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War movie gun consultant ditched film work to fight real war in Ukraine and lost part of leg

Updated: Jan 7


Picture: Marian Simunek (left) kitted out on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine; Marian (right) in Kharkiv after he lost part of his left leg in battle


- Marian Simunek, 29, worked as a gunsmith for the Oscar-winning war film All Quiet on the Western Front


- He lost his left leg from the knee down after being hit with tank fire in eastern Ukraine


- Marian has quit the war but has been busy finessing his 'trench periscope' gun accessory invention which allows soliders to fire from trenches without exposing their heads


- Marian is now in talks to put the device into production in Ukraine to help Kyiv's military in its counteroffensive to repel Russian invaders


By Jeff Farrell in Kharkiv


July 11, 2023


A man who worked as a gunsmith for the war film All Quiet on the Western Front later lost part of his leg following a real battle in Ukraine.


Marian Simunek, 29, ran a business repairing and refurbishing old firearms in his native Czech Republic.


He also supplied weapons for battle reenactments and took care of the guns used in the set of the Oscar winning 2022 movie.


All Quiet on the Western Front details a young German soldier's terrifying experiences during World War I.


The blockbuster was filmed in early 2021 in Marian's homeland in the Czech Republic, where he ran his weapons company.


Picture: Marian Simunek kitted out in camouflage in the field in eastern Ukraine where he battled Russian troops


Marian later travelled to Ukraine in March 2022, just weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, to help fight off the invaders, fearing the Kremlin's army would march westwards.


"I thought that Russia would beat Ukraine quickly and then come for us in the Czech Republic,” Marian said.

Video: Marian Simunek test fires a 'trench periscope' weapon device he designed to fight Russian forces -- read below for more details


He is from Krnov town in the Moravian-Silesian Region of his country where he ran his gun repair business.


But he rolled up his sleeves in Ukraine and helped repair the stockpile of mostly old guns that Kyiv’s army then had.


It came before the West piled in the latest arms, weapons and ammo for the embattled nation fighting to stay on the map.


Picture: Marian sits in a cafe in Kharkiv, where he is waiting for compensation from the Ukrainian military for the loss of part of his left leg


But after weeks of backline work, Marian joined the International Legion and travelled to the coalface of the battle in the east.


The Czech national later lost part of his leg after he was injured in October 30, 2022 while fighting in Luhansk.


Marian said he was on patrol with his company in Russian occupied territory in a counter-offensive push.


Picture: Marian Simunek kitted out in camouflage in the field in eastern Ukraine where he battled Russian troops


“I was spied by a Russian drone. Artillery then hit me but it missed. A tank then fired and got me, from more than 1km away.


“It hit just the calf muscle in my leg. It was just the flesh.


“I had adrenalin. I felt nothing — I thought it was OK.


“I made a tourniquet and wrapped it around to stop the bleeding.


“I was then evacuated.”


Marian then suffered a further blow when he learned his injury was worse than he believed.


A surgeon insisted they would have to amputate his left leg from above the knee.


“I said ‘no, no way’. I wanted it cut from below the knee — I wanted to keep it.


“The doctor agreed but he said the danger was there could still be an infection left from the wound.”


Marian then underwent the surgery through an anaesthetic that left him still awake.


“I didn’t trust the doctor to cut below the knee and I was watching him,” Marian laughed. “But he did good work.”


The surgery took an hour but the recovery took four months.


He travelled back to the Czech Republic where doctors fitted him with a prostheses for the lower half of his left leg.


Picture: Marian Simunek (centre with cap) sits on the aid delivery of a dolly here in Kharkiv which will be used to evacuate injured troops from the battlefield


Marian walks around comfortably on the artificial limb and has few complaints.


"I can feel my missing toes itchy,” he laughed.


He appears unfazed by the life changing injury but some people close to him felt differently, saying his girlfriend left him.


“She just couldn’t look at me this way,” he said.


Despite his injury and partial lost limb, Marian considers himself lucky compared to other wounded soldiers in Ukraine.


"I have seen people with no hands, no legs. Sometimes it is better to die than be injured.”


Marian is currently in Kharkiv, Ukraine to sort out insurance compensation from the military over the loss of his left leg from the knee down.


But he keeps busy and has developed a gun periscope system that allows soldiers to shoot at the enemy from the trenches without exposing themselves to enemy fire.


"It is a trench periscope for the Kalashnikov Ak74. You can aim precisely from the trench and you don't have to stick your head out."

Video: Marian Simunek assembles the trench periscope weapon system that he designed


Marian is in talks with chiefs of the Ukrainian army to put the device into production for Kyiv's troops -- but is not driven by profit.


"I don't want money for it. I want to see it in the trenches," he said.


For now, he is happy to be alive. And he plans to continue his passion for firearms. “Guns are my life,” he said.


Video: Marian Simunek test fires a 'trench periscope' weapon device he designed to fight Russian forces


Many fighters in Ukraine return to battle after losing a limb as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine still rages. And Marian would do the same if it wasn't for family who worry about his welfare.


"If I didn’t have a mother I would fight again. I have already given her a knockback," he said, patting his left knee.


Marian for now has other life plans -- including work on his weapon designs - that don't involve going into battle.


“Of the 100 people in my company, even more than half are dead,” he said.


"I just want to live a normal life now outside of the war."

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