Dezider Daduč, born 1931, Pozdišovce, district Michalovce
Dezider Daduč's grandfather, who had a son called Michal, born in 1902, was killed in World War I. Therefore Michal grew up from the age of twelve with wealthy Jews in Pozdišovce, where he learned the butcher's trade and where he was an assistant until 1939. Two other Jewish families lived in the village and had a small farm there. After he got married, Michal Daduč made a living weaving brooms and baskets. From 1931 he was a communist.
Dezider Daduč's mother Zuzana was also born in 1902. She was from Ujlak and worked for a farmer who had a mill in the village of Močarmany. She received a third of the potato harvest for her work. As a boy, Dezider Daduč herded cows for a rich farmer who gave him new shoes, a suit and 300 kilograms of wheat in return. The wheat was then ground into flour at the mill, and because they had enough potatoes, they did not live badly.
The villages from which Dezider Daduč’s parents came were fifteen or twenty kilometres apart. They both had relatives in the village of Lastomír and it was through them that they met. His mother did not speak Slovak at that time; she spoke only Hungarian. In Pozdišovce they lived about twenty metres outside the village in a settlement hidden among the hills; about thirty families lived in houses made of unfired bricks. Almost every Romani person in the settlement was a musician; there were three bands in total, which came to play at weddings and parties. Daduč's pantáta [farmer, landlord] told him that from his playing, he used to bring home a full crate of food for the children, including cakes and sweets. Dezider Daduč's father was not a musician; in Daduč's words, his whole life was spent “in toil”.
Daduč recalled that when the war started in 1939, nothing really happened in Pozdišovce. The Germans only marched on Ungvar (also known as Užhorod), on Russia and on Ukraine, and the Roma threw flowers at their tanks. The first two years of Slovakia's independence were still good; the turning point came when the Hlinka Guard took power in 1941. In the same year, they started to take the local Jews away. One of them managed to get off the train and join the partisans, where he gained the rank of lieutenant and left for Israel after the war. After the Jews were taken away, the Roma started to be afraid, and soon things became bad for them too – they couldn't go to town or to the village, and couldn’t go shopping or socialize. A policeman by the name of Pačaj supervised the maintenance of order. He walked around with a large cudgel, and had six or seven people around him. Daduč recalled that his father took him to town as an eleven-year-old to buy him shoes, but Pačaj saw them and started chasing them. The village people who worked with his father stood up for them and so Pačaj left them alone, otherwise Daduč said he would have beaten his father to death. Another time, Dezider Daduč had to clean the gendarmes' bicycles, and then bring them a cudgel that they beat him with until he wet himself. A teacher named Durkot stood up for him and told them off, and from then on they apparently left Daduč in peace. After the war, they learned that the teacher was playing a double game; he made himself out to be a Hlinka Guard, but in spirit he was a communist. The teacher liked him, and gave him his daughter's shoes so that he wouldn't have to go barefoot, but Daduč only managed to complete five grades in primary school because the Germans occupied the village and the Roma could no longer go anywhere.
There were about ten Hlinka Guards among the Slovak inhabitants of Pozdišovce. There were no gendarmes in the village; the nearest station was in Michalovce, six kilometres away. They used to ride round the surrounding villages on bicycles with the Guards, behaving like madmen, and "practised" on the Roma - attacking them at night, beating them with sticks, and not sparing even the elderly. One old woman was so badly beaten by the gendarmes that she died within a month. When a Romani woman went shopping in secret and was caught, they beat her so badly she couldn't stand up. But the other villagers were kind and secretly brought food to the Roma.
Around 1942, typhoid fever broke out in the village. Many people ended up in the hospital, including Daduč’s sister and brother. The gendarmes surrounded the settlement, chased the Roma out and shaved the women and children, and also the men. Daduč's mother had long hair, and they grabbed it and spun her around by her hair until she fell to the ground. They took everyone's blankets and clothes and threw them into the so-called steam room [a mobile disinfection station in which steam was used to destroy lice as a source of typhus], and the Roma were forced to bathe together in one room in front of the gendarmes. Afterwards, the gendarmes stopped them from going anywhere. People from the village brought them food so they would not starve to death
They took boys for conscription from the age of fifteen. Roma who had reached a certain level of education carried arms, the others carried a shovel. They were locked up in a camp, given black clothing and put to work. Daduč's grandfather was in the camp, as well as his uncle Eliáš and his cousin’s partner. Dezider Daduč's brother was light-skinned, no one would have known he was Romani, so he worked among the Slovaks in Strážske on the construction of a railway tunnel, while other Roma were locked up in the camps there.
Daduč's father had a cousin whose son Gejza Hoľan enlisted in 1941. He rode a horse – he was what they called a hussar. You couldn't tell he was Romani. In 1942, he escaped with the army of Ludvík Svoboda across the front to Russia. During the Slovak National Uprising, paratroopers from the Slovak Brigade arrived in Slovakia and Hoľan was among them. But he carved his name and where he came from on a tree somewhere near Tri Duby airport and someone found out. The gendarmes then raided the Romani settlement in Pozdišovce, searched for him and tortured his mother. Hoľan did not return home until six months after the liberation, with a broken back from having been buried somewhere for half a day.
One day, the Germans came to the settlement and ordered the Roma to go to Úboč [a hill about five kilometres away] to dig trenches, but the Roma did not obey, so in the morning the Germans wanted to shoot them. They took them to the mayor's house and held them there - Daduč's father and brother escaped in time, but among the twenty or so men were his grandfather and uncle. One of the Germans, however, said that the Roma did not come because they were afraid, and that if they were allowed home now, they would certainly come the next day. They were released and from the next day onwards the men dug trenches day and night.
Three days before the outbreak of the Slovak national uprising, the Germans wanted to liquidate the Roma. Daduč recalled how he secretly went to the tobacconist to buy tobacco for his father and on the way met the village drummer who warned him that the Germans wanted to transport the Roma to the camp the next day. The entire family, including the youngest, four-month-old Láďa, together with about three other families, fled to the woods near the village of “Murovany”, while others hid with relatives and friends. The Dadučes hid in the forest that stretched through the villages of Trhovište, Pozdišovce, Moravany, Suché, Lesné and Rakovec. They ate apples and beets, whatever could be stolen in the fields; everything was raw, as they were afraid to start a fire. In the village of Suché the people did not want to accept them, as they were afraid they would be shot for it – the Germans had recently burned down the nearby village of Vinné. The partisans had shot about four Germans there, so the Germans surrounded the village, tortured and shot the mayor's wife, and took all the men over the age of fifteen to a place he called “Bílá Hůra”, where they had to dig a pit, before being shot.
For four days the war was fought right in Pozdišovce, as the front passed through. Shooting went on in Úboč, Suché,and Murovany. When the Daduč family returned home, their house had been destroyed by fire, and the beams were still smouldering. They had nowhere to go, so the family of about fourteen stayed for two weeks at their grandmother's house, where they slept on the floor. Then in the spring the father rebuilt the house.
The newspapers said that there were empty houses in Bohemia left by the Germans, so people who had nowhere to live moved there. Roma left for Liberec or Ústí nad Labem, for example. Some returned to Slovakia, others stayed in Bohemia.
Dezider Daduč left for Bohemia in the autumn of 1945 with a friend. They got a job and a house in “Rinolnice” near Jablonec. They stayed there for about a year. Their next-door neighbours were the Šugárs, with whom they got along well. Then he returned home and persuaded his parents to leave with him. However, they did not start their journey until 1949, when Dezider Daduč was already living in Ústí nad Labem, because his father's relatives from Lúčky – the Dadučes, Grajcars and Bánoms – lived there as well. Dezider's father and brother Jozef found work with the company Vodotechna as ditch diggers, while Dezider worked on construction sites and his mother as a cleaner. They eventually settled permanently in Ústí nad Labem. They lived well there; no one discriminated between Roma and Czechs. Even before his military service, Daduč volunteered in his free time to build a bus station and received a diploma from the National Committee for it. In 1951, he enlisted for military service , which he performed at Aš in what he called the “the internal guard” on the border. He spent two years and three months there, returning on 30 January 1955; the same year, and again in 1957, he enlisted for several weeks of training. After returning from military service, he joined the North-Bohemian Armature Factory in Předlice, where where he received some four diplomas for his work. At that time he was was still working a night-shift at “Bínov”. In 1955 he bought a motorcycle for 8,800 crowns. He waited almost four years for a car, which cost 48,000 crowns. He was the first Romani in Czechoslovakia to own a car. He described getting a Škoda car as the greatest experience of his life, and it was written about in the newspapers.
Dezider Daduč was married twice. His first wife was not Romani; he met her in Úštěk, where his father was digging trenches, and they had a disabled son. He lived with his second wife, a Romani woman, for forty-three years. He was a widower and has two daughters. However, three of the children from the second marriage died in childhood – Kristýna died of kidney disease at the age of four, Jarmila was run over by a motorcycle at the age of seven, and Jaroslav also succumbed to kidney disease, aged twelve.
How to cite abstractAbstract of testimony from: KRAMÁŘOVÁ, Jana a kol., (Ne)bolí. Vzpomínky Romů na válku a život po válce. 1. Praha: Člověk v tísni, společnost při České televizi, o.p.s., 2005. ISBN 80-86961-04-4, 115-129. 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/dezider-daduc (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
The narrative was recorded during visits to Dezider Daduč in north Bohemia in 2001, 2004 and 2005. The text has been edited for publication in a book.
Where to find this testimony