Imrich Gablech

Born in Slovak territory in 1915. Fled to Poland in 1939 as a military aviator. Arrested by Soviet soldiers and sentenced to five years in the Gulag for espionage. Interned in the Pechorlag camps. Released in 1941 and sent as an airman to the United Kingdom.

Imrich Gablech was born on 4 November 1915 in Hrachoviště in Slovakia (part of Austro-Hungarian Empire) into the large family of a small farmer. In autumn 1936 he entered basic military service in Piešťany before later studying at aviation and pilot school. As an airman he was later assigned to a field squadron based near Bratislava in Vajnory and subsequently in Žilina.

When the so-called Slovak state was declared and the remainder of Bohemia and Moravia was occupied on 14 March 1939, Imrich Galbrech and other airmen decided to fly away together without permission. After his assignment to the 64th squadron in Piešťany an opportune moment finally presented itself – on 7 June 1939, four planes with an eight-member crew flew without major problems to Poland, specifically to the air base in Dęblin. As Poland was not yet in a state of war the Slovak aviators got work as contract flyers in the Polish Air Force.

The day after the war broke out, on 2 September 1939, German bombers launched a major raid on the Dęblin air base. Imrich Gablech succeeded in escaping at the very last moment. A few days later he and other airmen from Dęblin reached the Polish town of Horodenka near the Romanian border.

However, on 18 September 1939 Horodenka was occupied by Soviet troops and all of the aviators were arrested by the Red Army. After an investigation lasting several days NKVD officers charged Imrich Gablech with espionage, for which he was sentenced in March 1940 to five years forced labour in Soviet correctional labour camps.

Related panoramic tours: dog kennels and disinfection and drying room

Initially he was transported to work in ore mines near the town of Marhanets in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Several weeks later he was sent across the whole of Russia to the basin of the Pechora River, the location of the Pechorlag camps. He was assigned to labour camp no. 19. It was home to around 700 prisoners (the majority Polish) who were constructing a section of a railway between Pechora and Vorkuta.

Related panoramic tour: solitary cell

Following the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in June 1941 he was, like the majority of Polish prisoners, released from the labour camp. By foot and rail the freed prisoners reached Moscow, where they were briefly assigned to a kolkhoz. The transport then travelled on to Arkhangelsk, from where in September 1941 they set off by ship to the UK.

Gablech’s ship reached the shore of Scotland on 13 October 1941. He then travelled to a Polish bomber squadron before moving on to the Czech inspectorate and to the Czechoslovak unit in Wilmslow. Unable to serve as an aviator due to health problems, he spent the remainder of the war as an air traffic controller at the airfield at Coltishall near Norwich.

Following his return to his homeland in early August 1945 he became an air traffic controller at Prague’s Ruzyně airport, before receiving orders to carry out the same function at Havlíčkův Brod. However, like the majority of “westerners” (airmen who had served in Great Britain during the war), he was released from military service in February 1949.

Related panoramic tour: latrine

After several months looking for suitable employment he got a job in factory construction in Havlíčkův Brod, working as an assistant planner and invoice liquidator. However, after a brief arrest and investigation in 1951 he was let go. He then found work at a Havlíčkův Brod file centre as an accountant, before later becoming a file controller. Following a fall-out with management he left that job too and spent the remainder of his working life at an enterprise producing bandaging materials.


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