IT IS rare to get to read the firsthand notes of a soldier who fought in World War I, and all the more so if they include his personal impressions. The diary of Jozef Klempa, a Slovak who was drafted at the age of 20 and fought on the Russian front, was discovered and reproduced by his granddaughter, and was recently published as a book called Moje Skúsenosti za Svetovej Vojny (My Experiences During the World War).

The book is valuable as there are hardly any diaries of Slovak soldiers who participated in WWI and who recorded both historical events and their own thoughts and feelings.

When fighting in Halič, in south-eastern Poland, Klempa was captured by Russians and moved from one detention camp to another, thus getting to know a big portion of the country. Finally in 1918, he was able to join the Czechoslovak legions and fight with them, and crossed the whole of Siberia. Two years later he boarded a ship in Vladivostok that brought him to Vancouver, Canada, and from there to the German port of Bremen. He travelled by train back to Slovakia, the TASR newswire wrote.

In his few moments of leisure time during the war and on his long journey home, he took detailed notes. Part of the book (published by Slovart in late May) consists of a 12-page insert that includes photographs and postcards that were included in the original diary. The book also contains maps which illustrate the epic journey of Klempa and his fellow soldiers around the world.