SASW Speakers’ Series: The Battle of Dukla Pass – October 24, 2020

The Slovak American Society of Washington, D.C.

“The Battle of Dukla Pass”

by Bill Tarkulich

Saturday, October 24th, 2:00 PM (EST)

By 1944, the Russian and First Czechoslovak armies were moving aggressively across Poland and Ukraine in a broad front, to crush Germany and liberate the subjugated citizens. Although the armies initially planned to completely bypass the Carpathian Mountains as they moved westward, they received word of the SNP (Slovak National Uprising) plans. They planned a quick diversion to support the partisans by entering through Dukla Pass and linking up with them in Banská Bystrica. This controversial “diversion” turned into one of the bloodiest conflagrations in the history of Slovakia. But things went wrong. Very wrong. The six days it should have taken to get to Prešov turned into 50 days to get to Svidník alone, and over 138,000 casualties.

This presentation provides a broad overview of the events that precipitated the attack, the battle itself, and its impact on the future of the country’s villages and people. The battle involved 1,350 tanks and 139,000 casualties, earning the site the name “The Valley of Death.” Yet here in the United States, it remains one of the least-known battles of the war.

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Bill Tarkulich is the grandson of Carpatho-Rusyn grandparents from the villages of Nová Sedlica and Zboj, in the far northeastern corner of Slovakia, on the borders of Poland and Ukraine. He has traveled throughout Slovakia, visiting and remaining in touch with many of his relatives, from Bratislava to the Ukrainian border. Bill travels throughout the United States, delivering presentations about the history of East Slovakia, and is the author of a website,, that helps people locate their ancestral villages in Slovakia. His current research interests are the daily life of ordinary people in Slovakia during the world wars and under communism. He holds university degrees in Electrical Engineering and Business Administration, and is retired.