Pavel Vranský

02.11.2014 | 00:00

How many lives for such a life

Pavel Vranský was born in Lipník nad Bečvou, where his mother’s father was a notary for many years. Pavel’s father Filip Wechsberg was a chemical engineer and mother Ida, her surname at birth Rokotnicová, graduated from mathematical sciences in Vienna. At that time father was enlisted into the Austro-Hungarian army and took part in off ensive in Piave, where he was wounded and went down with malaria. He was transported to the hospital in Vienna, where Pavel’s mother worked as a voluntary nurse and they met there.

They got married in 1920 and Pavel was born on 29th April 1921 and his younger brother Jan on 20th April 1924. Father often changed employment and just as often the family moved too. They lived in Frýdlant nad Ostravicí, from 1927 in Bohumín, in 1933 they moved to Ostrava. Here Pavel with his brother attended the Jewish youth organization Tchelet Lavan and the gymnastics club Makabi. Pavel attended the Reform secondary school, where his further life was infl uenced by telling of two professors – legionnaires. He left the fi fth year and as a fi fteen year old boy became an apprentice at the dairy plant of Krämer brothers in Ostrava-Přívoz. In 1937 he passed the journeymanship examination and entered the Zemská mlékařská a sýrařská škola (National Dairy and Cheese Factory School) in Kroměříž. While he acquainted with workshops, there came to Munich Agreement and the occupation of the remaining part of the country. Father wanted that he and his mother would leave for Poland, but she refused to do it, because she had to look after her father. Thus his father left this country alone and believed that the remaining members of the family would follow him later.
When at the beginning of May 1939 Pavel had arrived in Ostrava, he found out that his friend Otto Hornung crossed secretly the border to Poland, as well as Pavel’s father, and his brother Jan was at the camp, where he was preparing for departure to Palestine. Next day he already sat in the bus to Ostravica. Before the departure he could still see his mother who was standing on the opposite side of the square, from where she waved him discretely. At that time he saw her for the last time. He succeeded in crossing the Poland’s border and got to Krakow, where he obtained information on the refugee centre and about a possibility of joining the forming Czechoslovak unit under the command of Ludvík Svoboda. In Krakow he met his father and friend Otto. From Poland Pavel and father contacted mother on the phone for several times and persuaded her to leave and follow them. But only at the end of 1940 she succeeded in placing her father to the Lieutenant-colonel in retirement Pavel Vranský Jewish old people’s home in Ostrava, but she could not cross the border to Poland, occupied by Nazis. At fi rst she left for Prague and then for Brno, where her father’s brothers Arnošt and Robert with their families lived. From there on 16th November 1941 she was deported to the ghetto in Belorussian Minsk, she did not return from there. Most of the family members ended up in the same way. On 31st March 1942 his uncle Robert was transported to Terezín ghetto and from there to Auschwitz, where he died. His wife, Pavel’s aunt Sofie, was transported to Terezín on 29th March 1942 and from there to Auschwitz on 13th June 1942.
Pavel’s cousin Hana, her husband Kurt, aunt Frederika, cousin Robert, grandmother Klára’s sister, grandmother’s brother, uncle Arnold, aunt Sofie’s sister Elsa and her brother Ludvík, his wife Truda and sons Stefan and Honza met the same fate. At fi rst all of them were sent to Terezín ghetto and from there to the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Piaski and Treblinka or to Minsk or Lodz ghetto. From the large family only three members survived the hell of holocaust.
Pavel and Otto were drafted into the army in Poland and after occupying a part of Poland by the Red Army they were interned in various camps, at fi rst in the town of Kamenec Podolský, from there they continued to Olchovec, Jarmolinec, Oranki and Suzdal. Shortly before aggression against USSR they arrived in Odessa by transport via Moscow, by boat to Istanbul, from there by train in the port of Mersina and further by the Egyptian cargo ship in Haifa. Here they became the soldiers of the 11th Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion – Eastern, under the command of the lieutenant – colonel Karel Klapálek. Here Pavel also met his brother Jan. On 18th March the Infantry Battalion crossed the Suez canal and got to the camp in Agami on the outskirts of Alexandria and was brought to front positions at the Egypt’s border, after that along the Syria’s border and fi nally to besieged Tobruk. After its liberation the soldiers were re-trained to anti-aircraft artillery and Pavel arrived in Beirut as a gun crew. Here a possibility arose for Pavel to join the British Royal Air Force. After eleven weeks of sailing of the ship they berthed at British Glasgow.
In England Pavel met his father, who after occupation of Poland, got to Lithuania, from there on the day of its occupation to Norway and further on a trawler to Britain. Pavel was incorporated into RAF No. 311 Czecho-slovak Bomber Squadron. He did training for an operator and gunner on American four-engined airplanes B-24 Liberator. He was assigned to the crew of captain Rudolf Protiva. Their fi rst fi ghting task was protection of invasion troops on Day D. After that they performed the antisubmarine patrol flights above the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea, after the end of the war they escorted the German submarines, which had surrendered, to British ports. Pavel with all crew returned to Prague in August 1945. Till the beginning of 1946 he continued to fl y between Prague and Britain and in May he left the army and got employment with the Czechoslovak Airlines, where he fl ew on domestic and overseas fl ights until he was dismissed in 1950.
In 1946 he got married and the family increased by twins, daughters of Ida and Líba, and later by another daughter Dáša. In 1953 he got divorced and kept the twins with him. Thanks to knowledge of languages he worked as an interpreter.
As he could not stay in employment, he started working not quite voluntarily in coal mines in Ostrava. After returning to Prague he had various jobs and from 1965 at the Ministry of Transport. And as in Prague Spring he did not hide his support to Alexander Dubček, after Soviet invasion in 1968 he was dismissed again. He got a job at the Psychological Institute of Philosophical Faculty in Prague, where he worked from 1971. Here in 1972 he also met his second wife Anna, who he got married to after one year. Pavel Vranský is a double holder of the Czechoslovak War Cross 1939–1945, a triple holder of the medal “For Galantry in the Face of the Enemy”, a holder of The Badge of Honour for Merits in the Construction of the State, Czechoslovak Medal of Merit, 1st Grade, the Cross of Merit 3rd Grade, Medal of Memory No. 16154 with the labels of GB and ME, Medal of Memory of MoD to the Liberation Anniversary. In addition, he is also a holder of the decoration The Africa Star with the label of 8th Army, The Air Crew Europe Star with the labels of France, Germany and The War Medal 1939–1945, as well as the Polish and Slovak decorations.  

For the Terezín Memorial by Luděk Sládek

Pavel Vranský Parents Ida and Filip Bahamas – crew members of commander R. Protiva Brothers Wechsberg´s – Palestine Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion East, 3rd company On duty in the Near East During training (third row, second from the left) Pavel Vranský (Wechsberg) Mersin, Turkey 1941 Mersa Matruh, building a position In Syria, 1941 With his crew before an
operational fl ight The last Christmas dinner of the 311th squadron of R. A. F., 1944 311th squadron in Prague, 1945 (third from the right)

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