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Elena Lacková

Elena Lacková (1921, Veľký Šariš, Prešov district – 2003, Košice) was a Romani writer, poet and playwright, and one of the leading figures of the Romani ethno-emancipation movement in Slovakia. She began to write poetry even before the war, as a schoolgirl. Elena Lacková’s promising work was interrupted by the war: the creation of the Slovak state was declared a week before her eighteenth birthday and the family began to face repression. In 1940 she married Jozef Lacek from Kapušany, who then spent the following year in the camp for forced labour at Petič. In November 1943 Elena Lacková and her family experienced the destruction of their settlement.

After the war Lacková and her husband joined the Communist Party out of conviction and began to devote themselves to educational activities. She wrote her first play in 1948, Hořící cikánský tábor (The gypsy camp is on fire) about the persecution of the Roma during World War II, rehearsed it with her own company and then toured the whole of Czechoslovakia. She brought up five children, and then at the age of forty-two registered for distance learning at the Faculty of Journalism and Education at the Charles University in Prague, where in 1970 she was the first Roma woman from Slovakia to graduate. She was forty-nine years old and by that time had nine grandchildren.

Lacková wrote many articles and plays for radio and the theatre. Her best known work is her autobiography Narodila jsem se pod šťastnou hvězdou (I was born under a happy star) which was published in cooperation with the specialist in Indian and Roma studies Milena Hübschmannová. She travelled with Lacková from 1976 to 1984 and recorded her narration in the Roma language. It was 1997 before the transcribed, translated and edited memoirs were published by the Triáda publishing house.

Elena Lacková was the first Roma personality to be awarded a high state award – The Order of Ľudovít Štúr Third Class, which was awarded to her by the Slovak President Rudolf Schuster in 2001. The Slovak President likewise awarded her his Commemorative Medal for her lifelong efforts to bring the values of the Roma nation to the non-Roma society and for her artistic depiction of the holocaust of the Roma.

  • Testimony abstract

    Roma were taken[1] from the settlement of Veľký Šariš, where Elena Lacková grew up, into the so-called coffee army. Roma were similarly taken from the village of Stuľany. They had to build railway lines and highways.

    Lacková described how the Roma in the military labour unit rebelled when, unlike other soldiers, they were not allowed to go home for Christmas. She described the oppression by the military guards, the beatings and the verbal humiliations as further motives for the rebellion. Among the rebels from the town of Veľký Šariš, Lacková remembered especially Belek the “dark”,[2] Belek Horváth the “light”, Arpád and Kalej. They even had weapons, but the officers disarmed them with the help of forces they had called from outside and locked them up. The Roma rebels were subsequently condemned to death, but they appealed to [President] Tiso and he pardoned them. None of them was executed but they had to serve their time, after which they had to do military service.

    • [1] It is not said when.
    • [2] With a dark skin, surname not given.

    How to cite abstract

    Abstract 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, 832-839 (ces), 840-847 (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/elena-lackova (accessed 5/21/2024)
  • Origin of Testimony

    Elena Lacková’s testimony was recorded in the Roma language, transcribed and translated by Milena Hübschmannová. The interview took place in August 2000 in the Laceks’ house in the presence of Pavla Kříženecká and Helena Sadílková, at that time Roma Studies students. The interview has been slightly shortened. Elena Lacková’s testimony concurs with the statement by Vojtěch Bendík.[1]

    • [1] See his testimony in the database.
  • Where to find this testimony

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