Leopold Lojka

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Leopold Lojka

Leopold Lojka (also spelt Leopold Loyka) (17 September 1886 – 18 July 1926) was the chauffeur of the car carrying Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the time of Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo in 1914.[1]

Lojka was born on 17 September 1886 in the town of Telč in southern Moravia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now part of the Czech Republic). He became a professional chauffeur in the service of Franz, Count Harrach, an Austro-Hungarian nobleman and close friend of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Lojka accompanied his employer and met the Archduke on his trip to Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 where he served as Ferdinand's chauffeur. Shortly after leaving the railway station where Ferdinand and his wife had joined the Colonel's car they were attacked by a Young Bosnia member, who threw a grenade at it. However, Lojka was able to swerve out of the way and the grenade bounced away, injuring several dignitaries in the car behind and a number of spectators on the street.

After giving a speech at the Town Hall and despite being due to inspect the troops at the garrison, Ferdinand decided to visit those injured by the bomb in the hospital. However, this wasn't part of the planned route and Lojka is said not to have been informed of the change in plans and therefore wasn't familiar with the new route. Consequently, as he was driving away from the Town Hall Lojka took a wrong right turn down a side street (on the original route to the Garrison) following the two cars in front who also made this error. Chastised for his mistake, Lojka stopped the car. However, it so happened that Young Bosnia member Gavrilo Princip was standing in front of the café on the street just as Ferdinand's car began to pull into it. Princip seized his chance and with his Model 1910 7.65 mm FN Browning in hand he lunged through the crowd. Lojka was attempting to reverse, and Gavrilo Princip shot and killed the Archduke, shooting him in the jugular vein, and his expectant wife, in the stomach.

After the assassination, Lojka was given the task of sending three telegrams of apology: one to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, one to the German Emperor Wilhelm II, and one to the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He also served as a witness for the prosecution in the Young Bosnia trial.

Lojka was later awarded 400,000 crowns by Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I, which he used to buy an inn at Brno in Czechoslovakia. There he became an innkeeper, and would often show off the bloodstained braces of Franz Ferdinand and a piece of Sophie's golden bracelet.[2]

He died in Brno in 1926. The Archduke had in fact brought his own driver - Otto Merz, the award winning motor racing driver - who was relegated to the trailing car at the station and after the bombing forced to bring Ferdinand's bloodstained speech to the town hall on foot. Since Lojka's death, the role of the chauffeur of Franz Ferdinand's car has often been erroneously attributed to a 'Franz Urban'.

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Time magazine "Milestones" (spelling: Lojka)
  2. ^ Story of Franz Ferdinand's drive (in Czech language)


Literature[edit]

  • Jiří Skoupý: Šofér, který změnil dějiny (The chauffeur who changed history), 2017, Mladá fronta, ISBN 9788020445124