Anežka Klaudová (1925) just after the war. She was born into a mixed family in a long-settled Roma community. The family was taken to a collection point, but only her 20-year-old brother was taken away. He died in Buchenwald concentration camp.
Photograph from the collection of the Museum of Romani Culture.
Anežka Klaudová, née Klaudová, born 1925, Strážnice, district of Hodonín
Anežka Klaudová's family lived outside of Strážnice in a poor Romani settlement without running water and electricity. Her father, František Klauda, who had six siblings, was born in 1901 in Strážnice into a poor Czech family and, following his father's example, was a well-digger, pump-installer, plumber and blacksmith. His mother, Marie Klaudová, née Kýrová, who was called Inka, was born in Strážnice in 1904 and was, according to the respondent, a true Roma. Klaudová's maternal grandmother was named Terezie Malíková and came from Kátov near Holíč in Slovakia, while her grandfather Jan Kýr was originally from Strážnice in Moravia and worked as a blacksmith. Several generations earlier, men had already come to Strážnice to offer their blacksmithing trade, set up their workshops, and gradually they were joined by other relatives. At first there were about four families.
Anežka Klaudová's parents met in a Romani settlement, where her father often came to listen when the youngsters played bass or violin outside. Anežka Klaudová's father married at 21, her mother was 18. Until the age of 35, when he got his own business, he used to work in Napajedla where his brother had a business. In his forge, her father produced hoes and ploughshares, which were also delivered to factories in Hodonín and Rohatec. The blacksmith's work was paid for not in kind but in cash. In the winter, he walked on foot to sell the tools he made in Bzenec, where people grew all kinds of vegetables. Anežka Klaudová's mother, like other Romani women, earned her living by helping with field work, weeding beets, hoeing potatoes, etc. Her grandmother sometimes went with the others to the farms in Brno and spent the entire harvest there. In return for their work, the women received food such as flour, potatoes, meat or bacon, but also money, reportedly ten crowns a day. Now and then they also went begging or committed petty theft – for example, they pilfered corn cobs and sold them to Jewish women to feed to the ducks. They also brought wood from the forest, where they were sometimes caught by the gamekeeper, and the children picked sloes, apples and pears in the orchards. They also stole coal from the wagons in order to have something to heat their homes, because, as she said, they suffered from poverty, they had no money and unemployment was rife. She said older women sometimes went begging, because they had neither pensions nor sick payment. But Anežka Klaudová's grandmother used to go to Petrov to massage the backs of farmers’ wives, tired from working. In return they would give her food for her to cook: meat, lard, eggs, flour. She said she always came back with a full basket. The grandmother also knew how to make brushes attached to long sticks, which the peasants in Staré Město used to paint their houses. Anežka Klaudová herself and her friend Maryška used to beg for food from the kitchen at the local chateau, where they were always given soup or bread. Thanks to her fearless friend, they even managed to get inside the chateau to the places where the "counts" were. When they noticed the girls there, they gave them few coins. Otherwise, they used to go to Strážnice at Christmas carolling. The Roma would go around the rich estates, sing under the windows and receive gifts of cakes or even money.
Anežka Klaudová was the middle of three children. The younger sister and the older brother František, who was born in 1922, used to sleep at their grandparents' house at night because there was not much room in the Klaud house. Anežka Klaudová was the only one of them to complete her primary education, and even entered the gymnasium, receiving a monthly scholarship of two hundred crowns, part of which she gave to her parents, but she had could also buy something for herself. She said that the shops in Strážnice were mainly owned by Jews. After two years, however, she left school because her parents could not help her with her studies, her mother being illiterate and her father only able to write. The Romani language was not spoken much in Anežka Klaudová's family; she said they were forbidden to speak it because it was deemed useless. However, her aunt, her mother's cousin, could sing Romani songs beautifully; she died in a concentration camp during the war.
The Roma were religious. When a child was born in a Romani settlement, the parents usually took as godparents Romani people from places where they had friends, such as Tvarožná Lhota, Velká or Vrbka. Romani people were also married in the Roman Catholic church; brides wore Strážnice folk costumes and grooms wore dark suits.
There was a Romani theatre troupe in Strážnice that was led and directed by František Kýr. He reportedly only completed five grades, but he read a lot and was very interested in theatre. The troupe performed in villages where there was no theatre, such as Radějov, but they also performed in Strážnice. One of the performers was Anča Kýrová, who could sing beautifully, and it is said that an unnamed painter came to the Roma settlement to paint her because of her beauty.
During the war, Anežka Klaudová went to live with her paternal uncle in Zlín. She worked at the Baťa factory in a warehouse under Gestapo supervision. Her family had to go to the assembly point in Hodonín, where a committee was to decide who would be transported to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. Her brother František dared to ask about the reasons for the transport, and she said that was why he was the only one of the family who was sent. He reached the camp in May 1943, and a year later he was transferred to Buchenwald, where he died in August.
Klaudová regretted that she was deprived of the opportunity to have an education, but she understood that her parents could not help her because they themselves had no education. But she was happy for her children.
Anežka Klaudová's son trained as an electrician, gained his secondary school diploma and passed it with honours because, as Klaudová said, "he was getting guidance".
Origin of Testimony
The interview with Anežka Klaudová was conducted by the Museum of Romani Culture in 2001 and 2003. The information also comes from a research report and from Helena Danielová's book, Memories of Romani Women, Roots I, published by the Museum of Romani Culture in 2002.
Where to find this testimony