I have a heart, and it’s not Czech

Hanka KozurikovaLibice nad Cidlinou
I was born in Kolin in 1966 to Anna and Koloman Conka. They had already had two boys; I was their first daughter.
My mom was from the vicinity of Poprad in Slovakia. The village where she was born is called Lucivna. A Czech historian of the Roms, Milena Hubschmannova, has written that it was and still is a wealthy settlement. I have no idea whether this is true or not.
My father, whom people called Kalman, was born in the Poprad area too. His village is called Stola. I very much regret never having visited it.
My mom died when I was twelve. Of course I do remember her, but my memories of my father, who died in 1982, are much more vivid.
My father was a learned man, wise and well read. He liked food, cars, books and, hopefully, his family. His father died in World War II, and his mother remarried. His stepfather did not like him much and little Kalman ran away from home. When he was seventeen, he made it all the way to Prague. After a while, he returned to Slovakia but decided that some day he would move to Bohemia for good.
He met my mom when he was nineteen. He heard that in Lucivna there was a nice single girl and decided to take a look at her. He liked her, but she did not want him. And neither did her parents. But they ended up getting married and built a little house in Lucivna.
After a while my father left for Bohemia to look for work. He found a job in a small workshop. He visited my mother regularly, but she paid only rare visits to him. In 1966, he found a job in Kolin and, in 1971 my mother moved there to join him. I don’t know whether my parents moved knowing it was for good or whether they were planning to return to Slovakia. But they never went back. I think that my father did not want to go back, though my mom was far from happy. To her, home was Lucivna. I remember my father having white friends but my mother had no friends at all. I know she missed Slovakia all her life.
I remember that my childhood had something strange about it: a kind of pressure.
We didn’t talk much about being Roma. It just went without saying.
Still, I can’t explain the feeling.
At school I was the only dark-skinned first grader. I didn’t like it, though I don’t remember why not. And I got used to it.
I’m not saying that I ever entirely forgot that I was a Rom, but sometimes I didn’t think about it.
Of course there were always some "friendly people” who promptly reminded me.
Once when I was already a vocational school student I overheard my German language teacher ask a friend of mine how could she be friends with a Gypsy. Why not? Until this happened I’d liked both the language and the teacher. Since then I’ve hated both.
I’m a trained shop assistant. I was the first in our family to complete vocational school. Other people in the family had tried too, but had no luck. It was my father who wanted me to become a shop assistant. “People will always have to buy food,” he said.
At the vocational school, there was another dark-skinned girl. We were not friends and actually didn’t even know each other. All my friends were white. Guys I went out with were white too. No wonder I ended up marrying a white guy.
I’m not complaining. Before we met I had seen him in a dream. He was my destiny.
Then in autumn 1997 we watched a showing of Romale on TV and heard that the Evangelical Academy was inviting new students to enroll. I asked my husband whether he thought I should go for it. “Sure,” he said. “It’s the right thing for you.”
I don’t think he had a clue.
When I first entered the Academy I was surprised at how many dark-skinned people there were. I don’t know why I disliked it, but I did. But I got used to them and grew to like them.
After about a year, I confided to a schoolmate that I sometimes felt out of place and somehow wrong. He told me this was because I don’t know who I was and where I belonged. He also said that once I was clear about that I would be fine.
This was quite something to think about. How do you ask yourself who you are and where you belong? I live with a Czech man among Czechs. I speak Czech and I do things Czechs do. My ID says I am a Czech woman.
But I have a heart, and it’s not Czech. It’s Romany – like my father’s and my mom’s.
I’m homesick.
Lord, what did they do to me? I don’t know who I am or where I belong. I like food, cars, books, and hopefully my husband…
Forgive me.
I’ve forgiven you…

No Responses to “I have a heart, and it’s not Czech”

  1. i have the opposite story. i was born jewish in america and when i was 22 i married a gypsy. after 20 years i was half american and half gypsy in my thinking and i wasn’t with him anymore and couldn’t fit back in to the american culture. the roma in america live like roma and i was with them so long and part of me loved it and its still inside me. i hope you get this e-mail. wendy

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