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Františka Zimová

Františka Zimová, born 1928 in Kopčany, Skalica district

  • Testimony abstract

    Františka Zimová's father worked as a labourer on the railway in Devínská Nová Ves.[1] He used to leave his house in Kopčany at four in the morning and return in the evening. Twenty Roma families lived in the settlement, some of whom were blacksmiths; for example, Feketek's father[2] and Kotáň,[3] made chains and brackets and sold them to peasants. They also made a living as musicians, such as her uncle Jožka.[4] Palko[5] played the drum, and her father the accordion. They performed at weddings and at parties. The Kopčany Roma also went to Holíč with baskets for sand; the sand was added to the lime when people were whitewashing, or sprinkled on the ground in their houses. Zimová said that even the peasants did not have floors in their houses at that time.[6] Sand was also used to fill the alleys between the houses to make them prettier.

    There were about five or six Jewish families living in Kopčany before the war; she gives the names of Grünwald and Lébl [Löbl], who lived down in the village. They had shops and a butcher's, and they were said to be very kind to the Roma; for example, they gave old Roma food on credit and often for free. All the Jews were taken to concentration camps and none of them ever returned to Kopčany.

    The childless aunt of Františka Zimová took in the little daughter of her relatives from Oslavany in Moravia. Františka’s mother's name was Maryška.[7] Her father Franta[8] was blind and walked with a white cane, but was a first-class musician. During the war, they wanted to go to Kopčany to visit their daughter, but they were only allowed as far as Hodonín, through which the border passed – they stood on one side, and Františka Zimová and her aunt on the other. Even when the then eight- or ten-year-old girl wanted to return home to Oslavany, they did not allow her to cross the border, which was her good fortune. Both parents were transported with their children from Moravia to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where they all perished.

    • [1] Today a municipal district of Bratislava.
    • [2] Not specified.
    • [3] First name not given.
    • [4] Full name not given.
    • [5] Full name not given.
    • [6] In Roma dwellings, people walked on the packed-down earth; few people had floors, which were a sign of wealth and higher social status; the ground was usually coated once a week with clay or sprinkled with a special fine sand.
    • [7] Last name not given.
    • [8] Last name not given.

    About three or four young Roma from Kopčany were taken to Dubnica [nad Váhom],[1] and worked in the limestone quarry. They went there instead of going into the army, but they all returned home.[2]

    There were many Hlinka Guards among the Slovaks in Kopčany, and they treated the Roma very badly, beating them with batons, forcing them to clear faeces off the ground in the settlement with their hands, or making them stand barefoot in the snow for an hour. Zimová said the guards behaved like “ulcerated scoundrels”. A man named Galba from the village of Gajary who had moved to Kopčany and was about three years older than her, was beaten by the guards so badly that he died – just because he was not from Kopčany and had not registered there.[3] The guards left their family alone, supposedly because they were more orderly. Františka’s grandmother was clean and everyone liked her. The guards only harmed her father; she recalls that once when Marčanka's father[4] had lost his suitcase on the train, he said that Františka Zimová's father had taken it from him. The police then held him in the village of Kuty and beat him there. When he returned home, a local policeman came and beat him again, but the local Romani women led by his aunt, Justina, did not leave it at that; they threw themselves on him and tore off his tabs. They beat the policeman so badly that he finally ran away without his cap. The suitcase was subsequently found on the train, but no one apologized to her father and the matter was hushed up. Františka Zimová said that she still met the policeman, who lived in Skalica.

    One of the local Roma was Palko;[5] they took him into the army and from there he joined the partisans in Trenčín. She also remembered the partisan Izak,[6] who remained missing.

    Františka Zimová's husband was in the army and made it all the way to the Caucasus, where he is said to have pushed a German with whom he was riding a motorcycle into the water and then rode off on the motorcycle, even though he did not have a driver's license. Zimová was in no doubt that the German must have drowned. She only found out about it after her husband's death from her son Ota, and she says if she had known before, she would not have lived with him. Her husband made his way from Russia to Bratislava and from there home. He died soon after, at only forty-four, leaving behind dependent children, the youngest of which was ten.

    When the front passed through the region and the Russians came to Slovakia, Františka Zimová's family house was the first to be hit, because it was on the edge. Fortunately, the family managed to escape to the village, where they hid for a week in the barn of the farmer Tokoš.[7] He had known them since they were young; he was very kind, and had only coarse meal and potatoes in the barn. My mother took a sack of sugar with her, and they lasted a week with that. She remembered Kalnáčka's boy,[8] who ate raw meal out of hunger. Tokoš gave them a barrel of sauerkraut in the barn, but their family didn't eat it. They went without proper food and water for a week. Zimová said that if you have a strong will, you can endure anything.

    Then the Russians came to Kopčany. First they shook hands politely, but then they threw themselves on the women. They went first for Pišturka, the farmer's son, who looked like a woman. When they found out he was a boy, they started shooting at the ceiling and threw themselves on the other women, Králka and Vierinka, who was already living with a man called Frol.[9] Františka Zimová was protected by her husband. She extricated herself from the Russians and they fled towards “Smolnička”,[10] where they hid for two weeks in a mill in the middle of the meadows. Although the miller did not know them, he let them stay there and hid with them. From there they fled towards Borský Svätý Mikuláš,[11] where they came across a guardhouse by the railway line where they wanted to stay, but the Russians appeared. One of them immediately rode towards Zimová on his horse, so they fled from there too – in the direction of “Vogbela”,[12] where the Russians shot three Roma men because they were protecting their wives from them. According to Zimová, the worst Russians were those who came in the front line, those after them were better. The Germans did not treat the Romani women in this way, but all the time the Russians were around, Františka Zimová preferred not to go out, hiding and smearing her face with coal. However, she remembered that some Romani women had lovers among the Russians.

    Zimová said that during the war some Romani people became quite rich – not the local ones, but those from elsewhere. They used to rob the dead, taking their watches, money and anything else of value. She said that in most cases the Russians took the watches from them.

    • [1] At that time there was still a labour camp with a relatively mild regime. (ed.)
    • [2] These were work units for "gypsies" who were not recognized by the conscription commission as "Slovaks" eligible to fight in the regular army. (ed.)
    • [3] The ban on residence outside the home village, i.e., the place where a Roma was permanently registered, was first issued by a circular of the Regional Office in Bratislava on 23 July 1939.
    • [4] Not specified.
    • [5] Bartoloměj Daniel (ed.) also speaks about the partisan Palko of Kopčany, see the memoir in this database; Palko's surname is not mentioned.
    • [6] Last name not given.
    • [7] First name not given.
    • [8] Names are not specified.
    • [9] Names are not specified.
    • [10] Probably the village of Smolinské.
    • [11] Today Borský Mikuláš.
    • [12] Probably the village of Gbely in the Trnava region.

    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, 610-622 (ces), 623-635 (rom). Testimonies of the Roma and Sinti. Project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences), (accessed 4/14/2024)
  • Origin of Testimony

    The editor approached Františka Zimová, having been intrigued by the story of a Romani girl from the Moravian town of Oslavany. She allegedly survived the war in Kopčany and thus escaped transport to Auschwitz, where the majority of Roma from the Protectorate perished. Her Romani friend, language adviser Ignác Zima,[1] mentioned this story to the editor. Zima also referred her to his sister-in-law, who was ten years older than him at the beginning of the war. The interview, in which Ignác Zima also participated, was published almost unabridged and minimally edited.

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

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