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September 08, 2011

Czechoslovakian Air Disaster of 1948

This is Ladislav Trojak, one of the earliest stars of Slovakian ice hockey. He was a brilliant skater and play maker, often setting up linemates Josef Malecek and Oldrich Kucera. They starred together for years with LTC Prague (winning 5 league titles) and the Czechoslovakian national team.

Trojak was part of the national team that won the World Championship in 1947. He also represented Czechoslovakia at the Olympics in 1936 and 1948. (There were no Olympics in 1940 or 1944 due to World War II) He was the first Slovakian player to make the Czechoslovakian national team. When the team won the silver medal at the 1948 Olympics, he became the first Slovakian ever to win an Olympic medal.

In early November 1948 the Czechoslovakian team was going to London for a couple of exhibition games. But the entire team did not fly to London together. Eight players took one flight one day earlier. They were to be followed by another six players who were to leave Paris the next day, among them Trojak. On the morning of November 8th, London was covered in a heavy mist. The first set of players who had arrived the day before waited for their teammates in the hotel, but to no avail.

The Czechoslovaks had a game to play at Wembley later that day, so the eight players left for Wembley thinking that their six teammates would arrive directly to Wembley instead. In the second period the English players showed great sportsmanship and also played the game with only eight players. The Czechs won the game 5-3, but the players were more worried about their teammates.

It was not until late that night that they found out that the small plane had vanished from the radar over the waters of La Manche. There was never a trace found of the plane. It is believed to be resting somewhere at the bottom of La Manche. Also vanishing that night were Trojak's Czech teammates Zdenek Jarkovsky, Miroslav Pokorny, Vilibard Stovik, Zdenek Svarc and Karel Stibor.

The families suffered a tremendous loss but to add salt to their wounds, the secret police started to interrogate them. The secret police accused the players for having staged their own deaths and that they were living somewhere abroad.

Wife Lea Trojakova and her six year old daughter were devastated by the threats, accusations and lies surrounding their dead husband and father. Lea was blocked from taking any jobs and only with the help of some good friends did she eventually get a job as a janitor.

The prosecution of Trojak's teammates continued for years and virtually all the players were sentenced to hard labour, some ranging between 10 to 15 years.

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