Survivors had to settle on river banks

Emilie HorackovaJarovnice, SlovakiaAugust 2000
Anna Husarova is an old lady whose path through life has been full of stones and suffering. Her story takes us as far back as World War II.
In 1940 Anna was eighteen, married and living in Jarovnice. At the time the settlement had only six houses, huts really. Before the war it was bad for everyone, but doubly so for the Roma. Slovak farmers hired them for temporary work on their farms and in the fields. In return they got mainly food. They were happy to get just about any food for their families. Relationships between the farmers and the Roma were good, and the Roma were grateful for everything they got, even scraps of food paid for with hard labor.
Then the war broke out, and the Roma were deported to work camps. Anna told us about the hard labor they did without knowing what the Germans had in store for them. Every evening she and her husband used to think about their village where they had left two children in charge of their granny. They had no news of them, and could only pray for their safety.
Horrible things happened in the camp. Anna saw how the Germans treated the girls. They were raped, beaten and humiliated in every possible way.
And the Germans took liberties even with Anna. She was beautiful and young then: she had lovely hair and an attractive body.
She and her husband tried to think of something to do to keep her from what was being done to the other girls.
A Slovak man who was also in the camp kept telling her to clench her teeth and put up with everything – or both she and her husband would be killed.
It was a very hard time for Anna.
Then they decided to run away from the camp. they didn’t know where to go, but they were saved by a Slovak who hid them at his place. They escaped certain death, and were safely hidden until the Russians arrived.
They had survived!
After the war all the Roma, Anna included began to live the life that the Slovak state permitted them. They lived in poverty in horrible conditions, grieving for their relatives who had not survived the war.
Survivors had to settle next to forests, in the middle of fields or on river banks: these were the only places where they were allowed to settle down and start over. They built huts and began to call them flats. No attention was paid to them, and they were given no help.
For both Jews and Roma the war meant the loss of their relatives and friends in concentration camps.
The Roma suffer as God requires them to.
Anna had five children, three daughters and two sons. She and her husband brought them up, married them off, and began to enjoy their grandchildren. They barely managed to scrape by, but they were happy.
When he was sixty, Anna’s husband passed away.
Life takes everyone through various situations which bring him experience but also suffering. In the course of time one gets wiser. Some people receive blow after blow and hardly recover. Others find their death.
The worst blow in Anna’s life came on the twentieth of July in 1998. She was living in Mocidlany and that day Anna and her family were all at home, tired after a day in the sun. They were watching TV, and welcomed the rain.
When the fatal moments began, most people in the village were asleep or dozing.
The rain got heavier and heavier. Soon the drops were making puddles and the little stream was turning into a dangerous torrent. Floods ran down from the hills into the valley of Mocidlany.
"We were caught unawares. Suddenly a Romany man came running and shouting: ‘Don’t just sit there! Houses down by the river are being carried away. They need help!’
When we heard this we got really scared. I was petrified.
Before the man had finished speaking, the water reached us, and soon we could see it all for ourselves. The water was rising, and everyone was shouting and calling for help.
We didn’t know who to save first.
Our men were brave, and they took us all to a neighbor who had a bigger house, and we hid in the attic. We were too afraid to do anything. We just waited to see what would happen next. We waited, crying and lamenting our fate. I would not wish anything like that on anyone.
I don’t know how long we stayed there: maybe an hour or two. Then the water calmed down, and flooded everything in sight. Most of it was in Jarovnice – Mocidlany.
Confusion broke out: everyone was looking for their families. There were soldiers trying to save people. They carried the children around. And they had to carry me too. I had broken down, and my legs wouldn’t hold me up.
The soldiers made us run into the municipal center and the church. There was still water everywhere around.
It reminded me of the war. The war was something like this.
They put up big tents for us in the meadow on the hill. But we were cold. And we couldn’t even eat. We were in shock because we had seen what happened to the houses of our children and relatives and we didn’t know whether they had survived. We hoped and prayed they were safe. We cried and cried.
I didn’t know anything. My daughters had lived right next to the river, where there had been about forty-five houses and huts. But now the whole place was completely empty. It was as if the houses had never been there.
The water took away my three daughters, my son and twenty grandchildren. I have survived my children and my grandchildren.
I would have willingly given my life for their young lives. I wish the water had taken me and spared them. They did not have much of a life.
One son has been left to me, and I will spend my last days with him.
All the dark things I have lived through in my life are nothing compared to those few hours. Such a tragedy. Such pain and fear.
Today it is the twentieth of July 2000. Two years have passed since the day of the catastrophe. But the pain has not gone. The wound is still fresh. It will never heal.
We’re afraid it will happen again.”
Anna Husarova ended her story in tears.

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