Václav Djačuk

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1920. Arrested entering the USSR in July 1940. Sentenced to three years in the Gulag in Kolyma. Released in 1943.

Vasil Djačuk was born on 10 September 1920 in Rachov in Carpathian Ruthenia (the easternmost territory of Czechoslovakia, it fell to the USSR after 1945). His father was a rafter who also ran a smallholding with his wife. After finishing elementary school he studied at an agricultural school for a year before leaving for a job as a forestry worker in the Rachov area.

In March 1939 Carpathian Ruthenia was invaded by Hungary. To avoid being drafted into the Hungarian Army, Vasil Djačuk and a friend left in July 1940 for former Polish territory that had been occupied by the Soviet Union since September 1939. They were arrested near the border and spent several months in prisons in Nadvirna, Stanislav (today Ivano-Frankivsk) and Starobilsk. Like the majority of refugees from Carpathian Ruthenia, Djačuk and his friend were sentenced to three years forced labour in Soviet labour camps for illegally crossing the border.

In June 1941 the pair were transported from Starobilsk across the entire USSR to Vladivostok, from where they continued by steamboat to the notorious Kolyma in north-eastern Siberia. At the region’s remote labour camp complexes the prisoners worked in very harsh living conditions in gold and coal mines. Vasil Djačuk first worked on the construction of an airport at a nearby large transit camp in Magadan.

Related panoramic tour: infirmary

From there he was taken after some to time to an area of gold deposits in the valley of the river Kolyma – specifically to a camp named Udarnik. One day, however, he was so exhausted from the backbreaking work that he attempted self-mutilation. Thanks to an injury to his hand he received a month’s respite from the toughest work. Afterwards, however, he again had to fulfil set quotas, which he was incapable of due to his crippled hand. In the end he got lucky – a worker from a local kolkhoz received permission to select a number of prisoners from among the sick as help and Vasil Djačuk found himself among the fortunate 50 who could look forward to lighter work at the kolkhoz.

In the winter of 1942 the prisoners working at the kolkhoz were informed that Czechoslovak citizens would be released if they signed up to the Czechoslovak military unit in the USSR being established in Buzuluk. Vasil Djačuk was definitively freed on 27 March 1943 and after a perilous journey reached Buzuluk at the start of August that year.

After successfully undergoing training at a flying school in Vyazniki he was placed in the 1st Czechoslovak Combat Aviation Regiment, as a member of which he took part in operations in Ostrava during the liberation of Czechoslovakia.

Related panoramic tour: prison building

Following the war Vasil Djačuk became a test pilot at the military aerospace and testing institute in Prague’s Letňany. However, he was dismissed from the army without explanation in 1949 and from then on only allowed to take unskilled work. After 1989 he was rehabilitated and had his military rank reinstated. In October 2011 he received the Order of the White Lion from the Czech president.

Other videos

Related panoramic tour: gatehouse and gate


Return to original orientation of tablet, or