Emílie Machálková
Show on Map

Emílie Machálková

Emílie Machálková, known as Elina (née Holomková, born 1926, Svatobořice, Kyjov district – died 2017 in Brno) was a creative and active personality, well known in the cultural world. She was born into the Holomek family, settled in Moravian Slovakia. In 1933 her parents moved from Svatobořice to Nesovice. After the German occupation she had to leave school and start working in a factory in Slavkov at the age of thirteen. She, her parents and siblings, were saved from deportation to Auschwitz II-Birkenau by the mayor of Nesovice, Josef Kilián, who arranged for them to be removed from the transport. In 1945 she was asked to present herself for sterilisation, but she hid in her aunt’s cellar in Olomouc for half a year and successfully avoided the procedure. After the war Machálková established herself as a singer, winning several singing competitions. She sang with leading Czechoslovak folk singers such as Jožka Severin, Eugen Horváth and Jožka Černý. She cooperated with the Museum of Romani Culture and the Živá paměť (Living Memory) association, and as a memoirist participated in talks and lectures in schools. She made a significant contribution to educating children and youth about the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti, and wrote a memoir about her life which was published by the Museum of Romani Culture in the publication Memoáry romských žen [Memoirs of Romani Women] under the title Sága rodu Holomků [The Saga of the Holomek Family] (2004). In 2013, she was awarded the Museum of Romani Culture Award for passing on her life experiences and working with children.

  • Testimony abstract

    Emílie Machálková grew up in the village of Svatobořice, where she lived with her parents Rosina and Antonín Holomek and her brother Miroslav in their grandparents’ household ("the old’uns") Tereza and Pavel Holomek.[1] She attended the municipal school in Svatobořice. At the age of eight she moved with her parents to the village of Nesovice. Her brother Miroslav stayed with his grandparents because he had started attending the Realgymnasium in Kyjov. Machálková entered a three-grade school in Nesovice, where she did not receive a warm welcome. The teacher, Mr. Cejnek, put her in the last desk and made her feel inferior. Even the children treated her badly and it was only with time that she made friends.

    Machálková then describes her idyllic summer holidays after this unpleasant school year, which she spent with her grandparents in Svatobořice. She helped her grandmother in the household and to make a living. For example, she remembers how, after the harvest, she used to go with her grandmother to the fields to collect the ears of corn that were left after the harvest. At the threshing floor, her grandmother beat them with a flail, sifted them with a sieve and then exchanged the sack of grain for a sack of flour at the mill.

    In the new school year, Machálková had a new teacher, Vincenc Vrána, who moved her to the first desk because she was so small. He also put up with the indignation of a local peasant woman who came to complain that her daughter was sitting in the desk "next to a Gypsy". He was fair, did not let the peasants bribe him, and encouraged the children's talents – in Machálková's case, her singing.

    Machálková remembers her uncles: Stanislav Holomek became a foreman at the Elektrosvit factory in Svatobořice, where he bought a house to which he brought a Czech woman as his bride, Anna Čapková, whom he met in the army in Olomouc. His brother, another of Machálková's uncles, Čeněk, called Vincek, worked with him as a locksmith at Elektrosvit. She notes that he was the only one who made his mother happy by marrying a Romani woman, Milena Danielová. Their first-born daughter, Danuška, died at 6 months of scarlet fever. Machálková recalls their second daughter Růženka, born in 1939, to whom she was close and whom she often looked after.

    Her Uncle Tomáš Holomek became friends with a Czech woman, Hedwig [Imrichová], while studying [at the Faculty of Law] in Prague. He interrupted his studies in 1936 because they were expecting a family. They married, and their son Karel was born in 1937. They lived in rented accommodation in Milotice and he worked in the glassworks in Kyjov. When their daughter Marcela was born two years later, he returned to his studies, but they did not last long – after the occupation he was one of the first to be expelled from school in October 1939 and he started military service as an officer cadet at the military garrison in Mukachevo.

    • [1] The author writes about her childhood. (See Chapter I, section Czecho-Slovak Republic, the so-called Second Republic). Her mother Rosina Holomková's father, Pavel Holomek (1882-1944), who was the leader (vajda) of the Roma settlement of Hraničky (between Kyjov and Svatobořice), moved from there directly to Svatobořice on 10 December 1917, where he had previously bought from his savings a small house numbered 230 in the poor part of the village called Hliník. The Hraničky Roma were de facto homeless, and neither of the nearby villages wanted to grant them residence status; the ownership of the cadastral territory on which the settlement was located (the boundaries of the land – hence Hraničky, meaning Borderlands) was disputed, which in a sense suited both villages (see Chapter I, pp. 73-75). Nevertheless, the situation of Pavel's family soon after their move to the village, was already incomparably better than the situation of the Roma still living in Hraničky. Pavel's children were not only able to attend the local municipal school but were, as actual residents of the village, even obliged to attend school. This was the beginning of many changes in the Holomek family. Pavel's eldest daughter Rosína (born 1903) and her husband Antonín (born 1906 in Milokošt'/Čeložnice?, where he also allegedly had the right of residence) moved to Nesovice. With this move, the young family certainly solved not only the question of housing, but also employment opportunities; the Holomeks were soon very well received by the people of Nesovice. Machálková, p. 12 (ed.).

    This testimony ends in the book "…to jsou těžké vzpomínky", Volume 1 in the period before the war. Memories of internment at Auschwitz II - Birkenau will be recounted in Volume 2 of this publication.

  • Origin of Testimony

    Emílie Machálková's statements are quoted from her memoir The Saga of the Holomek Family. Brno: Museum of Romani Culture, 2004, and from an interview on 26 June 1989 in Brno, archived in the collections of the Museum of Romani Culture (hereafter MRC).

    Reference is made to additional sources, such as interviews from 1989, 1996, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 in the MRC collections, recordings of memorial narratives made at various talks and lectures (the lecture “Původ Romů a dějiny Romů ve 20. Století” [The Origin of the Roma and the History of the Roma in the 20th Century], 2005; part of the Living Memory Association educational programme “Disappeared Roma and Roma Today”; a talk with Holocaust survivors, “Prý jsme měli štěstí” [They Said We were lucky], 9. 11. 2006, Brno; the lecture “Šoa Porajmos Holocaust”, 29. 2. 2012, Brno; and the educational programme by the Living Memory Association, “Zmizelí Romové a Romové dnes” [Disappeared Roma and Roma Today], 2014). Further, reference is made to research reports (5/2005 project o. p. s. Živá paměť – educational programme “Zmizelí Romové a Romové dnes”; 14/2005 Kyjov 29. 6. 2005 and 23. 8. 2005; 1/2008 “Moravští Romové” [Moravian Roma]. Holomková; 5/2009 “Emílie Machálková – pamětnice Svazu Cikánů-Romů” [Emílie Machálková – an eye-witness of the Gypsy-Roma Union]) and Jana Holomková's (today Horváthová) master's thesis, ”Integrace a asimilace svatobořických Romů” [Integration and Assimilation of the Svatobořice Roma], Masarykova univerzita, 1989. Emilie Machálková's memoirs have been compiled and are publicly accessible on the Memory of Nations project website, and in 2011 the memoirist was the subject of a report on the Czech TV program Babylon – "Emílie Machálková – jediná dnes žijící Romka přeživší holocaust“ [Emílie Machálková – the only Romani Holocaust survivor alive today].

    The memories are supplemented by photographs from the MRC collections and from Jana Horváthová's private archive. In addition to a two-page excerpt from the manuscript mentioned, “The Saga of the Holomek Family”, the account is supplemented by two portrait photographs: one from the late 1940s/early 1950s and one from 2005. Three other photographs show Emílie Machálková with her family and friends (with her mother, uncle and brother in 1928/1929; in a school photograph with her classmates and teacher Vincent Vrána in 1938; and finally with her husband Jan Machálek in 2012). Also reproduced here is a photograph of Emílie Machálková's grandparents, Tereza and Pavel Holomek, dated approximately 1936-1943; a wedding photograph of her uncle, Stanislav Holomek, with his wife Anna; a photograph of her uncle, Tomáš Holomek, at the turn of 1941/1942 with his wife Hedvika and children Karel and Marcelina; and two photographs of her uncle Čenek Holomek, known as Vincek – one in uniform during his basic military service in 1936 and one as a schoolboy in a class photograph, probably from Svatobořice School in 1925.

  • Where to find this testimony

Subscribe to our newsletter


  • Muzeum romské kultury


  • Bader
  • GAČR