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Juliana Demeterová

Juliana Demeterová, nicknamed Uľanka, born 1932 in the village of Volica, Medzilaborce district

  • Testimony abstract

    Juliana Demeterová was born and raised in the village of Volica, Medzilaborce district. The members of the extended musical family on her father’s side were the only Roma to live right in the village. When her mother went to help the farmers in the fields, she used to take the children with her. They used to help the Jews too, and Juliana Demeterová acknowledged that the Jews paid in cash for their labour. She did not go to school and did not have her own proper clothes as a child because they used to run around naked outside. Even later she never learnt to read and write, only to sign her name.

    Juliana Demeterová related how one morning the Germans came and ordered the Roma to pack up their bedding, and took them all away. They divided up the families, sending the men to work, and loading the women and children on a transport to Dubnica [nad Váhom]. There was great misery in the camp. Everyone slept on the floor of one big room and people were dying of hunger and typhus. Juliana Demeterová’s maternal grandmother died of typhoid fever, and so did her nephew. They all had their hair cut off, and when they got a rash, someone smeared some unknown ointment on it.

    Her older sister Maria[1] was in the camp with her three children. Once she escaped to the village to steal some food and was caught. The guards then took turns beating her with riding whips and pouring water over her in the morgue. The young women had to sing for the guards in the yard, and the guards also raped them, but Demeterová did not want to talk about that in detail.

    The return home from the camp was difficult, they had to go on foot, but she describes how people on the way gave them food and clothing. Their neighbours in Volica behaved towards them in a similar manner, helping them to repair their empty houses which had in the meantime been used as stables for the army’s horses.

    • [1] Surname not given.

    Juliana’s father did not return to them after the war; he left for Prague where he started a new family. Some of her brothers and sisters went with him, while the others like Juliana stayed with her mother in Volica. Her mother did not remarry. When the sixteen-year-old Juliana left for Bohemia to visit her father she met Michal Demeter in Most and stayed with him there. Her family did not at first support this, as she was so young. Soon after that her father-in-law moved to Prague and the young people went with him. They began to work on a building site in Vysočany and some months later the foreman offered them accommodation in a hostel and work at the Podolí Waterworks, where they carted sand.

    They had already had two sons when her husband, at the age of eighteen, had to do three years military service. When he returned they spent another year in Podolí, before moving into a bigger apartment in the Prague district of Braník. Their neighbours did not greatly trust the new tenants but in the end the Demeters spent a large part of their life there. Four more children were born to them there – altogether they raised three sons and three daughters. Juliana Demeterová took three jobs to make enough money to live on – she worked in the kitchen of the U Fleků restaurant, and as a cleaner, as well as an attendant in the public toilets.

    In 2001 they had to move out of the apartment because it was to be renovated. They stored their furniture in the cellar and were supposed to return eight months later, but the new rent was too high and their furniture had gone mouldy in the cellar. One of their sons took them in until they found places in a Prague care home, but they did not feel completely at home there. As compensation for her sufferings during the war, Juliana Demeterová was awarded an extra 100 crowns a month pension.

    How to cite abstract

    Abstract of testimony from: KRAMÁŘOVÁ, Jana a kol. (Ne)bolí. Vzpomínky Romů na válku a život po válce. 1. Praha: Člověk v tísni, společnost při České televizi, o.p.s., 2005. ISBN 80-86961-04-4, 51-61. 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/juliana-demeterova (accessed 7/12/2024)
  • Origin of Testimony

    There were two meetings with Juliana Demeterová, each time with her husband Michal in their home in Prague. The first recording was made on 21 June 2001 by the organization People in Need (Člověk v tísni)[1] as part of the project Assistance for Roma Victims of World War II with a view to applying for compensation from the Czech-German Fund for the Future. The editor Jana Kramářová subsequently asked Juliana Demeterová and her husband whether they would agree to further recorded interviews for the purpose of publication. A joint recording took place on 3 December 2004, again in Prague, with the photographer Martin Šimečka present.

    Included in the memories of life after the war is the transcript of an interview called Living Together: Juliana Demeterová here supplements the narration by her husband Michal, whose memories are also included in the book. The testimony is supplemented by three photographs from the family archive (undated, circa 1950, 1951).

    • [1] Name of interviewer not provided.
  • Where to find this testimony

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