Love Across the Ocean
Gerard J. Couture, 2nd Infantry Division
It was May 1945 and the people of Zatisi, Czechoslovakia, were waiting for the Americans. They had endured seven years of occupation. Věra Adamcová was there when the dawn brought the roar of tanks. It sounded as does a far-off thunderstorm on a summer night. As Věra wrote many years later in her memoirs, she was: “alive, young, and the world was beautiful… The young soldiers streaming by were not much older than I was. They were smiling and happy that they had arrived at their destination and for them, at least the war ended as it did for all the people milling in the streets. The city was awakening from its prolonged stupor. Gaiety was not only visible but audible. Cafes were crowded. Dance halls were again resounding with the tilting tunes of polka and the brash rhythm of modern jazz.”
Gerry Couture had hit the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, fought through the Ardennes, crossed the Rhine, and rolled with Gen. George S. Patton´s Third Army into western Czechoslovakia, in order to liberate it from the Nazis. Gerry was among the soldiers who had streamed into Pilsen. One morning, while he and some buddies were out walking, observing the landscape – cratered and strewn with debris from the destruction of the Škoda factory only ten days earlier, Couture cut his hand.
Fortunately, there was a group of Czech girls out walking, and one of them, Věra, invited Couture and his friends to her house, where her father bandaged his hand. Věra’s and Gerry´s conversation was rather limited, since neither of them knew the other’s language, but they managed with gestures and a few words. During the next three weeks, Couture became a frequent visitor to the Adamec household. He had to leave for Germany but returned later for another three-week stint, before returning to the United States.
Saying goodbye was sad. What to do – take Věra with him to the U.S.? No, Věra was too young – her mother wouldn´t let her go. For four years, the pair kept in touch through letters and their relationship grew warmer. Relations between Czechoslovakia and Russia didn’t improve and, in 1948, the Communist party took over in Czechoslovakia. Věra’s brother escaped to Germany, nearly starving to death, and eventually made his way to the U.S. There, he enlisted in the army and soon found himself back in Germany, staring back into his homeland from the other side.
Věra had to fill out a lot of papers, but she didn’t have any problems getting a visa. Gerry paid her way and she quickly learned English. The couple settled in Shrewsbury and built their own home in a quiet neighborhood, on Fairlawn Circle. Gerry was a factory foreman and Věra worked at the public library. For years, the Coutures returned to Czechoslovakia to visit Věra’s parents, whose little village was now a suburb of Pilsen. It wasn’t easy to visit a communist nation and the couple sometimes worried that a capricious official would detain Věra or forbid her returning to the United States – but it didn’t happen. In 1999, the Coutures celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Pilsen. Today, Jerry (almost 90) still lives with his wife, Věra, in their Shrewsbury home.
From book 500 hours to victory