What has he left to me? My name

Emilie HorackovaMimonJuly 2000
My father had a terrible childhood. He and his entire family were sent to Auschwitz. I’m not sure, but I think his family all died there. I know that my father and grandpa were there, and that grandpa died there.
My father was the only one of his family who survived.
He was transported to Buchenwald between August third and fourth, nineteen forty-four. That’s the way it’s written in some materials that the Germans were trying to destroy.
From Buchenwald he was taken to Dachau, where he spent the rest of the war until the camp was liberated by the Americans. He was twelve years old at the time, and he had spent four years in concentration camps.
I have no idea when and where he acquired his surname. Horacek is not a Romany name.
After the war he lived in England, and after his return to Czechoslovakia he spent two years doing his military service.
After his return he lived in Prague, as he had before the war. There he met my mother, who was very young and beautiful. The result of their love was a little girl: me.
But the two of them didn’t get along well; they were very different: she was young and inexperienced, whereas he had already been through a lot. She was just a young Romany girl from a Slovak village, and he was a grown man who had lived through the horrors of the war – as the number 7512 tattooed on his forearm reminded him.
Father was very secretive, and often didn’t come home at night. After a year my mother ran away from him. She was looking for someone like herself. She found someone, but from a different class: she fell in love with an Olach Rom. That wasn’t so wonderful either, but after problems at the beginning she remained faithful to him until his death.
And there I was, a helpless little girl. My mother left me in the foster care of her brother and his second wife. They didn’t have any children, and took care of me as if I were their own.
When my mother and father parted for good, I was exactly one year old. I have never seen my father in person, and know him only from photographs. I have always wanted to meet him.
In 1968 my father immigrated to Germany, and from there to America. I don’t know exactly where is his living, but rumor has it that he is in Chicago.
I have been looking for him since I was twelve, writing letters and waiting for an answer from him. But he has never written me back. He has never remembered his daughter, whom he didn’t support but gave into the care of the state. Maybe that is why he was afraid to come forward and disclose his address. He chose to burn all his bridges behind him.
During the Communist regime I couldn’t search for him. After the revolution I began my search through the Red Cross. I waited about two years for some news. But none came.
Years went by, and I kept hoping that we would meet one day. Sometimes I told myself that he may have died, and I didn’t knowwhere he was buried. At other times I tried to imagine his face.
I wanted to meet my father. Everyone said I looked like him. I never looked like the children my mother had with her second husband. I was different. I was proud to resemble my father and not my mother.
My efforts came to an end in 1998. I finally received word that my father had contacted the Red Cross. He needed papers documenting his stay in the concentration camps. The Red Cross informed him that I was looking for him.
But he refused to be put in contact with me, saying that he was too old and sick to start over now.
When I read the letter I began to cry. My husband and children cried too. They felt my pain with me. The picture of my father that I had formed in my mind was shattered into a thousand pieces. I felt so bad that he rejected me.
He didn’t want me to have his address. He probably didn’t want to be part of the Romany people any more. And I had dreamed my sad dream, hoping there would be a happy ending like in the movies!
He has not returned from America, and I am not sure he is alive. I think he would be sixty-nine.
They did say that he was sick. I wrote him through the Red Cross again, but my letter came back to them unopened.
I cannot find peace.
If he is dead, I would at least like to be able to put a flower on his grave. I have forgiven him, and I still love him.
What has he left me? My name. No Rom has the name I do.
Karolina Kopicova responded on 16 May 2002:
You have a strange family name which is not ussual in you community. Don´tthe other Roma treat you different? I mena- if they don´t know you in personand only hear your name. I wish you found your father.

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