Lt. Col. Matt Konop of Two Rivers is the central figure in a story of serendipity.
He had already been awarded the Bronze Star for gallantry in action during Germany’s massive surprise offensive known as the Battle of the Bulge, the largest and bloodiest single battle of the war, waged in the dense winter forests of the Ardennes just months earlier.
Now it was May of 1945, and Konop’s fluency in Czech (the native tongue of his family) gets him another dangerous assignment: command the advance party of the 2nd Infantry Division’s liberation of southern Czechoslovakia.
Konop and his men are 200 miles behind enemy lines when he makes a stealthy entry into the tiny city of Klenci, finds a secret meeting of the resistance, and informs the group in their own language that his division is coming to free their country. Two days later, he enters his ancestral home of Domazlice, where word has quickly spread that “one of our own” has returned to free the people from six years of occupation by Nazi Germany. He is celebrated as a hero and hoisted upon the shoulders of the townspeople. That image was captured in a photograph, and reproduced upon a plaque that bears Konop’s name and is mounted in the main square of Domažlice.
Konop was made an honorary citizen and would visit the city two more times before his death in 1983.
In recent years, the two cities have traded citizen delegations, and officially confirmed their Sister City relationship in 2017. For the first time, students from TRHS made the trek to Domazlice in November. The eight stayed with host families and attended school. Hear them recount this trip of a lifetime at the Lester Public Library 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28.