Andrej Giňa (born 1936, Tolčemeš, today Šarišské Sokolovce – died 2015, Rokycany), was a leading Roma activist, musician, organiser of cultural events, entrepreneur and author. He belonged to the first generation of Roma writers in the Czech Republic. His father was a blacksmith and musician – the primáš (folk band leader). They moved to Bohemia when Andrej Giňa was ten years old, and after a short stay in Prague settled in Rokycany. He was trained as a smelter, studying in the evening at teacher training college, but was unable to finish his studies because of military service. He belonged to the first generation of Roma authors – at first he tried to write down in Czech the fairy tales he heard told by the elder Roma. From 1969 to 1973 he worked in the first Roma organisation, the Union of Gypsies-Roma, which was when he began to write in the Roma language. He played guitar and bass in the Rokycany cimbalom (dulcimer) band and in the 1980s founded the group Rytmus 84, playing what was known as rom-pop. After 1989 he owned a family business, which supplied the raw materials for the preparation of the traditional goja dish. He began to write journalism for various Roma periodicals, expressing his opinion himself on the Roma minority’s situation at that time. A selection of his stories was published in the anthology of Roma prose writing, Čalo voďi – Sytá duše (Deep Soul; Museum of Roma Culture, 2007); in the collection Bijav – Svatba (Wedding; Apeiron, 1991) and in a selection from the work Paťiv – Ještě víme, co je úcta (We still know what honour is; Triáda, 2013). Giňa’s story “O staré Jožaně – Pal e phuri Jožaňa” (Old Jožaňa) was included posthumously in the collection Všude samá krása – 20. století v povídkách romských autorů (Beauty all around – the 20th century in stories by Roma authors, KHER, 2021).
Andrej Giňa’s father was a blacksmith and musician, popular in the village and honoured among the Roma as what they thought of as the “mayor”. He shod horses and made nails, hoes and ploughs and similar necessities for them. The Roma lived in one-room cottages made from unfired bricks. The floors were of compressed earth and for the most part there was greased paper in the windows instead of glass. Things were a little better with Giňa’s family which, for example, was the only family to have a house with a wooden floor.
When Giňa was around six years old, the gendarmes came with the Hlinka Guard and told his father that the Roma had to move out of the village as fast as possible to a place called Pod Hinteškou, about two or three kilometres away. They had to dismantle their houses and the farmers carried the material for them so they could build some provisional shelters in Pod Hinteškou. Giňa said the farmers cheated them, because according to the agreement they should also have built the houses for them. He remembered the difficult living conditions in the new place, the cold, and the shortage of clothing, but especially the restrictions on their movement, the hunger and the fear.
Straight after the war the family left for the Czech lands. As Andrej Giňa said, never again did they want to see the place where they had experienced such suffering, and chiefly they did not want to meet the farmers who had cheated them, according to Giňa.
How to cite abstractAbstract of testimony from: HÜBSCHMANNOVÁ, Milena, ed. “Po židoch cigáni.” Svědectví Romů ze Slovenska 1939–1945.: I. díl (1939–srpen 1944). 1. Praha: Triáda, 2005. ISBN 80-86138-14-3, 110-111 (ces), 112-113 (rom). Testimonies of the Roma and Sinti. Project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences), https://www.romatestimonies.com/testimony/andrej-gina (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
Andrej Giňa’s recollections were included in a book as an original text entitled Jak nás vyhnali z vesnice (How they drove us out of the village) without any details of their origin.
Where to find this testimony