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Mr Fedák

Mr. Fedák, born about 1914, Hrabovec (probably Hrabovec nad Laborcom, Humenné district); first name not given.

  • Testimony abstract

    Fedák said that in 1939 he took part in military exercises, during mobilization; two months later he was sent to Prachatice because the borderlands were being handed over.[1] After his return, he stayed at home for a month and was again conscripted into the so-called coffee army, which was only for Roma. Then he was in the camp in Bystré, where they were building a bridge on the Prešov-Strážske railway, then under construction. He was taken straight from his home by the Hlinka Guards, who hated the Roma - Fedák said that "for them, gypsy or toe-rag, what’s the difference?". They would take anyone who was unemployed, only that at that time nobody would employ Roma. According to Fedák, whoever wanted to get a job first had to buy fifty or a hundred eggs or a nice goose or hen and slip them to a Slovak, and only then might he be employed. When something was being built somewhere, eighty or a hundred would come looking for work, but the builder chose only five or ten. In places where there were forests, the trees were felled by the cubic metre. For three or four metres of cut timber three people earned eight or twelve crowns between them.

    Fedák spent a year in a labour camp where mainly Roma were interned; the Slovaks held at Bystré were those opposed to the Hlinka Guard. There were only men in the camp; Fedák saw Romani women in another camp. There were about thirty-five Roma from Hrabovec, only four of whom returned. Fedák's three brothers-in-law were there as well. They worked twelve hours a day, and ate what they found in the fields – the tops of beets, and stolen potatoes cooked on small stoves in the barracks. When the railway was finished, they let those who had behaved well could go home. Fedák returned home with his brothers-in-law.

    When the mobilization against the [Slovak national] uprising took place, Fedák was involved in the campaign against the partisans. At that time, the Slovaks were afraid of the partisans and made up all sorts of stories about them, for example, that they gouged out eyes, cut people’s tongues off, or cut them open, filled them with stones, and sewed them up again. Fedák once came across a Russian partisan in the forest who was decorated with medals and had an automatic; he himself had only a rifle. He was afraid, but he had to go with him to the foot of Mount Ďumbier, where the partisans had a post. There were about a hundred and fifty of them there, washing and shaving, with an accordion playing. He was given food and a cigarette. At night, the Russians fired coloured rocket signals to let the other partisans know where they were. Fedák was afraid the soldiers would catch them and regretted he had gone through the forest rather than along the stream. He said that a certain Chapayev[2] rode up on horseback, bringing about fifty men with him from the Polish front, saying there was not to be a single Slovak soldier among the partisans because there had been some kind of betrayal. However, a Slovak from the town of Ružomberok, Jozef Kormand, who was an administrator and understood finance, came there. He joined the partisans and formed a legion solely of Slovak soldiers, which he commanded; Fedák joined his group. At Banská Bystrica they were outnumbered by the Germans and the partisans dispersed. Fedák and others hid in the ravines near Svätý Kríž, where the Germans surrounded them and found them. The prisoners had to spend two days and a night without food walking to Budapest. When they passed through the villages that some of the prisoners came from, the local guardsmen “reclaimed” about five hundred of them. Fedák was from the east and nobody knew him, so he had to continue. His wife had no idea what was happening to her husband – she thought he had gone to Russia, or was with the partisans, had been captured, or was dead.

    Fedák ended up in the Mauthausen concentration camp. In his words, "they were rounding up Jews, not Gypsies, but in the end they rounded up the Roma too." If someone was light-skinned, they could still get away with it with the Germans, but with those who were dark-skinned stood no chance. They had to dig wide trenches about thirty metres deep against the tanks. They worked fifteen hours a day, returning at eight in the evening. They were told that if any of them dared to escape, every fifth prisoner would be shot. They were given one piece of bread to last for three days. They had to walk past the kitchen to get to the toilet, so sometimes they would pick up discarded scraps and hide them in their pockets and under their shirts – potato peelings, bread, bones or various remanants, and they would then cook them in the barracks. On their way to work they also collected dandelions to cook.

    • [1] The demobilization, begun after the Munich Agreement, was completed in December 1938, and the state of military emergency ended on 28 February 1939.
    • [2] He probably means someone from the Chapayev partisan detachment, named after the legendary Russian soldier Vasily Ivanovich Chapayev.

    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, 810-814 (ces), 815-818 (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/fedak (accessed 5/21/2024)
  • Origin of Testimony

    The interview with Fedák[1] lacks identifying information, such as the exact date or place of the survivor's birth. The information was probably given when they were making their farewells, when the tape recorder was switched off, and the editor did not commit the orally-transmitted dates to memory. In the interview, Fedák mentions Hrabovec as his place of birth, and the editor deduced from his surname and dialect that it was probably Hrabovec nad Laborcom. She estimated his year of birth by the fact he was thirty years old when he met the Russian partisan, which must have happened at the end of 1944.

    • [1] First name not given.
  • Where to find this testimony

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