An Example of Suffering
Testimony of Gypsy During the Holocaust
I put up this page partially as a response to the requests I get for
Christian counseling. In my aspirations to be a useful Christian and my desire to do good
for God, I made these webpages as a platform to help those who might not
otherwise go to a church for counselling. Perhaps one might more easily reveal
by email their fears etc. to a person they do not know, rather than face a live
person in a church.
But instead I found that most of the
people who wrote to me with their problems were already believers, crying about
a heart ache from a relationship that recently ended. Or complaining about their
"great woes". I was not helping unbelievers as I had hoped, but was just a
shoulder to cry on. I myself often complain when things do not go well for my
business, essentially blaming God for it. But a few times during my career as a
translator I’d get a project translating testimonies by holocaust victims,
mostly of Gypsies (called Roma in Europe). I regret to have lost some
translations in the past, but below is one interview I recently translated which
I think is good to read. Because after translating it, I was embarrassed about
my own paltry complaints. I think it is healthy to read of such horrors, and how
other people in the world can suffer so much more than us in the west. I’ve
heard about a psychologist who quit her profession because she got tired of rich
folks whining to her about their endless "problems". She just had to roll her
eyes and listen to complaints which to her seemed pathetically insignificant
compared to the frustrations of the average person. Which again is nothing
compared to the suffering many have to experience in the world today. For
example, once my grandmother pointed at the TV showing African children with
swelled bellies, who were starving to death, and said they are like that because
they are too lazy to work. The swelling of bellies happens when one eats so
little for so long that their stomach acid begins to eat their own bodies, and
for the body to protect itself against this attack, it surrounds the area with
water and many white blood cells. So I can only imagine the perpetual pain these
children must be going through (especially since I fast every year and am well
familiar with the feeling of gnawing hunger), and that it is the height of
ignorance to assume they are too lazy to work. I cannot imagine any human who
would rather endure such perpetual pain than to work.
I can go into a major speech how
people in the west are so sheltered from the suffering taking place around the
world. How they are absolutely horrified to learn of the death of 3,000 of their
own, after two buildings fall to the ground, but barely give attention to
millions displaced and dead due to immense flooding in India. After all, it is
"way over there", and they are not "our people". So people go to the shopping
malls on the weekends, buy things out of boredom, stuff their faces with more
food, and complain about their endless "woes".
But I think that reading of the
suffering can open one’s eyes, hopefully invoke compassion, and give one a sense
of healthy appreciation for everything they have, as opposed to dwelling on
everything they don’t have, always comparing themselves to someone who is better
off than they are. This can be considered one great reason for their
unhappiness. So I hope that, by reading of these horrible injustices and
sufferings, you will learn to better appreciate the simple pleasures in life,
everything you are blessed with, and exercise greater compassion on those who
are worse off than you. This I believe is how God would like all of us think.
The opposite case is when everyone dwells on their own selfish aspirations and
wants, and does not help those who are worse off. THIS is the reason why people
are starving in the world. Because everyone tries to maximise their own benefit.
If everyone gave 10% of their income and resources to charity or to someone
worse off, as the bible commands, there would be no suffering or starvation in
But before you read this testimony of
a Gypsy person who suffered through a holocaust, a little introduction is
When I lived in Toronto Canada I was
surprised to learn from a black friend of apparent racism there. But as a white
person, I guess I would not notice it. The first time I started being aware of
racism was when I returned to the country of my birth, the Czech Republic. After
spending most of my life in Canada, I came back to Prague but obviously with a
thick accent and a different perspective on life than if I had stayed behind the
iron curtain under the repressive communist regime. And many people seemed
bitter against me - envious that I had it so well (apparently the streets of
Canada are all laid in gold). So I would feel hostility against me, and
everywhere I went the locals would try to overcharge me and make my life more
Under communism, with closed borders,
societies within these countries tended to be more homogeneous. Everyone was
white. But when the borders opened following the fall of communism, all of a
sudden Prague was inundated with all sorts of people of different colours and
perspectives on life. Many people felt invaded, and whined of how "the good ol’
days are gone". I find the same mentality in small hick towns in the US, where
everyone is the same colour, and where there is a strong culture of homogeneity.
It is basically Nazism to look down on someone of a different colour, as if they
are your inferior. I consider it of very weak character. It is the same motive
of selfishness. One likes to feel good about themselves, and putting weaker
minorities down can make a person of such weak character feel good about
themselves. And during my fourteen years living in Prague, I constantly
witnessed how the Czechs would cut down the Gypsies. Calling them dirty thieves.
Yet not once during those fourteen years had any Roma tried to steal from me,
but constantly the Czechs. So I thought it was rather ironic of them to point in
such a way at the Roma when they themselves would constantly thieve from me. And
exercise such despicable envy.
After all, the Roma were and are a
blemish on their clean and white society. When travelling through Montenegro, I
ran into Tommy the Party Preacher, who told me he thinks that God created the
"despicable and treacherous" Roma and inflicted such perpetual suffering on them
in order to exercise our own compassion. But, perhaps because I consider myself
a Bohemian, I have always enjoyed the company of Gypsies. I like their carefree
attitude, and their simple joy of life and the moment, and their open love for
their families and people around them. But I can see how this would rub the
envious Czech the wrong way. Czechs are very conservative, industrious and hard
working people. They speak to each other so formally that it makes my stomach
turn. And they are very envious, and always want to be the best, and the most
rich and well off. So I can see how they can burn in anger when they see a Roma
family enjoying themselves and dancing in their garden, especially when they
(the Roma family) are noticeably worse off than they are. As if, based on such
natural envious nature, they should expect to receive gratification and
satisfaction by seeing a financially worse off person even more miserable than
they are. But when they see such people with free and happy spirits, it burns
them with anger. So they practically spit on them when walking by them on the
streets, calling them dirty Gypsies, since their skin is a naturally dark
I have developed a theory that,
before the invention of borders and countries, there existed naturally nomadic
societies, who would move from place to place so that they do not exploit the
natural resources of one area. Like cows do, slowly wandering to the next patch
of grass, letting the previous patch of grass grow back. It is natural,
especially in desert areas. And there is nothing wrong with it. And perhaps this
nature has been genetically inbred into such societies of people, who only run
into problems when their free lifestyle suddenly slams into a wall - a border,
or another and stronger society who instruct them that they cannot just keep
walking around like that, picking apples off of trees and living such a free
lifestyle. It is basically envy. The person who has to slave in the office from
9 to 5 every day will feel bitter when seeing someone else live a free
lifestyle. Especially when the other person is financially worse off. They feel
as if that person is stealing from them - as if they have to work hard and pay
taxes to pay for these freeloaders.
This is the state of society that has
developed under a homogeneous communist regime. And one which may be natural
within all us humans, as it seems to constantly surface everywhere in the world.
A region may be inflicted with 30% unemployment, but as soon as someone of
different colour has a well paid job, the locals, no matter how inept and
incapable they are of performing that job, will point their finger at such a
person and blame them for "stealing" their jobs. After all, it is an
identifiable group. A foreign invader. You cannot point your finger at someone
of your own colour and race, because you are only revealing that you do not have
that job due to your own inability. But with someone of a different race and
colour, it is easy to make such an accusation, with everyone quickly jumping on
the same bandwagon, so that they can improve their lives (by removing that
foreign invader from that job so that one of their "own" can benefit from it).
This is the nature of racism which we can find in all of us. And which you can
see the eventual results of by reading the following testimony.
This is even more abused during
volatile times of war. There was a famous study performed in the US sometime
around the 1950s where people were asked to press a button resulting in the
electrocution of someone in an adjacent room. It was all staged, where the
person in the other room was only an actor who would scream in agony every time
the button was pressed. And after pressing the button, the scientist would
always increase the voltage, and instruct the person to press the button again.
The remarkable and surprising outcome of the study was that more than half the
people continued to press the button, even at imaginary extremes of 400 volts
and while the person in the next room screamed in pain and on the verge of
death. All of those examined felt bad about it, to some degree, but if the
scientist argued that they will take full responsibility for any repercussions,
more than half those examined would press the button, on instruction. They would
not stand up against the scientist and follow their conscience. Humankind is a
very social animal, which has learned to survive well against other animals and
other tribes of humans precisely because of its level of cooperation, in which
the ability to communicate through language has played a major role. So one
might argue that it is understandable when a majority of people will comply to
instruction, even though it might stand against our sense of God’s justice,
which is instilled and stamped on our foreheads, as the bible says.
In times of war, army personnel nail
women to barn doors and rape entire villages, including children. It is
"acceptable behaviour" during these times. Everyone else is doing it, so it
becomes okay. If it is common for a father to have his daughter’s sexual organ
ripped out and sowed up to give her future husband greater pleasure, while
giving her only pain, it is "ok", no matter how sick such a concept may be if
one actually sits down and ponders it.
So I think that reading about the
following testimony is good also for the reason that it might help us police
ourselves. Not to so quickly turn the other way in the face of such blatant
racism, but to put one’s foot down and expose themselves to danger. Otherwise,
with a majority of people so easily compliant to authority and quick to turn the
other way, we will always be destined to return to the holocaust. Where bullies
band together against the weak while the silent majority peaks through drawn
curtains. We will always return to the horrors of war if such natures are not
curtailed. These bands of racist thugs collect in groups and are very scary (I
can testify from personal experience). They themselves are often youngsters who
might come from broken families and long for some group they can identify with
and where they can feel part of a greater and accepting family. The Czech police
have said that often such brutal and violent thugs break down and cry once
arrested. They realise that what they are doing is wrong, but it is the sense of
power and thrill to be on the stronger side, and to feel great and better than
others, that drives them to behave this way. Not to mention the need to be
accepted and pressures imposed by the group on them. It is a sad human nature
within all of us. The bible itself says that we must learn to suppress this
nature within us. Hopefully reading the following testimony will help towards
I translated it for a friend who was
making a movie about the injustices against the Roma people in the Czech
Republic. It is an interview with a Gypsy woman who suffered the horrors of the
holocaust with her family. She does not speak very clearly and cohesively in
Czech, perhaps due to a lack of education, and my friend said a first draft
translation was fine, since they will be editing out only parts of it, so the
quality of the English can seem painful in parts (as my English in general
sometimes, since I often write these pages in haste). But perhaps it is better
to leave it that way, so you can get a better feel for the interviewee.
The main theme of the movie concerned
the "sterilisation" of Gypsies, whereby it is argued that Czech doctors had a
tendency to sterilise Roma woman after they had one or two children. They would
get them to sign a paper of consent without fully explaining to them the
implications of their signature. After which the Roma women would wake up
following an operation and learn that they will never again have any more
children. Roma people are loving and carefree and like to have large families.
This inevitably irritates Czechs, who usually have smaller families. They are
irritated because this "flagrant promiscuity" increases the Roma population in
"their" country relative to their own population.
(00:08) My name is X and I was born
on June 30, 1937. Previously I lived in Slovakia, in a Roma settlement.
Interviewer: (00:26) We’d like to ask
you about your story, from the war. We heard that you were imprisoned. Could you
tell us something about this?
Mrs. K.: (00:39) Yes, from the
beginning. Mom worked on the vicarage, like a maid servant, and the vicar came
to tell us that the Germans are coming after us. So he told us to run into the
forest, which we did, and spent there…
Interviewer: (01:09) What is your
Slovakia, with my parents. My mother
used to work on the vicarage … And one day the vicar came to us to tell us that
they will put us in a concentration camp. (01:47) So all of us Roma - the entire
settlement - got up and ran into the woods, where we stayed for about three
weeks. But my mother had enough, so we went back home. We came home in the
morning and the Germans came to pick us up at three in the morning. (02:12) In
these sort of carts, which I remember very clearly till today. There were these
carts < . So they threw us into these carts and hauled us off to Humenný, where
we waited three days, when they came with the wagons and put all of us Roma
[Gypsies] into those. We were then in those wagons for three days, during which
they hauled us off to the concentration camp, which was in Dubnice na Váhom.
(02:51) Three days it took them to transport us there. They then put us in a
Nazi camp, these live in Nazi camps, which I remember clearly like as if it was
today. They put my dad and brothers on one side and the women on another. My dad
was on one side and we, with my mom, were on the other.
Interviewer: (03:24) I’d still like
to return to .. You say you grew up in a Roma settlement. Can you tell us where
this was, how large was it, and how life was there? How did you earn a living?
How did your parents earn a living?
Mrs. K.: (03:39) Well, my mother
would go out and beg. How did we earn a living? Well, there was no work, nothing
at all. But we had it well, because grandpa was a blacksmith. And my dad worked
with him in a forge. I remember that horses would go there and that they would
make the horse hooves. So we had it well. I also worked at the vicarage. (04:08)
But there were other settlements, where the Roma did not have any work. Nothing
at all. They survived how they could, usually by begging, bring home bread and
potatoes. I know that they cooked potatoes, burning fires and baking potatoes.
Interviewer: (04:26) Where was this
settlement and about how many people were there?
Mrs. K: (04:36) There were a lot of
us there - I’d say more than fifty homes. Little cabins. And my dad was like the
chairman there. He was the <býrov> . Before we used to call it <býrov> . My dad
was like the chairman over all the Roma, and he got along well with the chairman
- with the <gádža> who were there. (05:09) He had a
good relationship with them.
Interviewer: (05:11) Were you like a
separate department or section from the main .. how was it exactly?
Mrs. K.: (05:17) We were, like from
here to the metro. We were separated from those people. Are you talking about
those cabins? Yes? They were next to one another. A short distance apart, like
this… A bit, one after another they were.
Interviewer: (05:36) But separated
from the whites?
Mrs. K.: (05:37) We were far away
from the whites. Like at the metro, perhaps even
farther away than from the gádža< . I know there was this foot-bridge there
which we had to cross, which is how we got home. There were many of us Roma
there, many of us.
Interviewer: (05:56) Why was it done
this way, that you would be separated like this
from the gádža< ?
Mrs. K.: (06:01) I do not know why. I
really don’t know, but I know that the gádža< did not like us and would <kurkat>
after us. When we went, mom would send me for milk, so I went with my sister,
and no one would want to give us any milk. And the <kurkat> on us. They
couldn’t stand us, as did the Slovakians. (06:24) No one will ever like us Roma,
maybe. Someone is ringing. Can I go open the door?
Interviewer:(06:34) Someone at the
door, or is it the telephone?
Mrs. K. (06:40) At the door, down below.
Interviewer:(06:44) I only, if we can
repeat, you said that the Slovakians did not like you Roma.
Mrs. K.: (06:49) No, they didn’t. I
know that they didn’t. Because when I went with my sister, I was nine years old,
when I went with my sister, they did not like us - not even the Slovakians. I
recently hear, when I wrote that Dubnice nad Váhom, I heard that they sold us.
(07:14) I am not certain whether this is true, whether they had actually sold
us. So I cannot say for certain.
Interviewer: (07:27) How would you
explain the hatred from the Slovakians?
Mrs. K.: (07:31) Well, what can I
say. I don’t really have much contact with them, being here in Prague. But I
have an aunt who is still there, who still lives there. And apparently they are
not like they used to be. They apparently are not like that anymore. (07:48) My
aunt calls me from Slovakia and she says this. So I don’t know. I don’t know how
long it has been since I’ve been there.
Interviewer: (07:55) Do you remember
when you went into the forest, for those three weeks, do you remember how it
Mrs. K.: (08:03) You bet I remember.
We were there, and my dad dug a sort of hole in the ground, in which we would
bake potatoes and eat there. We were there for three weeks and my mother had
enough, because there were many of us. So she said, „Let’s go home." (08:22) Dad
was against it, but mom simply had enough, so we all came home, in the morning
from the forest, and at three o’clock they grabbed us. They grabbed us at three
in the morning. We heard gunfire, we hid in the attics, but even there they
found us. I was there with my mother - us girls and children - and dad was
downstairs. They found us. They shot a lot of bullets. My mom got eight of them.
Each of us got some, until there wasn’t even room for more. And then they carted
us off to that Humenný, where we waited for three day, until they came with the
Interviewer: (09:19) Under what
conditions were you waiting there in that Humenný?
Mrs. K.: (09:23) Well, there was
nowhere to put us, so I do not know what they were doing. They took us out of
those carts, the horses were taken away, and that was it. And then they put us
in those carts.
Interviewer: (09:35) And where did
you spend the three days? When you were waiting?
Mrs. K.: (09.37) Three days, in that
cart and outside. One would be able to go for a quick walk, and then the carts
were there. I remember that those wagons woud close up and that had these little
windows. That much I remember. (09:54) There were four of us families in that
one wagon. There was one aunt, another aunt, and the children. Many of them died
in there - many of them. Because there was not enough room to breath. (10:08) I
know that my three <troje> cousins remained there. Then came the wagons, into
which they loaded us and for three days we rode to Dubnice na Váhou. When we
arrived there they forced us out using their machine guns and carried us. They
carried us, I remember that much, to some long building, in that Nazi camp.
(10:39) Then they raped the women, and took dad somewhere else, and we later
learned that dad was on the other side, where we and my mom were on the opposite
side. It was a long and large room. (11:00) And I remember it clearly like it is
today, these wooden beds. That we didn’t have our heads like this, but like
outside. And we all slept together, and it was unbearable. One couldn’t even
breath there. (11:19) Not a drop of air. It was horrible. I spent half a year in
Interviewer: (11:25) So you were all
squeezed in like sardines there.
Mrs. K.: (11:24) Squeezed, like total
sardines. I know that there were Jews there as well. Jews there with us Roma.
Roma and Jews, where the Jews were about three Nazi camps from us. And our
entire village, which was all together. One couldn’t go outside. There they
raped the women. (11:54) The wife of my brother was three months pregnant when
they raped her. Then came a car, like they were going to put them into a
hospital. And we watched them, like I’m staring at this building, how they shot
them all. (12:13) There was this ditch in the ground, a shot in the head, and
into the ditch they were thrown. My uncle and aunt were there. And all of them
stayed there - many of us. Many of us stayed there. And then came the Russians,
thank God. (12:33) The Russians came, who freed us. Yes, they freed us. And then
the trains did not run, as everything was bombed, so we had to go on foot. I
remember that till today, that my brother had to carry me, as we couldn’t,
because of the Typhoid fever that we had. (12:53) From all the dirt, and all the
potatoe peels we were baking. So my brother carried us. My brother carried my
other brother on his neck, and me like this in his arms. And it took us three
months to get home. (13:09) Three months, barefoot, naked, in the woods we had
to sleep, sleep in the woods and all that. But people would give us food, as we
would beg as we go. So people would give us food. And once it got dark, in the
woods we would be. Because we were afraid. And then we would go and they wanted
to kill us, as there were still Germans there. (13:34) So my dad saluted them
and said that we are going to that… home, that we were shut in, and pleaded that
now they wanted to kill us. The German: „no, no, no". So then my dad told him to
call his supervisor, or whoever they had, who then came and let us go. (13:56)
And then what happened to the women, oh my God, how they greased them up between
the legs. How do they say it, yes, the morgue - they would pour cold water on
them, and then rape them, and then beat them with batons. (14:16) So then my
mother sent me for that <min (?) > because she got a quarter of a bread. There
were eight of us, so who was she supposed to give it to? (14:24) So my mom let
me go, and then came… and there was a Roma there. How started to beat us! A
Roma! His name was X, and I remember him like today, because he was with the
Germans, yes he was. And he hit me, and I know I fell, on those barbed wires,
how sharp they are… Can I with my hand like this? Those wires were like this …
(14:49) Sharp. So he beat me with that baton, and I fell on that barbed wire, my
mother jumped, and held me in my arms. And then they put me in that…
Interviewer: (15:02) Where did she
send you? What was…
Mrs. K.: (15:05) Where did they send
me? To the <minár> . That is how we call it: with a cup to get some food. But he
didn’t give me anything but beat me with his baton, and I fell on those barbed
wires. And until today I still have these scars.
Interviewer: (15:23) You said that
they shot them? Can you explain to us about this? You said that they were taking
them to the hospital…
Mrs. K.: (15:36) They said… because
there was that Typhoid fever. We got Typhoid fever</typhus from those potatoe<
peels. They said they are taking us to the hospital. But they didn’t take them
to the hospital. Then they had to sing one song - I don’t know it - they sang
it, I listened, and then they shot them and threw them into the ditch, the lot
of them. (16.00) They didn’t care whether they were young, or old, or who it
was. My aunt, and all my aunts stayed there.
Interviewer: (16:09) You saw how they
Mrs. K.: (16:12) Yes, we saw that. We all saw that.
Interviewer: (16:16) How did you
escape the same fate?
Mrs. K. (16:17) It were very sick. Not well at all. The wife of my brother
was three months pregnant and they shot her. We suffered greatly there. They
raped the women. (16:44) Everything.
Interviewer: (16:50) What interests
me… some of you they would take away and shoot. But why did they not do the same
Mrs. K.: (17:01) Oh yes, I forgot to
say that. The first batch they shot, and the second batch, which was my dad, my
sister, my brothers - they drove us to the hospital. Then they let us know, as
one came, who did not have that Typhus, and said: „Don’t worry about your
husband, who, like your mother, is there, with your children. (17:30) And they
really were in the hospital. Where they got healthy and came back. They went
there because either there was no room for the other batch, or they found out
something about them. I’m not sure. In any case, they were there. So when my
father came from the hospital, and my brother and all, and then the Russians
took over. The Russians then came and they let us all go.
Interviewer: (17:56) How was it with
the raping? Did they also rape the children?
Mrs. K. : (18:02) There were nice
girls with us. Young girls, around 19 and 20 years old. Beautiful girls, I
remember. They were very beautiful. <Dyk kolikrát jsme si dìlali ze saze.> Not me,
but my sister yes. They took us when the Russians came, or someone came, so they
took soot and smeared the soot on them, as if they were dirty. (18:26) What
could they do about it? But some of the Germans were kind. There was this Nazi
camp, and there was this little window down there, with the machine guns, and we
didn’t have anything to eat, and my mother didn’t know what to give us. So one
German told us to go at such and such a time, so they wouldn’t alternate. <
(18:52) Well they didn’t come. How they beat my sister. The poor soul, she had
it all hacked up here on the side. And my aunt to that mortuary, how they poured
the water on her and beat her. How they beat her. (19:09) So this is how we
lived through that time. A lot. And then when we came home,
after those three months, the gádža< didn’t want to take us back, telling us not
to go back to our homes, because we had that Typhus. (19:25) They were worried
that they might catch it from us. So we came home and found everything
bombarded. Where should we sleep? Where should we go? What should we do?
Only at the vicarage would they help my mother. Taking us in like they did and
letting us sleep on the hay. (19:39) There was that hay they let us sleep on. So
we had to live through a lot. A lot.
Interviewer: (19:50) What did you eat
there in the Nazi camp? How did you survive?
Mrs. K.: (18:58) Like I said, from
those potatoe peels they were throwing on the compost pile. They would throw
them on the compost pile and we would go out and gather them, after which we
would go back to the camp and bake them in this big oven, how we had the fridge.
So we would bake that and eat it. And no wonder there was that Typhus, because
how dirty those peels were. (20:22) And then my mom got that quarter bread and
she didn’t know who to give it to, because there were eight of us.
Interviewer: (20:28) How did she
divide it up?
Mrs. K.: (20:31) I don’t know. I
don’t know. She gave it to the youngest of us. She gave some to me, one to my
brother, and then the other. Oh and one thing I forgot to tell you. (20:43) How
we went on foot, my mother was pregnant, and gave birth. We used to say „debra",
but now we say ditch. So this is where my mother gave birth, in the ditch. While
they were still bombing, so we could not make any fire. Dad wanted to wash it,
so a bit under a faucet, and then wrapped it up, wrapped it up. He sharpened a
knife a bit on a rock, sharpened it up and then cut the umbilical chord. (21:18)
The umbilical chord of that baby boy. But now no diapers, nothing at all, so
what to do? And I remember it like it was today. Mom just took up her
underpants, wrapped up the baby in that, and on we plodded on foot. (21:35) And
it wasn’t too long ago, about three years ago, that he died on me.
Interviewer: (21:38) When did this
all happen? I expect that it was at the end of the war?
Mrs. K.: (21:46) Yes, at the end of
the war, while they were still bombing though. They were still fighting. Now I
had this brother, and he was like a partisan. They took him and threw him into
the army. We were walking on foot when he saw us, and then the commander, and I
know there were those trenches, with the helmets on their heads, and how they
were shooting. (22:14) So the commander let him talk to us for two minutes. And
how my mother saw him, and all of us, and we only had two minutes to see each
other, and then back to plodding along.
Interviewer: (22:24) You said you
moved to Prague after your return from that Nazi camp.
Mrs. K.: (22:28) After that camp, my
brother said that he did not have anything there anymore and that he is going to
Prague. Everyone praised him, saying it was a good idea. He told us not to go
yet, because he didn’t know if he could find a place to live. (22:44) And then
my brother came here with his wife, and found a flat in Smíchov. But then it
didn’t work out for him. They were hard working, and then my dad went to look
for work after the marriage, and found work as a digger. (23:07) They gave us a
room there, where we all lived, and where both my dad and brother would be
Interviewer: ( 23:14) In what year
Mrs. K.: (23:15) If I could only
remember. It was after 1944. So we lived there, after which my brother put in an
application, and received a flat on Holeèkový street in Smíchov [in Prague, Czech
Republic], where he took us all in. (23:33)
Interviewer: (23:35) Why did this
happen to you? Why did they do this to you?
Mrs. K.:(23:40) I don’t know. I’m
telling you I had to write to Slovakia to get certification, due to all that
paperwork. They told me they couldn’t do anything
for me, because I have Czech citizenship. (23:57) They told us to write to
Trenèín, that in Trenèín they will give it to us. So we wrote there and received
back those documents. My parents were already dead, but they found my dad and my
Interviewer: (24.14) Why do you think
they put you into that Nazi camp?
Mrs. K.: (23:19) I don’t know, but we
were a family there. A little bit further there was a settlement, a little bit
further … we lived from one another. My mother, five km from Tachèín. My mom is
from Tachèín and I do not know why they did not take anyone from there or any
other village, but only us. And my deceased husband, a bit further. And none of
the Roma from Lubiš as well - only us, and I don’t know why.
Interviewer: (24:50) Why do you think
they would even take Roma like that?
Mrs. K.: (24:53) I don’t know, but
Jews as well. And several times, when they saw a Jew, I don’t know how it used
to be called here, but it was this type of furnace, and within that water, and
the water was boiling and they would throw them in that. One of our own they
threw in there as well. And one of them they tied to the back of a horse,
because he had taken some partisan things, because there was nothing to take. So
he was dead there, and undressed, and took on himself. He was the son of my
aunt. He was about thirty years old. So they dragged him behind a horse and we
had to watch it.
Interviewer: (25:36) That happened
once you had returned?
Mrs. K.: (25:40) No, but as we were
heading back. On our way home, because Germans were everywhere. But those
Russians truly did save us. So my dad, once we had gotten out of that Nazi camp
and started to head back, we all had to kiss the ground. (26:00) And pray. My
dad got on his knees, and pleaded, and we all prayed. And three times we kissed
the ground, we were so happy. We had lived through enough.
Interviewer: (26:32) The fact that
they were putting Jews in that camp is well known, but not so well known about
Mrs. K.: (26:43) Yes, us Roma as
well. The Jews were also slaves, as we were. Slaves like us. There were only
Jews there with us. And like I said, there was one Roma there who was with the
Germans. And then when we… my brother worked here, and another, and I had five
brothers. (27:03) Six brothers, actually. And we then found out that that one
Roma lived not far from here, so my brother went to look for him - so we could
kill him. But he had already died a month earlier, my brother said. But my
brothers found his son, and they gave him a good licking. (27:23) They gave it
to him all right! Because he had beaten us. He had gotten orders from those
Germans, yes. They were speaking to him, but if a person cannot understand, what
can they do?
Interviewer: (27:37) Were you on the
same level as those Jews, in that camp there? Did they treat you the same as the
Jews? Or worse or better?
Mrs. K.: (27:45) Well, I don’t know
how it was with those Jews, as we weren’t even allowed outside. None of us were
allowed to go outside. I know there was this wooden toilet there, across a hall,
but one could not go farther than that. (27:59) Such a small window. Only down,
when you wanted to crawl through something - otherwise nothing. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that they had it well. Because when I was young, we made a
hole and they gave us food into our mouths from their mouths. (28:18) And we
were like children, you know. So I know they had it better, with the food at
least. They gave it to us from their mouths and we ate like that.
Interviewer: (28:28) And how did you
spend the three months there?
Mrs. K.: (28:31) It was four. Well,
most of the time we were closed in like that. They would bring us that <mináø>,
lay it down, and then carry it away again. Like that food they would bring us.
In the morning they would give a quarter of a bread, which was supposed
to last until the evening and then until the morning. So we had to resort to
those potatoe peels. (28:53) What else could we eat? My poor mom didn’t know how
to allocate the food. She always gave the youngest of us, while the others
Interviewer: (29:04) And when about
did you get that Typhus?
Mrs. K.: (29:10) We got that Typhus
after being there about two months. Within two months we got it. I don’t know
how they call it now, but in Slovakian they called it Typhus. So then we had to
go, and people didn’t even want to allow us into their village. (29:34) So they
carted us off to Humenný, to the steam room. You know what that steam room is?
It’s boiling water, and we were all there, and they poured on us boiling water.
Like to bath us in that steam room. (29:50) I don’t know how to say it in Czech.
But all of us Roma had to go there, and only then did they allow us into the
Interviewer: (30:03) When you were in
that Nazi camp, what did you think would happen to you all? Or, as a little
girl, what went through your head?
Mrs. K.: (30:14) Well, we all thought
we’d get shot and that they’d come and get us at any moment. That is what we
were all waiting for. Waiting for that. But it worked out that we were saved, as
I said, by those Russians. So we only sat there and didn’t expect anything else.
That we would all go and fall, fall. And nothing we could do about it.
Interviewer: (30:44) You were nine
years old at the time?
Mrs. K.: (30:46) Yes.
Interviewer: (30:48) How did you ...
Mrs. K.: (30:49) I remember it as if
it was today. Like as if it was today I remember it. I tell you, one of my
brothers, he had it hard, but the youngest, he had Typhus. (31:02) He had
Typhus, and my mother told him that we’d leave him there. So he said, „Then
leave me, and be on your way." He was so sick. We really suffered a lot.
Interviewer: (31:18) Do you remember
the fear you had as a nine year old girl? How was it?
Mrs. K.: (31:23) I remember, how we
once heard… and then immediately crawled under the table. And also when my
brother came back after the war, he was shooting, because he was a soldier, so
he would shoot. And he came back with a machine gun to take a look, as the
commander had let him go, to see if we were at home. To see whether or not we
were at home. (31:48) And he was shooting, and singing a song: „My dear mother,
open the door, your son has arrived." So we all hid, dad turned off the lights,
the candles and everything, and we all thought they were coming to take us away.
But it was my brother, my brother, I remember. So you know, nine years, a person
remembers that. (32:15) Worse was with my sister, who suffered greatly. She
suffered a lot. She also died, about a year ago now. She was 74, and now she is
Interviewer: (32:30) Why do you think
they had it out for you Roma like this?
Mrs. K.: (32:35) I don’t know, I
really don’t know. I don’t know at all. But I heard, from my aunt, that we were
sold off by that chairman, the entire Roma settlement sold off. After all, it
did not happen anywhere else. Because the boys back then were not as smart as
they are now. (33:00) That is how it happened. No other village but only us -
the entire settlement. The entire Roma settlement. Except only one, which lives
my daughter with her son, her grandfather, grandmother - they were both over a
hundred years old. But we could not find them anymore - not even at home. We
couldn’t even find them at home.
Interviewer: (33:26) It is
interesting how often the holocaust is spoken of, and of killing the Jews, but
not much about killing Roma.
Mrs. K.: (33:42) I know, but those
who experienced nothing do not admit anything. But those of us who were there,
we lived through the horror of it. You know how it is to be naked, and lime put
between a woman’s legs? (33:57) To soak and then between the legs? This is the
kind of clowning they did with us. And I saw this with my own two eyes, how they
did this to us. They had this lime</whitewash <vápno> , and a brush, like for
painting, and wipe it on between their legs. (34.14) And then they would pour
water on her and beat her. They were evil, and it was horrible. And the children
forced to watch their parents during it. I know, because I was nine years old.
It was horrible. So we had experienced our share for certain.
Interviewer: (34:33) They raped her
with that brush, or how was it?
Mrs. K.: (34:38) Basically they
basically just making clowns of them. When they found a nice woman, like my mom,
who was white, a Russian, a nice white Russian. So between the legs they’d take
this brush, which I saw with my own two eyes, this brush between the legs, and
cut between the legs, and did whatever they could think of.
Interviewer: (35:04) Why do you think
they talk about the Jews, that they were killed, but not about the Roma?
Mrs. K.: (35:13) I don’t know. I am
only telling you the truth and what happened to us. But I know that the Jews
were criminalised as well. I know, when we went, and they went after us. There
were three or four, and they threw them into that, how they say… We used to say
„mar". But they would throw those Jews, sometimes young women, old women, it
really didn’t matter to them. (35:51) Whether they were young or old, but they
threw them into that steam room, or however it is said in Czech. It was this
tall structure, and in it boiling water. And at night, when we had arrived home,
all that they had done to the women then! (36:13) The war was still waging. We
were on the ground, sleeping, and how they had raped our women. They had to take
soot, those poor women, and smear it on their face so they wouldn’t be nice, so
that they would not be attractive to the men, as they are. (36:34) I remember
that like it was today.
Interviewer: (01:12) So let us try it
again. Why do you think they put you Roma into the Nazi camp? Why had they
harmed you like this during the war.
Mrs. K.: (01:24) I don’t know what we
did to deserve this.
Mrs. K.: (02:17) I don’t know what we
did to deserve this. I don’t know, perhaps they just didn’t like us. That we
Interviewer: (02:27) Do you think
that was the reason for this?
Mrs. K.: (02:30) Yes, I think that
was the reason. Because not only us Roma but also the Jews were there. They
behaved against the Jews in the same way.
Interviewer: (02:47) Can you compare
how they treated the Roma in the Czech Republic compared to how they treated
them in Slovakia, if there were some way to compare? How fiercely they treated
Mrs. K.: (03:03) In Slovakia I don’t
know. My dad was a <býroh (?) - bureaucrat?>, so I don’t
know how it was there, but here yes. Here yes. I
was in the Fuèíkarna, with the children, with my daughter. There was a merry go
round there. So she asks me, „Mom, will you go one more time?“ I respond: „No,
it is nice. I will stay here, I will go home.“ So I went to
Strossnajerovou nam. [in Prague], went to transfer to Karlín and there were many
skinheads. (03:36) They kicked me, and I still have here… look. I still have the
wounds to show how they were kicking me. And one of them wanted to hit me in the
head with a bat, but a man ran out of the building and caught him. (03:52) The
driver stopped and then they all ran away. And that is how they beat me. And
then my son said, „Mom, mom, I can see how they are riding in a taxi. Mom, when
I see a skinhead, I’ll run over him. They can go
ahead and throw me in jail for it.“ (04:10) I say: „Don’t do such foolishness.
Nothing happened to me, and everything is ok now.“ And then there was a girl.
I’ll tell you, about a girl who lived in Lužina. A girl came here, my
daughter. I can even recommend her to you, my daughter, to show you that it is
true. (04:31) And she says to her husband, „Imagine that the children are not
going to school." And he says, „Why don’t you put them into school?" He was
strict. She replies, „My dear, the school is full of skinheads and I am afraid."
And the boy was there, listening to it all. (04:51) And the dad says: „So what
will you do now in school, without a signed paper, because before there had to
be a paper signed from the doctor and so on,
excusing you from school.“ And he replies, „Dad, we must do it somehow.“ The boy
listened and didn’t say anything to her. Grabbed all the taxi drivers and they
went to Lužin. (05:13) And there were really.. you know that ours were not
correct? That they gave the boy a fine? Three hundred, or five hundred
Crowns. Because our Roma went with their sticks, the lot of them, because they
lived there, no? And ours even <vyklupli (?)>, held out their hands and beat
them like that. (05:35) But that is not proper. They only went to help the
women, so that their children could go to school.
Interviewer: (05:42) During the war,
do you think they harmed Roma more in Czech, who lived here, or in Slovakia. Can
you compare the two?
Mrs. K.: (05:51) Well, I think more
in Slovakia. After the war, once we had arrived here, I think it was worse in
Interviewer: Once again, can you
repeat, that it was in Slovakia… that they harmed them there more, or that they
had it worse there…
Mrs. K.: (06:07) Yes,… So it was
worse in Slovakia, yes. Because they were not good to us either.
Interviewer: (06:22) And do you feel
that… what concerns living here now. Do you still feel categorised in some
Mrs. K.: (06:40) No, I feel good
here. The people know us, and they do not let anyone get to us. They come visit
us, we visit them, and the neighbours are good. So it is good here. I wouldn’t
even go back to Slovakia. Can you believe that? (07:02) Can you believe that I
wouldn’t even go there? Even though I have aunts there, I would not go there for
a visit. I like it here. From the very beginning - even my mother and father,
all of us liked it here. None of us would have wanted to go back. So now we have
citizenship here - we have everything. I was nine, no ten, not even, when we had
Interviewer: ( 07:25) Why would you
not want to go back to Slovakia?
Mrs. K.: (07:28) Because I do not
like Slovakians. Can you believe that? Maybe not, but I do not like Slovakians.
Not when there was fun… because, before, our musicians were… they’d play at
weddings, and it was fun. (7) It was fun, but many times there were even fights
and all that, so no, we would not go back there. (07:51) Here I would take the
risk. Here yes. Here one can always find someone good. Who will stand up for
you. Like in the tramway. The driver wanted to call someone, but the boys ran
away. They took my purse, ripped my papers and everything. And you know, when I
have the anti-fascist passport, which was difficult to get… but all is okay.
(08:19) I have my citizenship and everything.
Interviewer: (08:22) Why do you think
enough was not done to bring to light the suffering of the Roma during the war?
Mrs. K. (08:31) Yes, what do you mean
Interviewer: (08:36) Do you think
that enough is talked about it, that enough is known, about the fact that you
Roma had gone to the concentration camps as had the Jews? Do you think enough
was done… Do you understand?
Mrs. K.: No.
Interviewer: (00:00) We last left off
asking if enough was done to enlighten the public about how Roma suffered during
the war. What is your opinion about this?
Mrs. K.: (00:12) That it is not just,
that the Roma had to suffer in this way.
Interviewer: (00:25) But do you think
that enough people know about how you Roma had suffered? Do you think that
enough was done, and written about it, so that others would be aware of all that
Mrs. K.: ( 00:37) Yes, it is true.
They do know about it. At first they did not want to believe, if we had not
requested all those documents, and everything verified - everything. Because
nowhere else. But now they all know about it, that we were in that concentration
camp. (00:57) Because here I have… U Labut, before it was called Legerova… she
unearthed everything. That everything was true and that we had experienced all
that. Everything. Barefoot, feet. You know, there were no shoes, like today,
that you can just grab some shoes. Before there were no shoes.
Interviewer (01:19) But it seems that
the attacks on you had not stopped. Like for example what had happened to your
knee. Can you tell us something about this?
Mrs. K.: (00:32) Like I said, … to
Fuèíkárny, ... you know what that is? On those merry go rounds.. with my
daughter.. „Mom, lets go.“ And my daughter says to me: „Mom, I’m going home,
because the children will be hungry. They would not be able to eat here."
(01:49) So I told her, „Okay, go. I’ll go on my own." So I got into the tram,
and it is good that I went on the side where the driver is. So I boarded and it
was full of skinheads. (02:06) They started to hail Hitler, and shout „Gypsies
to the gas chamber!" and all that, and hailed Hitler. But they were boys, and I
just looked at them, and I did not have a good feeling. (02:20) I thought to
myself that I was on my own. And then one kicked into me, and then they grabbed
my bag, kicking into the bag, and the documents. And one, a younger one, wanted
to hit me with a bat. (02:34) But one ran out from a building and saved me, who
caught him and said, „This is a neighbour. She did not do anything. She is not
doing anything to deserve this treatment." (00:43) The boy said… I then came
home and told the event to my kids. My boy says, „Mom, mom, I’m going to drive.
If today I see some skinhead I’m going to run over him. Because of what they did
to you." Then I showed him my legs, how they were shaking. (03:03) So he went
and did it. And he even went to the police and told them about it, how those
skinheads had caught and beaten his mom, her legs and all that. (03:17) But
everything turned out okay.
Interviewer: (03:19) When did this
Mrs. K.: (03:21) That was about five years ago. Five years it was. And I was
getting on at Strossmajerovo nam. I was getting on the 8 tram, I think.
Interviewer: (03:43) And what did
they do with your documents?
Mrs. K.: ( 03:46) Nothing. I could
not find my purse, and I didn’t even have money. I
ran out, and my citizenship, the pass and all of it, all turned out good.
Because I am registered with the Veteran’s Association <Svaz bojovníkù>. So they
helped me out after that, with everything. So I now have my citizenship again,
and everything else.
Interviewer: (04:07) Can you show us
where they kicked you?
Mrs. K.: (04:11) Here. I still have a
bruise. They got me here, where the bruise remained. I tried putting a compress
on it and everything, but it remains.
Interviewer: (04:28) And something
happened to your daughter as well. Can you tell us something about that? When it
happened, and what had happened?
Mrs. K.: (04:33) I don’t know any
more, as it was ten years ago. It was this younger one, who was in England, the
one I have here. She worked there and each week, there they pay you every week,
when she would get paid. (04:52) So she stayed there and there was a place for
her. Her husband went on his own, my son-in-low, for a beer you know. Just like
boys do. And we like to have a certain Roma fun.
And he went on his way, drunk, to the metro at Køižíková. Do you know where that
is? Køižíková? You know where that is? Outside at the metro. And there were
garbage cans there, the large ones. And then those boys started, hailing Hitler
and shouting Roma, and he was afraid by himself. (05:29) And they took him and
threw him into the garbage, and lit it on fire. But just then his nephew
happened to come by and saved him. He lived another five days after that.
(05:48) So he pulled him out of that fire, otherwise it would have burned. And
now his nephew is behind bars. And my daughter, how she saw this and heard about
it, says: „Mom, I don’t want to be here anymore. Mom, I’m not going to stay
here, I’m going after Lenka." (06:04) So they went after her daughter and
already received … because she had reported it, but that racism really exists
here. Even she has … even like how he died … (06:15) How those skinheads had
done that to him, beating him and then to throw him in the garbage bin like
that. He lived for five days after that, and then he died. Young, at the age of
49. My daughter will now be fifty. (06:31) No, he was 29, 29 years old he was. A
young man at 29. A young man indeed. He’s buried over there in Olšany. And she,
after seeing this: "Mom, I’m not going to stay here. I’m going after Lenka." She
now has status there [in England], everything, and is doing well. Because she
has those pictures taken and everything. (06:58) What they did to him, and how
she had to admit there was racism here. There certainly is.
Interviewer: (07:06) And she is where
Mrs. K.: (07:08) Where you just said she was. Right there.
Interviewer: (07:13) In London?
Mrs. K.: (07:14) Yes, in London,
right in London. And she is doing well. Right now she will come here on
vacation. They apparently have holidays there, until the twenty sixth of July or
something like that.
Interviewer: (07:27) So how is it
with that racism then?
Mrs. K.: (07:30) Well, you see it on
TV what they are doing, how they are burning those bottles and throwing them, as
they are showing on TV. Those poor Roma, … they grab a bottle, something in it,
and they almost killed the children there. When we are people like anyone else …
(07:55) They throw those bottles and attack Roma. As if it weren’t really
happening. They should get a bit more strict, no? To make a lesson of them, so
they wouldn’t behave like this against the Roma. A person is afraid to go
somewhere. I wouldn’t go anywhere at night, in case they might attack me. Even
if you were to threaten me with death I wouldn’t go. Well, if my sons go, and my
grandsons, then I’ll go with them, because my grandsons are good and solid.
(08:27) So they are not afraid, and they would take care of their grandmother.
Oh, and I forgot to tell you another thing. (08:34)
I have a son, who is deaf and mute, who lives on Èerný Most and whose bride is
also a deaf-mute, as are their children. So they called me, the chairman of the
cooperative, that a cooperative had been formed, and that I should go there
[meeting of the residential building to discuss various matters, as, after
communism, many of these apartment buildings were handed to the residents, who
now own it as a cooperative and together make decisions regarding its
management]. To their meeting. To pay some two thousand crowns. (08:59) Two
thousand crowns which are supposed to go to the cooperative. So what am I
supposed to do? So I go, and I took the younger one with me. And she can’t hear
very well and has her butt hanging out like this. She couldn’t
walk either. So we went there to that Èerný Most. (09:18) The meeting had ended,
and the boy didn’t have cigarettes, the deaf-mute one, so I said, „Mother, here
cigarettes.“ So I brought him three beers, and some cigarettes, but behind me I
did not notice that there were skinheads. (09:39) And I hear from behind
me: „Get out of here. From where did you come?" They were sending me to Romania,
or where they were telling me to go. „Get out of here, from where have…" And I
said, „Who are you talking to?" „Well, you of course! You stupid cow." Saying
this to a seventy year old woman! And then to the bride: „Hey, why do you stick
your ass out like that?" And then he said he’ll wait for us. (10:09) So we were
afraid. There was a Vietnam person there, and we were afraid to go outside. And
just at that moment he came from my grandson, from his father’s wife, and he
asks, „What wrong?" I said, „Listen, I came here for a meeting and those
skinheads, they want to…" „Let them come then!" He took off his jacket. He’s a
proper solid one… (10:31) He took off his jacket and went after them. „Don’t
worry aunty!" Then came my grandson and said that he is going after him. I said
we wont go anywhere, and that I came back in all shaken, that if they had killed
us, the deaf-mute and myself. (10:46) And then the boys came and found out all
that had happened. And now from the cooperative the chairwoman is going out with
the deaf-mute, and who has a deaf-mute girl, she said: „Mrs. Kormanová, what is
wrong with you?" I said, "Listen, I went to get some cigarettes for the boy
(11:03) and the skinheads attacked me." She says, „Don’t worry, we’ll call the
police." But once the boy came back we got in the car and I couldn’t sleep the
entire night. If that uncle had not shown up, then I’m sure they would have
beaten us both right there. She is handicapped. (11:23) She has that butt all…
and she is deaf-mute. So you see … and it is how long? Must be about seven
months, or even less. When the cooperative was founded. (11:35) Because I have
to speak on their behalf. I have to go with them to the doctor, with that boy.
And now the girl has her daughter, and son, she has two children who can hear,
so the doctor says, „Stay, while you are still alive. Then those children will
come instead, to speak on their behalf." (11:57) It is because they not hear.
And now the boy cannot even see anymore. So consider that if they found this
deaf-mute boy, they would normally kill him. He’s dark like his dad. And so
what? So racism is definitely here. Its about four or five months now, how the
cooperative went into it. So we paid the two thousand crowns, we came to an
agreement, and I was on my way home, no? So you see, racism is here. (12:31)
What did they even want from us? What were they thinking? I really don’t know.
Interviewer: (12:43) That’s pretty
Mrs. K. (12:46) And in England my
daughter, she told me just as she phoned me last night: „Mom, I went out for
entertainment but… I asked her: „How did you go?" She said: „I took a taxi. You
don’t need to worry here, mother. (13:03) In Czech you do have to worry, but not
here." So it is apparently better in England. We don’t know how it will be, but
the world goes on.
Interviewer: (13:02) It reminds me
how you said they harmed you during the war, but now they are harming you as
Mrs. K.: (13:28) Yes, now as well.
I’ve had enough experience in this regard. When I hear something, then right
away I run home. Once, when my daughter was in England and my husband had
already died, and I went to the window to look outside, and they had some
meeting there. And boy was it crazy. (13:55) Someone told me I should go hide,
so I hid myself, as they were trying to break in down below! I wanted to hide in
amongst the pile of wood. (14:04) But thankfully it was locked downstairs, as we
lock for the evening, so it turned out okay. But the racism is certainly here.
Interviewer: (14:16) So did the harm
end with the war or did it continue?
Mrs. K.: (14:25) It continued, but
not where we were living, as I said, in those building … I forgot where now.
Because we never went anywhere. But now, when the boys need to go somewhere and
you hear from them: „Grandma, they attacked us", and say other things. And the
girl? (14:50) She went out, her and that fourteen year old boy, and they were
running after them until they didn’t know where to turn, so she left her bike
behind and ran to our neighbours. Upstairs. I’m sure they would have killed her
and the boy. And he was still a young one, that fourteen year old. If she were
home now she’d explain how it all went.
Interviewer: (15:40) Have you heard
of the sterilisations? How the disputes are now underway concerning how some
Roma women were sterilised, although they did not know about it?
Mrs. K.: (15:44) I heard something
about it, but I don’t understand it much. I saw it on TV, but I do not
understand it that much. About how children are put away?
Interviewer: (15:56) No. It is when
they are in the hospital and about to give birth, and they …
Mrs. K.: (16:02) Oh yes, they do it
so that … yes, I know now. My daughter talks to me about this all the time, but
I don’t hear so well you know. But my daughter talks about it. Is it just? Is it
good? What they do with them? Well I know one who wanted to give birth but it
didn’t work out. She wanted a second, but something about death, or something
like that. (16:28) She wanted to have another but no longer could. Everyone
wants their own children. And she was young, not old. Yes, I heard about that on
TV. So racism is definitely here. (16:45)
Interviewer: (16:47) How many
children do you have?
Mrs. K.: (16:49) I have five.
Interviewer: (16:51) Can you say: „I
have five children?" [Because the interviewer will not be in the movie, so it is
important that the interviewee explain everything in full and not just answer
"yes" or "no", for example.]
Mrs. K.: (16:53) I have five
children. One of them died, the one I put to school in nature, but he drowned.
He was thirty three at the time. Otherwise I have five: three girls and two
boys, one of which is a deaf-mute.
Interviewer: (17:17) So you were
paying much attention to the sterilisations. Do you have…
Mrs. K.:( 17:26) Well my daughter
always says something. I know something about it, as she would tell me about it.
Interviewer: (17:32) And what is your
opinion about it?
Mrs. K: (17:33) What opinion do I
have about it? That the doctor is to blame. That he knows it is racism and that
he should take everyone as the same. Is she Roma? It shouldn’t make a
difference, as she also wants to be healthy. And wants to have children. (17:50)
That is if she explained it to me properly. I don’t hear very well, you see.
Interviewer: (19:02) You were talking
about how, in that garbage can, which they burned, how your nephew was behind
Mrs. K.: (19:08) Yes, in jail. But
they let him go, and now he’s at home.
Interviewer: (19.10) What happened
Mrs. K.: (19:12) I don’t know. He was
defending his uncle and attacked them, and cut something on one of them.
Something. And then the police came, and found out in court, and he ended up
serving time, as an innocent. (19:29) When my daughter came here, she said:
„Mom, you see how unjust it is? Because Láïa died
because of it.“ (19:37) And he was protecting only his uncle, when there were
something like ten of them. There were ten of them there. And he stood up
against them, because he saw how they threw his uncle into that garbage, and
that is how it happened. (19.50) He just came back recently - it is about
one month now. He was behind bars for a year or two.
Interviewer: (19.56) What happened
with the attackers?
Mrs. K.: (19:58) I don’t know if
anything happened to them. I said he should have denied it, but he only said
that he cut something. It was a knife (20:16) and you know how they take it when
a knife is involved.
Interviewer: (20:19) It is
interesting how you talk about it, that you had actually ran away from Slovakia,
away from what happened to you during the war, but that now you are here and not
in total safety.
Mrs. K.: (20:34) Yes, also not. I
will no longer go out on my own, until 8pm, if I am not certain. I tried it
twice already and never again. I won’t go, although the children
do, but they go in large groups. (20:51) I wouldn’t go. Just take how it turned
out at Èerný Most, where one just goes to a meeting and you never know how it
will turn out. And I’m in the back asking: “Who are you saying that to?” “Well,
at you you cow!" You know how I felt? I had to totally cry. (21:07) I
mean, I’ve even got sons who are older than he is. There must have been around 6
years of them. And now they are waiting for us outside, so what am I supposed to
do? They were waiting, if it weren’t for that uncle. (21:21) The uncle of the
wife of my grandson. And he asks me: „Aunty, what’s wrong with you?" I say:
„Look how they were treating me." So he shouts: „Come after me then, not after
an old woman, after my aunt!" (21:35) So they ran away after that. So you see,
if he had not shown up, we would be dead. And do you think that Czechs would
stand up for you? They wouldn’t. They’d just say it is some Roma, a Gypsy. Very
few of them would stand up for one of us. And many people were coming out of
that meeting. (22:06) And then that meeting of those skinheads. I just went to
the window, to check out all that shouting, and then they: „Hey, look at that
cow up there how she’s looking. Get out of here and go back to where you came
from!" After which my relative came and told me not to worry about it, assuring
me that the door downstairs is locked. (22:27)
Interviewer: (22:27) I was thinking
about the war, and life in general…
Mrs. K.: (22:31) Precisely. I don’t
want to experience such suffering ever again. Trust me, I’ve had enough of that,
and I don’t want any more. As soon as I hear of any trouble I go crazy. And when
the fourteen year old one does not come back from school… I was waiting long,
because one never knows. Those kids they take drugs these days, and make such
friendships and all that. (22:55) So one gets to find out about everything.
Interviewer: (23:00) It certainly
Mrs. K.: (23:8) And not too long ago,
on that Èerný Most about four or five months ago, I looked behind me then and I
thought they were going to attack me right there. (23:26) Because when I see
those skins who say stuff like: „Get out of here. Where did you come from. Get
lost. You have no business being here." They weren’t even speaking formally to
me [In Czech, as in many languages, the language and each word changes depending
on whether you speak to someone formally or informally. Generally you always
speak to someone you do not know, or at work, and especially to older people,
formally and with respect. It is considered quite impolite to speak to someone
informally in this situation]. While saying: „Hey bumbum, I’m going to kick you
around!" to her. The deaf-mute one, you know, who was only looking around
wondering what was happening, asking me: „Mom, what’s wrong?" And I: „Nothing,
let’s go home." So this is how it is. (24:09) You think that people will stand
up for you at times like this? No, because they themselves are afraid, yes.
Except for that chairwoman. Because my grandson is going out with her girl.
(24:23) I have a very nice grandson, the dead-mute. He is educated. He found
some work, where they like him. He makes 12,000 a month there, and they went out
and got a mortgage, so they deduct this amount from his paycheck now. Because
they didn’t have enough for furniture. (24:43) So now they deduct the amount
from his paycheck. Some five thousand, so he has about six thousand left. And he
is deaf-mute. And how much they like him at work, how he works so hard. He
leaves in the morning and comes back at 10 o’clock at night. And the girl works
in Delvita or wherever it is - the girl of that chairwoman of the cooperative.
They love each other. (25:06) Ask what you want. Or have you already turned it
off? I guess you’ve had enough.
Interviewer: (25:18) Not yet, but
we’ll turn it off [the camera] in a bit.
Mrs. K.: (25.27) Yes, yes, you have enough now. You are not going anywhere
Interviewer: (25:30) No, no.
Mrs. K.: (25:32) You are ending now
[the interview]. Because our women are not here anymore - just myself. In
Klánovice, where there is still one, but apparently she has died as well. And
that Bílá, who sings, the Roma woman, if you know her. She’s from there, in
Klecanech, or where it is. (25:53)
Interviewer: (25:53) Rokycany.
Mrs. K.:(25:54) Rokycany. There is
still one left from there. And apparently many of them came here, calling me all
the time. Yes, yes, what shall we do. (26:16) At night I would … well, only when
the kids go, I’ll go with them. Soon I’ll be seventy, and they will come from
England. They want to go to a restaurant, but I’m afraid. Because something may
happen to them. And I see something on those children. After I’ve lived through
all that suffering, and now to be watching the children. (26:45) Go ahead and
Interviewer: (25:53) That must be a
responsibility, after those experiences that you had. I guess everything is
coming back around to you?
Mrs. K.: (26:58) Yes, and I wouldn’t
want to live through anything like that again. I said I will die one day, and
then I won’t know nothing. But imagine that, from my husband, a small distance,
like from here to let’s say Wenceslav Square - a small distance, that village -
where they received compensation, how they had to suffer in that concentration
camp. Because they did it to all us Roma, no? (27:31) So I arranged for a small
<podlai (?) >, if you know what that is.
Interviewer: (27:37) How much
compensation did you receive?
Mrs. K.: (27:38) 115,000. I cashed in
from the floods [Prague floods < link to]. There was, you know, everywhere from
the meat. Those, how do you say, those maggots, because when there was the
floods… Whenever I get my pension, I always spend 1500 for meat, so I bought
meat from that 1500. (28:06) They came for me at night and we threw everyting
out, into a big container. We threw out everything - even the new stuff. The
fridge - I couldn’t even eat from it anymore, (28:23) how it stank it was
horrible. And everywhere we had those [maggots], so I threw out everything. And
the rest just needed a wipe down. A little muscle into the wiping… because of
the flooding. So what else can we do? Now you talk. You are such a nice guy.
Interviewer: (28:56) Ha, ha, ha. .. I
Mrs. K.: (28:03) Well, us older
folks, I don’t know. If you were to ask me what I ate last night, I wouldn’t
necessarily remember. You know, being seventy now. In a while I’ll be seventy. I
wouldn’t want to live through that again. My mother, when she went barefoot, she
had this sort of wood, <tady vospod>. That wood and with it the children … a
bundle of wood, or whatever it was. (29.36) A person would never want to go
through that again. Whenever I hear on the news about that terrorism, or
whatever they talk about, I’m already afraid. Because I have already suffered
through a lot. A lot. A lot I have suffered. But what can we do, no?
Interviewer: (30:28) I cannot
imagine, how a person can live with such trauma.
Mrs. K.: (30:33) Yes, precisely. And
several times I talked to the children, when they were around eleven. And they
would ask how it was, but I couldn’t explain and tears would always well over my
face. And they would say, „But mommy, certainly they didn’t do anything to you."
Well, it’s because I didn’t tell them anything, how I had suffered. (30:56) All
of it. My father was smart. Very smart. If he had not saluted and asked to see
the commander, then they would have killed us all right then and there. All of
us. The entire village. (31:12) But my dad was smart.
Interviewer: ( 31:17) That was when
you were coming back from the.. right?
Mrs. K.: (00:09) So you know what it means to salute? How they do it now,
those soldiers, when they see a superior. Well we call it saluting. And some
Czechs use the same word. Some of them.
Interviewer: (00:26) How do you feel
now, when we were talking about it. How do you feel?
Mrs. K.: (00:29) Well, I do not like to recall this experience. But when you
said you would come.. we are people, you know … what had happened to the Roma.
Interviewer: (00:51) After the war,
were you perhaps haunted by memories of the war?
Mrs. K.: (00:56) I did not hear you very well.
Interviewer: (01:00) If those bad
memories do not haunt you, such as in your dreams.
Mrs. K.: (01:07) Well, yes, sometimes
yes. Other times no. A person must forget about these things. All of it. So I
manage to forget, fairly quickly. Two, three days, and everything is okay again.
You know, these memories, when I was speaking there, then all the people at
Strossmajerovo nam. were crying … how afterwards I had went down, from that
tribunal … people would say: (01.39): „Well I understand your feelings now. But
you look good." I said: „Before I looked nice, but not anymore."
Interviewer: (01:53) We thank you.
Mrs. K.: (01:54) Think nothing of it.
Interviewer: Lets drink some water.
Mrs. K.: Help yourself.