Today we continue the amazing story of one Czech as a POW during World War I.  This story comes from the pages of the 1951 edition of the priceless volumes of Amerikán Národní Kalendář!

This story, told by the Czech himself, is an amazing example of what it was like for Czechs who were forced into service by the Austro-Hungarian government to fight in the war.  We know you will enjoy this one!

Our Czech is now a prisoner and is in Russia.  It is quite a story!

Amerikán Národní Kalendář

Year: 1951, Volume: LXXIII, Pages: 117-144

“Old Settlers’ Memories”

Translated from the original Czech by Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce and Layne Pierce

©Onward To Our Past®

“Experiences from the War in 1914. – In Captivity. –The Happy Return”

Reported by Jan Mach, founder of the firm Mach & Son, Importers.

1951 Mach image

             “I was looking for the first occasion to run away and leave the Russian peasant to his work.  I prepared everything that I would need on my road and I started to go towards the west. I went mainly through the fields of grain, so that I would not be seen and after I took a bath in the creek and I strengthened myself with bread I continued.  On my road I arrived in a big town and there I made the acquaintance of an innkeeper who was not Russian but Bulgarian and who advised me and fed me well, and where I also rested after the exhausting time on the road. 

            A train meant deliverance for me.  On the way to the station I made the acquaintance of several countrymen.  These were Czechs, captives who were assigned to service the station, where they were loading and unloading goods.  Everybody with great interest was asking me about my experiences.  I bid them goodbye and I went to buy a ticket to Rostov, however, the cashier called a policeman on me who took me to the office. 

             There they recognized immediately that I am “Austrian.”  They wanted to send me to the main command; however, I asked them to keep me with them; that I could be quite helpful to them, since I was a master barber.   A young man rose from the table and asked me to cut his hair and to shave him.  Even though I was not a barber I had barber tools with me, which I had brought from America and I cut the young man’s hair nicely and shaved him, then everyone from the office came and they asked me to improve their looks.  The mentioned young man returned the ticket to me with the remark not to go to Rostov that I can stay in their town and set up a barbershop, and he even found a store directly on the town square.  Meanwhile the captive countrymen, whose acquaintance I had made at the station, were already afraid that something had happened to me and when I returned they were enthusiastic and they themselves helped me with the outfitting of the barbershop. 

            For small pay they also cooked food for me, and so I was happy.  The business was flourishing for me.  One day someone entered the barbershop.  He had an overgrown beard, was shabby looking, and hungry.  It was Ira.  He fell around my neck and he was crying with happiness.  He told me where he served and what a bad time he had and he was even endangered by a man who promised to shoot him if he didn’t work enough.  He ran away, however, and he went to the little town Kuberle where we found each other.  At the office I registered him as my helper.  Ira was doing everything out of gratitude, and he even learned how to shave and cut hair. 

            The time was passing merrily.  One day we visited other captives at the station who told us that a Czechoslovak Organization was being formed and Ira and I joined it immediately.”

Tomorrow we conclude our story of this amazing Czech!  Will he ever be able to leave Russia and return ‘home’?  Where might ‘home’ be for him?  Would he rather stay with his barbershop in Russia?

Onward To Our Past®



A Genealogical Historian, who is focused on family history and genealogy of the highest quality, but with a dose of fun. Avid about documentation and evidence. Loves helping folks of all levels in their genealogy pursuits, especially in the areas of Bohemia, Czech Republic, Italy, Cornwall, Kent, United Kingdom, U.S. Immigration and Cleveland, Ohio.

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