MUDr. Ján Cibula
MUDr. Ján Cibula (born 1932, Klenovec, Rimavská Sobota district – died 2013, Bern, Switzerland). Ján Cibula was a doctor and a leading personality in the world of Roma politics and the ethno-emancipation movement. As a colleague of Ing. Anton Facuna [1920–1980, Slovak Roma activist, member of the Slovak army and participant in the Slovak National Uprising, co-founder and first president of the Zväz Cigánov-Rómov na Slovensku (Association of Gypsies-Roma in Slovakia) [see also the testimony of Facuna’s sister Anna Virágová in this database] he was involved in the Zväz Cigánov-Rómov (1969–1973). At the beginning of the “normalisation” period he emigrated and settled in Switzerland. He was voted president of the International Romani Union (IRU) at its Second Congress in Geneva in 1978. In 1982, as head of a delegation to the Second International Romani Festival in India, he met Indira Gandhi. In 1985 he was only the second laureate without Swiss citizenship (after Albert Einstein) to be awarded the Culture Prize of the Canton of Bern. In 1997 he maintained, with Dr. Rajko Djurič [1947–2020], at that time the president of the IRU, that Roma should be compensated as victims of the Holocaust.
In 2000 the Association of Czech and Slovak Roma in Canada proposed him for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová in 2020 awarded him one of the highest Slovak state awards, the Order of Ĺudovít Štúr First Class in memoriam.
There were many Roma living in Klenovec. They occupied around forty houses and most of them made a living as musicians. In the past they had come to the village as the court musicians of the local counts Kubinyi. Only a few Roma families worked in the basket trade or produced brushes and brooms. Ján Cibula’s father was similarly a musician, a primáš. Cibula was one of the few Roma children to attend primary school consistently and he planned to continue his studies.
Ján Cibula describes the restrictions that affected the Roma due to the war, and the threats from the Germans. At the time he was finishing primary school, Roma were no longer allowed to study at gymnasium but after his father intervened with the head teacher of the gymnasium in Tisovec he was accepted. He attended for a year or two, then the fighting started and he had to stay at home. Cibula described how the farmers in the village were angry with the Roma. Then the Germans came and when they were preparing to destroy the local Roma settlement, the farmers made fun of the Roma. However, Russian partisans accompanied by Ján Cibula’s uncle Tomáš Farkaš threw the Germans out of the settlement and the Roma were saved.
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Ján Cibula continued his studies, and at the age of fourteen began to be involved with the Roma cause. On 1 May 1946, on his instigation, the local Roma came to the village with a banner saying “Awake, Roma” and Cibula gave a speech in the village square. He reminded them how during the war the Germans, who did not respect them, wanted to murder them. The Roma then believed that things would improve and just wanted the farmers from the village to respect them more.
After graduating from the gymnasium in Rimavská Sobota in 1951 he continued his studies in medicine in Bratislava. His siblings also devoted themselves to study – his younger sister Adéla became a doctor, his brother Barna an engineer, and his sister Žala attended university in Košice, but after Ján Cibula emigrated, she was expelled. Cibula emigrated because of his wife, who had taken their two children and left with another man for Germany; Cibula later settled in Bern. He recalled how in Bratislava, as a doctor, when his sister Adéla, a medical student, was uncertain of a diagnosis, he advised her in the Roma language. However, when the patients asked what language he was speaking he told them it was Latin, because he was ashamed to be speaking Romani. He recalled helping to found the Association of Gypsies-Roma and his cooperation with Anton Facuna. He was then working in Bern as a doctor by day and at night he systematically devoted himself to political activity on behalf of the Roma.
How to cite abstractAbstract 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, 120-123 (ces), 124-126 (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/jan-cibula (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
Ján Cibula gave this interview in 1997, when he was visited by Roma Studies students from the Arts Faculty of Charles University in Prague. The interview was not edited.
Where to find this testimony