By: Annlinh Alcid
During the Japanese invasion during the second World War, Czech defense volunteers were recognized to have taken part. The last of them alive turned 97 last May 15.
Karel Aster is the last living survivor among his group and in recognition of his honorable combat service in the Philippines by order of the Secretary of National Defense, he was awarded the Medal of Victory and Medal of Defense. A year before, he was also given recognition of the Gratias Agit Award, the highest civilian award acknowledging prominent personalities in their contribution to the benefit of society.
“Karel Aster’s motivation to join the army immediately after the Philippines was bombed in order to stop the advancing armies was formidable.” said Jan Vytopil, Deputy Head of Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila.
Aster recalls his experience being part of the US Army Service in Manila wherein 7 other Czech volunteers died tragically either in the Bataan Death March or by the Japanese Captivity. “The conditions were so terrible it is hard for me to describe them. We no longer behaved as human beings and the only thing that helped us survive was one’s instinct for self-preservation. It shows the human can endure more than most animals.” he wrote in his letter to his parents.
In memory of the Czechs that volunteered on our wartime activities, a special memorial at the Capas National Shrine located in Tarlac is preserved. “Every year, it is the honor of every Czech Ambassador to pay his tribute to these courageous compatriots, whose names stand alongside their Filipino and American brothers-in-arms,” Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Jaroslav Olša, jr. noted.