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dukla pass veteran to be honored in slovakia

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  • krejc@aol.com
    Hello everyone, thought that this was interesting and wanted to share the article found in yesterday s New York Journal News, Westchester Putnam edition.
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 4, 2005
      Hello everyone,
      thought that this was interesting and wanted to share the article found in
      yesterday's New York Journal News, Westchester Putnam edition.

      This is a printer friendly version of an article from the The Journal News.
      To print this article open the file menu and choose Print.

      Veteran honored for Eastern Front battle

      (Original Publication: October 3, 2005)

      Battle of Dukla Pass took heavy casualties

      When: Sept. 8 until the end of October 1944, with further Soviet advances
      continuing through November

      Where: Southern Poland, Slovakia, eastern Ukraine

      Casualties: 84,000 Soviets, 54,000 Germans and 6,000 in the Czechoslovak Army

      Result: Nazi troops forced out of Slovakia; Red Army poised to take Prague in
      May 1945.

      Thursday is "Liberation Day" in the eastern European nation of Slovakia.

      There will be speeches, toasts, proclamations and, for an 84-year-old veteran
      from Eastchester, a particularly sweet moment.

      John (Jan) Kulhan was one of those liberators who helped turn the tide
      against the Third Reich and one of the handful of survivors of a ferocious battle in
      the fall of 1944 that drove the Nazis from his homeland. The Battle of Dukla
      Pass raged for a month between the Nazis and the Soviet Army and their allies
      in the region bordered by Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine known as the Dukla
      Pass, a section of the northern Carpathian mountains.

      Kulhan, 83, a former Bronxville resident and retired engineer, will be
      honored in a semi-official ceremony at the Military Museum in Suidnik, Slovakia, his
      native land. He was a young artillery and transport officer in the old
      Czechoslovak army allied with the Soviets, and he is the last known Slovakian to
      have taken part in a battle that has a complex and enduring legacy in eastern

      "We wanted to create our own country. I was fighting for my own freedom. It
      didn't happen then; communism dominated everything," Kulhan recalled.

      But the fight gave Slovakia a sense of its destiny as an autonomous nation,
      which it finally became in 1993 after separating peacefully from the Czech
      Republic. "When I was fighting, I was fighting for the idea that everybody should
      be free, not a slave," he said.

      His Czechoslovak army unit was pressed into service by the Germans against
      the Soviets after the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia, but the unit later
      switched sides and joined the fight against the German military machine.

      Kulhan can recall the 1944 battle with sharp details as his clear, gray eyes
      narrow with concentration — how German prisoners looked when they finally
      surrendered after a murderous artillery barrage, the sound of a mortar shell on
      its downward arc.

      He tells many stories of his past — how he saved the future president of
      Czechoslovakia, Gen. Ludvik Svoboda, by pushing him out of a bunker that was
      targeted by Nazi artillery moments before it was destroyed, working with American
      intelligence agents after the war, sneaking out of Slovakia with his wife and
      children in a daring border-crossing to Austria.

      "He never got the recognition he deserved," said Kulhan's son-in-law, Joseph
      Kenney, a New Jersey immigration officer and an Army Reserve lieutenant
      colonel. "When he turned against the Communists, they turned against him."

      At the ceremony on Thursday, Kulhan will be honored for the first time by his
      native Slovakia since it became an autonomous country.

      Kulhan came to this country in 1950 and became a proud American, an admirer
      of Ronald Reagan who can quote lines from his speeches. As for his native land,
      he said he hoped his part in the campaign of 1944 will bring greater
      attention to the cause for which he fought.

      "I got enough medals. But I'd like recognition for the people who fought and
      died for Slovakian independence," he said.

      A father of five, he will be joined in his journey by his wife, Marta, to
      whom he has been married for 59 years.

      There are still animosities and political fissures in Slovakia, much of it
      stemming from the World War II era and its aftermath under Soviet domination.

      "People were caught up in the maelstrom, and they had to make hard choices,"
      said Vladimir Baumgarten, a Florida scholar who has researched the battle of
      Dukla Pass and runs a cultural organization promoting Slovak-American ties.
      Speaking of the commemoration of the battle this week in which Kulhan will be
      honored, Baumgarten said, "Hopefully, it will be a healing catharsis. It brings
      together both sides of the Cold War."

      It will also be a moment of family pride. The old soldier's daughter, Darline
      Kulhan, was already bursting with pride before the trip started. "I got a new
      digital camera, and I'm going to take so many pictures," she said in her
      Eastchester home. "He put it on the line for freedom, and to get this recognition,
      it will be a moment of joy."

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Martin Votruba
      Thanks for the post, Noreen. Two improvements : the author places Slovakia in Eastern Europe by mistake (it s in Central Europe), and there s a slight error
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 4, 2005
        Thanks for the post, Noreen. Two "improvements": the author places
        Slovakia in Eastern Europe by mistake (it's in Central Europe), and
        there's a slight error in "Thursday is 'Liberation Day' in Slovakia."
        In what year and from what would Slovakia have been liberated on
        October 6? Liberation Day is a pan-European holiday to commemorate
        the end of World War II -- a national holiday in Slovakia on May 8.

        October 6 is a "commemorative day" (not a day off work) -- Den obeti
        Dukly, the "Day of the Victims of [the Battle of the] Dukla [Pass]."
        That's the day they'll be commemorating in Svidnik (not Suidnik).


        votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
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