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Leopold Lojka (also spelt Leopold Loyka) (1885–1926) was the chauffeur of the car carrying Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the point of Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo in 1914.[1]

Lojka was born in 1885 in the town of Znojmo 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 acquaintance of heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Lojka accompanied his employer on a trip to Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 where they met the Archduke and he served as Ferdinand's chauffeur for the day. Shortly after leaving the military barracks where Ferdinand had been inspecting the local Imperial garrison, the car was attacked by a terrorist from the Young Bosnia group, who threw a bomb at it. However, Lojka was able to speed up and the bomb bounced off the back of the car's folded hood, injuring three officials in the car behind and several spectators.

In light of continued security risks, Ferdinand decided to abandon his planned opening of the Sarajevo museum but instead insisted upon visiting the injured at the garrison hospital, much to his disquietude his wife Sophie insisted upon accompanying him. This did not require a great change in the planned route, as the Hospital was en route to the Museum. However the Bosnian Military Governor General Potiorek recommended that they change the advertised route, thereby avoiding Franz Josef Strasse and the historical, narrow-streeted city centre, where he suspected more assassins might be loitering, and instead carried on at greater speed down the Appel Quay. Lojka was not familiar with the local geography and hence the mayor and chief of police Director Edmund Gerde led the way in their car immediately in front of Lojka and the Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand. For some reason the mayor's car took the turn into Franz Josef Strasse and Lojka naturally followed him. Immediately advised of his mistake by the General (who was sat behind Lojka), Lojka was told to stop and reverse back out. However, it so happened that Young Bosnian assassin Gavrilo Princip was standing by Schiller Moritz Deli on the corner of the Appel Quay and Franz Josef Strasse, just as the Archduke's car pulled up. Princip seized his chance and ran out into the street with his Model 1910 7.65 mm FN Browning. Before Lojka had even seen Princip the young Bosnian had fired two shots at close range and was being wrestled into submission by a number of local marshals and the occupants of the trailing cars. As a consequence, Princip shot the Archduke in the jugular vein, and his wife in her stomach (with a shot that first pieced the side of the car) killing both of them.

After the assassination, Lojka was given the task of sending three telegrams: one for the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, one for the German Emperor Wilhelm II, and one for the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He also served as a witness for the prosecution in the Sarajevo trial of the assassins some two months later, though he was not questioned.

Lojka went on to become chauffeur for the next heir to the throne Archduke Karl and was later awarded 400,000 crowns by Charles I as the Austro-Hungarian emperor, which he used to buy an inn in 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.[citation needed]

He died in Brno in 1926 aged just 40. His obituary claims that he was perpetually haunted by the conflicting voices of the General telling him to reverse and the Duchess Sophie screaming for him to 'just drive on'. Since his death, the role of chauffeur of Franz Ferdinand's car has often been erroneously attributed to a 'Franz Urban'.

NotesEdit

  1. [1] Time Magazine Milestones (spelling: Lojka)

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