THE eastern-Slovak city of Prešov is commemorating the 68th anniversary of its liberation in the Second World War this year, and the city hall, in collaboration with the Club of Military History (KVH Dukla) from Prešov, organised a wreath-laying ceremony on the afternoon of January 18 at the Monument of Liberators and the Monument of Gestapo Victims. The programme began with the re-enactment of the liberation battle. (Prešov was freed on January 19, 1945.)
Daniel Hurai of the KVH Dukla told the TASR newswire that this was actually a fictitious attack, as in reality Prešov was freed without any direct fighting, as the German soldiers retreated. “But we wanted to show what it could have looked like; had the last garrison been delayed at the city hall, it would had to have destroyed the documents and taken away supplies before the arrival of the Red Army,” Hurai explained.
Almost 90 members of military-history clubs from around Slovakia, as well as some Polish ones, participated in the historical battle, complete with sound effects and pyrotechnics. “People had the chance to see a lot of armoured fighting vehicles, arms and uniforms. Armoured combat vehicles were replicas, as it is almost impossible to acquire them in this region, but we also had some period originals,” Hurai said, adding that due to the location of the fights – in the city centre – pyrotechnics were limited.
A crowd spanning several generations watched the battle unfold not only in the streets, but also in the city hall. The last shots fired by the German soldiers – just before they surrendered – came from the mayor’s window.
The next day, on Saturday January 19, the fighting moved to the city of Bardejov, where uniforms of the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps appeared.