Smik Otto, born 20-01-1922 in Caucasus, a Georgian Spa town in Boržomi near Tiflis, the Georgian capital. His father Rudolf Smik was a Slovak, from Tisovec, Rimavska Sobota, who had been a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army in the World War 1, and following his capture was sent to a POW camp in that region. As a POW he worked as a machinist in a factory and later in Tsar´s summer resort of Boržomi. Here he was under the supervision of a Russian officer named Davydov who had a daughter, a Russian Jewess, called Antonia. Following the signing of the Brest-Litevsk Peace treaty, Rudolf lost his POW status and was able to marry Antonia and settled in Boržomi where they had 3 sons, Otto was the middle son and the language used by the family was mainly Russian and Georgian but he also had a knowledge of Hungarian. In 1934, following the resumption of diplomatic relations between Czechoslovakia and Russia, Rudolf returned to Slovakia with his family, Initially they lived with a relative at Hájniky, nr Sliač but later moved to a flat in Bratislava. Here Otto improved his Slovak but he still retained his Russian accent.
From childhood Otto showed a interest in technology and how things worked. He also showed that he was intelligent and enterprising boy who was also diligent, ambitious and knew what he wanted. During this time he was also learning English whilst at the same time kindling his new found interest of aviation – firstly through the construction of flying model aircraft and then moving on to flying gliders. By the time he was 17 he had already achieved 22 hrs of glider flying. During 1937 to 1939 he attended a private business school in Bratislava and was later employed as a clerk in the head office of a power station in Bratislava.
Shortly after Czechoslovakia under Beneš, Edvard was occupied by Adolf Hitler (Did you know) on 15-03-1939 , the Germans declared Slovakia to be a independent state, even though it was controlled by a puppet government lead by Jozef Tiso, who in turn wad controlled by the wishes of Berlin. Hitler stressed out also the military importance of occupation, noting that by occupying Czechoslovakia, Germany gained 2,175 field canons, 469 tanks, 500 anti-aircraft artillery pieces, 43,000 machine guns, 1,090,000 military rifles, 114,000 pistols, about a billion rounds of ammunition and three millions of anti-aircraft grenades. This amount of weaponry would be sufficient to arm about half of the then Wehrmacht Despite many Slovak’s welcoming this new independence it was not welcoming news to some and this was the case in the Smík home.
Otto, now eighteen, made the decision to leave Slovakia and join the fight against Hitler. He left on 18 March 1940 and crossed the border into Hungary as he travelled to the French Consulate in Budapest. Before he reached Budapest he was arrested by the Hungarian authorities and sent to Toloncház prison. After a short detention he was released, supplied with a false passport, and with twelve compatriots set of for Yugoslavia. With the assistance of local ‘people smugglers’ they crossed the border over the Drave river near the town of Terezino Polje and travelled onto Zagreb. Here they joined a larger group of Czechoslovak refugees and traveled via Belgrade, Nis and Sophie on their route to Thessalonika in Greece where they boarded a train to Istanbul, Turkey. From here they travelled by train to Beirut and boarded the ‘SS Mariette Pacha’ which took them to Marseille, their final destination after nearly three months of travel. On 3rd June, Otto enlisted in the Czechoslovak Army and was sent to a Czechoslovak replacement and training unit at Agde, he applied for Air Force service in Czechoslovak Air Force Group. He went to England and joined the RAF 127th Squadron.
Death and burial ground of Smik, Otto.
The 127th Squadron of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) received a command to destroy an important German transport point in Zwolle, a town in the Netherlands. It was 28-11-1944. The squadron, led by 22-year-old Slovak Otto Smik, flew right into German anti-aircraft fire. Smik got it first. Soon after, they shot his Belgian deputy Henry Leon Jean Marie Taymans
, who crashed into a nearby canal.
When the Germans arrived at Smik’s crash site, they were puzzled. Smik carried a fake passport issued in the name of Taymans – to prevent himself from being charged with treason back home – but he looked different than the face in the photo. The Germans thus buried him as an unknown soldier.
Later, Taymans’s fiancée reburied Smik under the name Taymans in Belgium. Only in 1964, when the Netherlanders uncovered the mystery of the second aircraft, was Smik finally buried under his real name at a Canadian military cemetery in Belgium . And in 1994 he flew for the last time – back to his homeland. Smík’s remains were exhumed from Adegem and re-interred, on 12-09-1994, at the Slávičie údolie cemetery at Bratislava, Slovakia. On 19-07-1995, Smík was promoted, in memoriam, to the rank of Major General in the Slovak Air Force.
Smík had flown 371.49 hrs of operational flying involving 263 sorties. He achieved, in the air, the destruction of 8 enemy aircraft, with a further 2 which were shared, 2 probables, 4 damaged and 3 V1 rockets. This level of airborne success has him ranked as being the 5th highest scoring Czechoslovak pilot of World War 2. It must be remembered however, that this success was achieved when combat opportunity with the Luftwaffe was not plentiful. In addition to his airborne success he had considerable success on the ground with the destruction of 2 aircraft, 2 tanks, 6 train engines and 22 military vehicles – an outstanding achievement for any fighter pilot.
Radek Hroch kindly sent me the grave photo’s.
Cemetery location of Smik, Otto.