Even though our house had been destroyed

Author: Verka Dudi Kot’o
Location: Ostrava
My Romany father told me this story. He is now sixty-two.
"I was born in Slovakia: in Snina, in Humenné county. I had nine sisters and brothers, and I was the second youngest. We lived in a house my father built.
I have very bad memories of the War. When I was six, we got transported to a camp in Dubnica nad Váhom. I remember the truck in which they took us and the tears in the eyes of my mother and sisters. I didn’t understand why they were crying.
After we arrived in the camp, they separated the men from the mothers and kids. I was very scared of the Germans and kept asking my mother what was going on and why our papa and my older brothers weren’t with us. She told me to keep my mouth shut or they would shoot us. It was only after the separation that she told me we were in a camp.
I remember we got a soup. They said there were vitamins in it and that we had to eat it. I told my mother that the soldiers were really nice to us, and my brother and I ate the soup. Then my mother put us down on the floor and we fell asleep. I’m told that we slept for three days. She must have thought we had died.
Later on, it became clear that the soup wasn’t good at all: we got bad cramps. It was a typhoid infection. Many people got it.
One day – it was close to the end of our second year there – we suddenly heard shooting and grenades exploding. We were afraid that we would get killed. Then the shooting stopped and the gates opened. Soldiers poured in and told us to run away.
Holding our mother’s hands, my younger brother and I headed for the nearest forest. We tried to find our father and brothers.
I don’t remember how long it took us to get back home to Snina. Our house was in ruins. My mother and sisters were crying, but my father reassured us that we would build a new house.
It was getting dark and we crawled into the ruins and went to sleep. Even though our house had been destroyed, we were very happy to be back home.”

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