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Josef Buršík (born September 11, 1911 in Postřekov, died June 30, 2002 in Northampton) was a Czech resistance fighter, general, dissident, and political prisoner. During World War II, while fighting with the First Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion (1. československý samostatný polní prapor), later reorganized as the First Czechoslovak Independent Brigade (1. československá samostatná brigáda) he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

After the war Buršík was persecuted by the communist authorities in Czechoslovakia. He was imprisoned and stripped of all his wartime decorations, except for the Hero of the Soviet Union award. Buršík managed to escape and made his way to the west. He lived first in West Germany, then the United Kingdom. He was active in organizations working to help Czech and Slovak refugees. He published his memoirs "No pity for victims" (Nelituj oběti) in the 1950s.

After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 Buršík returned his Hero of the Soviet Union medal.

Despite ongoing health problems he lived until the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Republic) and was officially "rehabilitated" and promoted to the rank of Major General in the Czech Army. He was also awarded the Order of the White Lion and the Milan Rastislav Stefanik Order.

He died in Northampton, England and was buried with full military honors.

Biography[]

Buršík was born in Stare Postřekov in the Chodsko region in Bohemia, at the time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the interwar period he became an officer in the Czechoslovak Army.

World War II[]

After the Munich Agreement, the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the establishment of the Nazi client state, the Slovak Republic, about four thousand Czech and Slovak soldiers and officers left their countries and went into exile in Poland. In April 1939, in cooperation with Polish authorities, they formed the "Czechoslovak Foreign Group", later in the year transformed into the Czech and Slovak Legion.[1] Josef Buršík joined the legion while it was being organized in Bronowice Małe (presently part of Kraków)[2]

During the Nazi invasion of Poland the Czech and Slovak Legion fought alongside the Poles against the Germans. Buršík took part in defense of Tarnopol (today Tarnopil, Ukraine). The Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17 in fulfillment of Stalin's agreement with Hitler (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). Buršík and his unit were captured and imprisoned by the Soviets.[2]

In 1942 Buršík joined the Soviet organized First Czechoslovak Independent Field Battalion, under the command of Ludvik Svoboda. He started with a rank of corporal and was promoted to Warrant Officer. The battalion first saw combat in the Battle of Sokolovo in March, 1943, and Buršík was wounded during the fighting.[2] During the Battle of Kiev Buršík was one of the first to make it to the center of the city, for which he was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union in December 1943. The Czechoslovak battalion continued fighting on the Eastern Front until the end of the war. Buršík finished the war with the rank of captain.[2]

After the war[]

In Czechoslovakia, after recovering from tuberculosis, Buršík was given command of a tank brigade based in Ostrava. In 1949 he left the Czechoslovak Army. Shortly afterwards he was arrested for his anti-communist views and charged with treason. He was sentenced to ten years in prison, with an extra five added after he tried to appeal the verdict. He was also stripped of all his military decorations except for the Hero of the Soviet Union medal.

Because of his bad health Buršík was transferred to a hospital in Olomouc from which managed to escape and make his way across the border to Bavaria. He lived in the Federal Republic of Germany until 1955 and subsequently moved to England.[2]

References[]


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