Memories of World War II in the Czech Lands: Remembering Russian Cowboys

Zdenka Deitchova and her housband Gene, photo:

In this series women recount some of their memories of wartime.

Zdenka Deitchova is a well-known Czech animated film maker. At the end of the Second World War, she was just seventeen. She spent the last weeks of the war in the countryside and here she remembers how village people left for Prague to join the Prague Uprising against the occupying German forces, and how the village changed when the liberating soldiers of the Red Army arrived in the spring of 1945.

My father he was scared that something would happen to me, so I went to South Bohemia, where I spent maybe two weeks. There I found that people from the village were taking whatever they had, you know some hidden pistol or some old guns, and dashing to Prague, because there had been a radio announcement, "Help, please help, Prague is surrounded with the Germans." So everybody from the village went there. And I remember a lot of people - from some young boys and even some older men - they really dashed to Prague, and they used whatever means they could; they took trains, or if somebody had some old farm carts, driven with horses, there were 20 people on the top. Everybody was running to Prague to help to build the barricade.

I went back to Prague a little later, but I remember that in the village where I was with my grandmother, the Russians appeared. And, then when we were in the village and suddenly those Russians came on the horses, of course they went to some houses and whoever had a pig or something, they took it. And they had beautiful horses, and they knew how to ride them... So they were Russian cowboys. And everybody was really very happy that they were seeing this after the war. Later of course, when those Russians started to steal watches... Well, personally, I saw some guy, he was some official - not an ordinary soldier - so he rolled up his sleeve and he had something like ten watches underneath. They had nothing like that before. Can you imagine, and I saw this with my own eyes, they came to the house where there was a normal flush toilet, and they somehow thought this was a source of water, so they went there and washed their faces in the toilet. Because maybe they came from far, far away - who knows from where - because some of them were a little oriental looking. I don't know from where they came, maybe they had nothing there or lived in some kind of teepees, so they grabbed what they could. So the first few days there was a lot of joy, but then when they started to ask the men for their women, the women were hidden somewhere. The Czech men said, "No there are no women," and they hid them in the church. You know, it was really something quite different - after the war, it was like that.