Slaný I met the officers whose lives I had saved, and they recognized me, and I was awarded a medal for valor, for having done the work that doctors do, although I was no doctor.

  • “I took part in combat, in large and small operations; I was wounded only once. I was wounded near Bílá Cerkev. After an explosion I became injured by falling debris. My body was no hurt, but I suffered damage to my eyes, ears and mouth. I could not hear, see and speak. I was treated in Georgia for, and later in Machačkavo. But even today I’m still deaf on one ear, I cannot see, my retina was broken, they had to stitch it up. I cannot read anything, I don’t recognize people. I had serious diseases, malaria and dysentery. The sanitation, microbes, lice and similar... When we came to the mountains, to the bunkers, it was far from ideal, it was something terrible. How you wanted to be able to take a bath, to get rid of lice, to take off that clothing... And the various female complaints I had... At least, luckily, while I was there I there were enough medicines available.”

  • “When I was leaving, I had no idea what war was about or what we would do in the army. My mother ran out of the house just after I left, and I told her: ´Mom, I will be back soon. You will see, I will come back.´ I have never seen her again. I have lost all my family during the war. My father joined the partisans and never came back. My mother was bringing food and clothing to the White Carpathian Mountains, but the Germans caught her and tortured her to tell the where the partisans were hiding, She would not disclose anything, and so they killed my siblings right in front of her eyes. Then they tortured my mother to death.”

  • I was received by general Píka. General Píka was an immensely good and nice man. He spoke Russian perfectly. He immediately asked me whether I was not hungry. A woman in beautiful elegant uniform came in and brought me some lunch. Then he turned to me and asked me: ´Why didn’t you finish it? You were hungry indeed.´ I said: ´I have fever.´ I had had tropical malaria when I was in Derbent near Machačkovo. I nearly died, they were giving me quinine. So he called Dr. Vrbenský, the head doctor, he examined me and I spent ten days in the hospital. Dr. Vrbenský was coming twice a day to check how I was doing and administering me injections. General Píka was so nice to me. After I had been released from the hospital, he gave me instructions where I should report to the Czechoslovak unit in Sagadura in Romania. As I was leaving from there, I thought: ´He truly is an excellent man.´

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    Hodonín, 16.08.2004

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I remember my first patients as if it were yesterday They were soldiers with large festering phlegmona

Hilda Veselá, lieutenant colonel in retirement, was born July 24th 1924 in Kosovo, which had been in Poland then. She studied a nursing school for two years, and in 1941 she volunteered to join the Red Army. The Germans killed three of her brothers and tortured her mother to death for bringing food and clothing to partisans in the mountains. In the army Hilda Veselá worked as a nurse, but her knowledge was equal to that of a doctor, although she was not a physician. She took part in the operations in Azerbaijan (Baku) and Dagestan (Derbent), from where she later got as a head nurse to the Northern Caucasus to serve in an ambulance train which was transporting wounded soldiers. In 1944 she was transferred from the Red Army to the Czechoslovak one. She met general Žukov and general Píka, who secured a malaria treatment for her. As a nurse she also experienced fighting in the Dukla Pass and the liberation of the High Tatra mountains, where she reported in Russian to President Beneš. During the war she suffered an injury which caused damage to her eyesight and hearing.