Mr Kopenec's story

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I came to this world as a boy on 12th August 1922, approximately 2 hours after midday. As a small black-haired nipper with black eyes I was being raised in Kopenec family by my mum Anna, dad František, granny Marie, and grandpa Jan. I wasn’t even two years old when I got a brother - Jaroslav. We were toddling around the house, or on a courtyard and we were acquainting ourselves with all the living things as well as with all the inanimate objects surrounding us. My father worked as a railworker and later as a ticket collector in trains, my mother was a housewife. My dad was often sick and when I was four he suddenly died of heart stroke. They call it heart attack nowadays. My mom could go insane with sadness and she aged quickly. She was 35 years old but looked 70. When we were older she confessed to us that there was a time when she wanted to take us in her arms and jump into deep pool in Blanice river.

We remained alone with our mum. We got used to it. Pre-school years were quickly over and it was time to go to school. Elementary school was in Heřmaň, about 2 kilometres far. To this day I remember that for about first three days we were getting candy just so we would like it there. I liked going to school. I was inquiring and all we learned in school I retold to our mum. I passed the elementary school with two or three Bs at most. I couldn’t draw for much, but I could count. In third grade I received a violin and with two other boys began visiting Mr Slavíček to learn. He was playing organ and we were going to church with him to help him by operating bellows.

After my teacher and Mr headmaster recommended so, mum got me enrolled to Písek grammar school. Many pupils enrolled there so some got transfered to “Reálné” grammar school. I became “a student”. That meant walking two to three kilometres to train station in Heřmaň and from there via Putim to Písek. That was a big life change for me. I had to get up an hour earlier and I was getting back home after 3 p.m. Teachers were called professors and new subjects were adding up; foreign languages, French, history, biology, physics, chemistry, and physical education. I got used to commuting and this school gave me the most for life - mathematics, technical drawing, geography, and biology.

During the time of my studies Germans were occupying a part of Czechoslovakia. One day in the middle of class we heard a curious rumbling of car engines. Mr Professor Konopásek looked out the window and said in a grim voice “This is a fateful moment of our nation” / It was on 15th March 1939. The occupation lasted for 6 years - until 8th May of 1945.

After leaving the grammar school I was ordered by the office in Vodňany to go work to Germany, straight in AEG Kabelwerk in Berlin. There I spent two and a half year, went through several shops and changed several posts starting with associate worker in laboratory and ending with Berlin trains electro-installation repairman.

I was lucky not to get harmed by bombarding, although I recorded over 320 air raids. We got used to that environment. When the city was demolished to the degree where we could not find a food store and only got fed once a day in staff canteen my friend Tomášek from Choceň and I decided to leave. 8th April 1945 we undertook an adventurous journey by passanger train to Praha via Drážďany. We were going by night trains and standing most of the way. I arrived home on 16th April and slept almost three days.

All was alright at home. Mum, grandma, grandpa, and brother all healthy.

The great German empire was crumbling uncontrollably. We were discovering on the way home that not even the borderline guards were working properly. Soldiers were deserting, leaving their weapons in forest, panzerfausts were being thrown into pools along the railroad.

I was happily doing all sorts of things at home. I was chopping wood, going shopping, looking for boys who were returning from Rajch, but I never learned how they got home.

Even in those happy times I almost lost my life. I offered my mum that I would go to Heřmaň by bike to get some bread. When I was arriving to Heřmaň’s hill a bullet swished near my bike. I managed to look for it and saw a few straws being broken at the side of the road. When I realised what was going on I started paddling fast. I heard no gunshot so I was probably shot at by a sniper hidden somewhere in the field not far from the road, because the bullet went almost horizontally along the reflector of my bike. I considered going back, but then I continued quickly and everything ended alright. I had been zigzagging so he couldn’t get a clear shot. Germans were scared terribly of the Russians and did not want to get captured. Therefore, they stole bikes and civilian clothes and then moved to west mostly by night. In my case they were surely going for the bike, but I was saved by the uphill terrain. I had stopped paddling for a second to take a breath and lost momentum which meant I did not cross the bullets path. I could have bled before the end of the war on the field road next to home.

First May was coming and I was astonished how many boys had already been back from Germany. In agreement with a warden a big group of 15-20 people departed to a forest to bring back a large spruce tree. A day before the 1st may the tree was not only brought, but risen as well. It was a beautiful coordination of youth with more experienced elders, a smith, and people who lived on a village square, in a moonlight. In the midnight on 1st May the maypole was standing full with wreath and ribbons to spite Germans. No problem arose from this provocation. The Germans had enough trouble on their own at this point.

Following days were filled with groups of frightened unarmed German soldiers going through the village. They mostly asked where the Russians were. When we told them the truth, they did not know which way to run. Several days after that convoys of Russian cars with young smiling boys of 17-18 years were driving around. After them an occupational army with leaders came and settled in surrounding forests. The village became a station on demarcation line between Russian and American occupational army. A few months later both armies disappeared and there was finally peace.

In that time we recognized character of the soldiers of both armies.

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