Thursday, 24 April 2014

Memorial to Czech legionaries unveiled in Urals

11 October 2012

Moscow/Kungur, Oct 10 (CTK) - A memorial with the names of over 120 fallen Czechoslovak legionaries was unveiled in Kungur in the Urals Wednesday, more than 90 years after their death.

The ceremony was attended by official Czech and Russian delegations as well as locals.

"We owe such an honour to the Czechoslovak legionaries. The 100-year anniversary (of their Siberian anabasis) is approaching, and thus it is most symbolic that we have built this war memorial exactly here and now," Czech deputy defence minister Michael Hrbata, heading the Czech delegation, told CTK.

Kungur is one of northernmost places in the Urals where the legionaries were fighting during their long journey home from Russia.

Hrbata praised the approach of the local authorities to the memorial's construction.

It is shaped as a railway carriage similar to those in which the legionaries spent months during their anabasis.

"We have succeeded in accomplishing everything in a fairly short time and Wednesday's event scored a great success. It was attended by a number of people, even from schools," he said.

On this occasion, Hrbata was also presenting the Czech defence minister's commemorative medals to the veterans from the tank brigade that helped liberate Czechoslovakia in 1945.

A day before, the Czech delegation laid wreaths at the memorial to war victims in the regional office in Perm where a festival of films focused on legionaries was opened. Czech WWII veterans debates historical events with local pupils.

The Defence Ministry plans to restore over 40 memorials to fallen legionaries in Russia in the following years. They were demolished by the Bolsheviks except for the memorials in Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok.

New memorial have already been raised in Buzuluk, Siberia, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Tagil, Chelyabinsk and the most recntly in Kungur and Pugachev.

Moreover, the ministry has prepared the installation of a monument in Samara but the project is opposed by the local authorities. Other monuments are planned in Kazan and at the Polovina railway station in the Irkutsk area.

The Czechoslovak legions were formed in Russia, Italy and France during WWI. Czech and Slovak prisoners of war and those who deserted from the Austrian-Hungarian army joined the legions along with their countrymen living abroad.

Over 130,000 Czechs and Slovaks were fighting in the legions during WWI.

After the war, tens of thousands of them got stuck in Russia where the Czechoslovak Legions also got involved in the Civil War and they actively participated in the fights with the Bolshevik troops. The last legionaries returned home via Siberia and Vladivostok at the end of 1920.

Jindrich Sitta, from the Legionaries' Association, recalls that over 3500 legionaries lie buried in Russian steppes and they should be commemorated.

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