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Czechoslovak Women in the Ranks of the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia

Among our women serving in the army in the Second World War, the women partisans in Yugoslavia faced even greater dangers than their sisters elsewhere. Like the women in the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps in the USSR, they worked in the combat zone, and it was there, in the ranks of Tito’s partisans, that more than twenty of them fell or died as a result of their injuries. This figure in itself testifies to their deployment in extreme conditions and their spirit of sacrifice. Not even in the 1st Czechoslovak Corps in the USSR were the casualties among Czechoslovak women so high proportionate to their overall numbers.

Czech and Slovak families had settled on the territory of Yugoslavia from the end of the 18th century, mainly in Slavonia, the Vojvodina, Bačka and the Banát. The highest concentrations of Czechs were in the districts of Daruvar, Pakrac, Grubišno Polje and Garešnice, while Slovaks had settled primarily in the Vojvodina and Slavonia. They had preserved their culture and language through such institutions as the Czech Educational Association (the so-called beseda), Czech houses, the Slovak Foundation, libraries and schools, and published their own journals. When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia fell in 1941, there were approximately 30,000 Czechs and Slovaks living on its territory. Not only men, but also women fought in the front lines.

When the Germans, Hungarians and Italians invaded, resistance groups formed spontaneously and immediately. There were women among the first casualties of the occupation, for example Věra Hynková-Vejvodová who fell in October 1941 in a fight with Italians in Gorsky Kotor. As time went by, resistance groups became larger and better organized. Czechs and Slovaks fought in the ranks of the partisan units, which were eventually arranged into a national, independent military force in May 1943.

At this point what was known as the 1st Czechoslovak Battalion was formed in the village of Cikota, where the 150 members of the battalion included 23 women. In October 1943 the battalion became the Jan Žižka of Trocnov 1st Czechoslovak Brigade, with the Daruvar Region as its operational territory. Most of the girls in the brigade took a medical course and then served as ambulance and medical staff in the battles. In tough mountain conditions they had to undertake long and exhausting marches, get hold of drugs and bandage and care for the wounded in military hospitals, taking them to hiding places and bunkers when danger threatened. Many women and girls also fought with weapons in their hands against the fascist Ustache and Nazis, while others served in signals and reconnaissance. In November 1944 the 14th Slovak Strike Brigade was formed in the Vojvodina, with 92 women in its ranks. A total of roughly 120 Czechoslovak women therefore fought with Tito’s partisans, 24 of whom fell.

The participation of Czech and Slovak women in the Yugoslav resistance was one of the most heroic chapters of Czechoslovak armed resistance abroad. You can find a hall of fame devoted to Czechoslovak partisans in Yugoslavia in the Czech Republic – in the village of Hostěradice in the Znojmo district, where many Czechoslovak families from Yugoslavia resettled after the war.

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