Sylvie lives with Milan. Milan is from the Czech Republic and this story is about his family, who lived in Ostrava during the Second World War. It tells of some of the terrible things that happened on the Eastern Front of the Second World War, where Nazi Germany fought an incredibly brutal war against the Soviet Union. You can see that Ostrava is close to the border with Poland and you may notice that events similar to some of those in this history are recounted in The Silver Sword (which, as you know, is based on a true story)
It is the end of April, 1945 and Czechoslovakia has been taken over by the Nazis. The front line is moving back and forth, meaning the house is fluctuating between being in Nazi territory and Russian territory.
During this period the family of 6 is forced to hide and live in their low ceiling cellar, whilst the fight for the town raged. Milan’s great grandparents, grandparents and their 2 children, (Milan’s aunties – Milan’s mum was born only after the war), spent around 3 weeks in hiding.
One day the Russians came and asked for food, so the family killed a few of the chickens they had left, and in return for their kindness, they were given a wooden clock, which hangs on the wall in the same house to this day.
A few days later the Nazis came and demanded food, so the family were required to cook for them the last chickens, in order to keep themselves safe.
The fight intensified, and the Germans dug in. The Russians decided to use heavy weapons and demolish many houses in the area, including Milan’s family home (pictured below), to make pushing the Germans back easier.
Many families were hiding in the cellars of their homes and so they begged the Russian soldiers to change their strategy and take their homes out of their plan. After some difficulties Czechoslovakian people succeeded and Russians avoided demolishing the houses. However most of the houses were left damaged to some extent; Milan’s family home (pictured below) was partially burned down as a result of a Russian shell.
On the 30th of April the fight over Ostrava ended, thanks to the Russian army.
After the war, Milan’s family rebuilt the house. However, when Milan was growing up there, he could still see the scars of war; a few holes in the floor from stray bullets and shrapnel; smoke damage to pictures on the walls.