Hello everyone, today is 17th of October and here in Czech Republic it’s a national holiday: “The day of freedom and fight for democracy”. On 15.10.1939, the funeral of a student by the name of Jan Opletal (killed by nazis during a peaceful anti-nazi meeting) turned into a giant anti-nazi demonstration, giving Adolf Hitler an excuse to close all the Czech universities and to arrest teachers and students alike on 17.10.1939, with 9 students executed and 1200 arrested and dragged to concentration camps. It is also the day the so-called Velvet Revolution started in 1989, but given its “velvet nature”, it is the first event that gives this day the importance, not the second. I do believe in remembering the war veterans (what the Czech community does about that you will see next week hopefully), but this article is about the specific group of veterans: the Czech pilots in British service, known for their blue uniforms. The article was written by PhDr. Ladislav Kudrna PhD. and its original name is “The Night Falls over the Men in Blue” (well, it sounds better in Czech). The events, described in this article are one of the reasons I hate communists so fiercely and should never be forgotten by us Czechs (and Slovaks of course). I am sure the members of other nations, that later ended behind the Iron Curtain will understand too. And as for the rest: take the Czech airmen as a warning. The Night Falls over the Men in Blue Part I – Fears of Home One of the first people to leave the occupied Czechoslovakia were the Czechoslovak airmen. It was them, who actively fought the very beginning to the end of the terrible conflict, that was World War 2. As many as 487 of them died in RAF service. For almost six years, they had no news of their loved ones. During their stay in Britain, they had to cope with many issues the activated airment faced. Despite that, the exile government was declaring often that although they regretted the numerous sacrifices of the pilots, without which the freedom of their homeland would not be possible, it is the nation back home that suffers much more. Because of that, many pilots, who spent long time abroad were worried when it came to returning home. An excellent night fighter pilot Josef Hanuš was for example disturbed by the fact that the people at home could accuse the pilots of being “bourgeois”, since they were “safe away” in England, when the nation needed them the most (SS: in slavic languages, specifically Russian – Czech later adopted it, the expression “bourgeois” – while generally meaning the “middle class”, was meant as an insult to those people of non-worker or non-agricultural (‘proletarian’) origin, basically it was a designation of ‘class enemies’ during communism). He wrote: “Our chief-in-command and minister of national defense, General Svoboda, sent his congratulations from Prague to General Janoušek and all the airmen in England for all what they have done and the successes they have achieved in the West. That makes me happy and it is definitely a wise move, since as all the exiles, we are very sensitive, when it comes to returning home, since we don’t know the situation we will be returning to. For six years we have not lived as a part of the nation and without close contact with our families back home. As a result of the experience we have gained under conditions possibly very different from those at home, we have lost the ability to sense the pulse of the nation and all the directions the feelings and thoughts of people back home are taking. We are all aware of the fact that we left as volunteers so that our efforts help to reach the objective that was achieved today. Back then we never have thought that anyone would accuse us of laziness or cowardice in times when we were needed the most back home. Political conditions are another matter. It would be very easy to accuse any of us from being bourgeois. Our lives both here and in France have been quite easy, but I hope noone will forget how many of these lives were lost in combat and how many people were active in our three (SS: in real life four) Squadrons in England in order to keep them alive, how many people were killed, wounded or captured. As for the last category noone can definitely mention easy life and thus it cannot be mentioned for anyone else, who were in danger of being captured during every flight over enemy territory.” Crowds gather to greet the pilots from England: The “we suffered at home, while you led an easy life in England” attitude appeared amongst people in France partially. An excellent fighter pilot, Pierre Closterman, was bitter about it: “The few of us, who survived the previously unheard of efford of four years of war, wanted to return home at any cost, to step on the French soil again, to see their families, to breathe life in the streets of Paris or to sense the calmness of a small French town where we were born… so afterwards everyone returned quickly, confused, desoriented, but not yet bitter. They were buried in the stories about the Resistance, tales of heroic deeds, they heard the same phrases over and over again: ‘Nevermind you, dear folks, you were lucky to have been in London. But here, we suffered. If you only knew what we risked many times! And against all odds we drove the Germans out…’ or ‘You don’t know what it’s like, you can never understand: that guy was shot, that other guy was tortured and that other guy was deported…’ or even ‘What? You are a Flight Lieutenant already? It seems like the promotions and awards were raining in London from the sky!’ The (pilots) couldn’t understand. They did everything what was in their power. They didn’t want flowers, they didn’t want celebrations, they didn’t want rewards, they just wanted to go home, yet they found their homes often in rubble. They thought it best to keep silent, but in their hearts a feeling of grave injustice was gnawing at them. What could have happened to them? They didn’t risk anything, apart from possibly burning alive, from finding death in their Spitfires, to see the earth closing in on them in a mortal dance, while the condemned in the narrow metal coffin of the fighter cabin the canopy of which got stuck counts down the remaining seconds of his life… four, three, two, one… while the others…” The celebrating parade of the Continue reading →

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