Memories of the end of the World War II near the River Ostravice

Memories of the end of the World War II near the River Ostravice

Miroslava Kníchalová

We lived on the border of the then Muglinov and Silesian Ostrava, in the last house on Zahradní Street, which was later renamed Družstevní, on the Ostravice riverbank. Nowadays there is the Retirement Home Kamenec instead

From our street, there are just a former Hotel Balnar and one smaller house left. I remember its owner, Mr Balnar, a little bit. He was an older gentleman and did not really like us, shouting children. My mother told me that his daughter, Adéla, was in a relationship with a student who loved her very much. But her father chose another husband for her, a man who was already well-off. She agreed and broke up with the student. And so, it happened that during a Rag Day celebration in the area of Stará střelnice (Old Shooting Gallery), the boy, driven out of his mind by the unrequited love, shot her and then killed himself. It was a great tragedy, and Mr Balnar grieved for the rest of his life – Adéla was his only child.

I was born at the beginning of the war, and so I have a few vague memories of that time. I still remember how I and my mother were once going home from visiting my father’s parents, and while we were walking on the Bohumínská Street along the houses of the mining colony Kamenec, sirens started wailing, announcing an air raid. Suddenly there was a strange silence, streetlights went out and instead of them, small lights, which were supposed to illuminate bombing targets, began to slowly fall down. We made it home before the first bombs started to fall. People that were returning from the local cinema were not that lucky, and a bomb killed them near the Hotel Balnar.

We were waiting out the raids in the cellar of our house, and I was pretty scared, but my grandma used to tell me to look at our tomcat Bobík sleeping there happily which meant that nothing bad could happen. She told me that animals always sensed coming danger. When the bombings got more frequent by the end of the war, we would go to the shelters that were built in a nearby hill Mundloch. Its corridors were carved in the rock, from which water dripped. We sat on wooden benches, dressed in sweaters and wrapped in blankets; we also had bags with some food. When the doors of the shelter opened on 30 April, and we walked out, we saw soldiers grazing horses in the park across the river. Along the road from Bohumín, a tank was arriving, covered in flowers and with both soldiers and civilians sitting on it. What a happy moment; people were cheering that the war was finally over. When we returned home, we saw that all windows in the street were smashed, and a shock wave also plucked doors off their hinges. People immediately started with makeshift repairs, and so the windows were plugged up with quilts and wooden slats.

Soon we discovered that one bomb fell near our house into the Ostravice and a second one dropped directly in the garden of one of our neighbours, and it had tragic consequences. That neighbour and his family did not go to the shelter, they were hiding in the basement of their house, and his son went out to check whether the raid had ended just at the time when the bomb landed in the garden. The shock wave sent him against the stairs, and he died instantly. What a sad beginning of freedom.

Also, I still remember that the very first night after the liberation, Ostrava was shelled by the Germans over the hill Hladnov, perhaps from Michálkovice. And I still see my mum, standing in darkness by the window; she could not sleep as she was constantly listening to the swishing shots. Then in the morning, she told my grandma how scared she had been, just waiting for a shot to hit us.

The next day, all the houses in our street had to accommodate soldiers of the Red Army. They had cars and various armoured vehicles on the street, and the Hotel Balnar housed the headquarters. After some time, they left our street and moved on.

I remember a journey from Vítkovice where I and my mum were visiting our relatives, just before the end of the war. It was after a big air raid on ironworks; trams didn’t work, and we had to walk. When we got to the street running from blast furnaces towards the Mine Hlubina, we were treading on nothing but glass and debris.

I also remember a bridge near the New City Hall that the Germans managed to destroy during the final fights; it had to be replaced by a wooden footbridge. Neither will I ever forget the makeshift cemetery of soldiers and civilians killed during the liberation of Ostrava. It was in front of the New City Hall, and we would bring flowers to the graves.

In: Almanach Paměť Ostravy, published by the Ostrava City Library, 2016