Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková, née Růžičková (1932), as a seventeen-year-old. In her autobiography she recalls her pre-war "life in a wagon", and the wartime. The whole family was saved from deportation to a concentration camp by a wealthy uncle.
Photograph from the collection of the Museum of Romani Culture.
Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková, née Růžičková, born 1932, Mcely, Nymburk district
Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková came from a family that travelled around southern Bohemia for a living, visiting Písek, Protivín, Strakonice and Domažlice. In 1936, the family stopped using the covered wagon because her father had a custom-made dray made in Slaný; it was said to be beautiful and cost "a huge amount of money", her father paid 40,000 crowns for it. It was a so-called štráfka, with a red leather bench on the outside front and inside was her mother's pride and joy - a stove with a white flower painted stove.
His father Robert Růžička, called Ota or Otyna, was born in 1910 in Sušice, was said to be a hard worker and also played the accordion well and enjoyed it. As a horse trader, he used to go to markets, but he also had a trade sharpening knives and scissors. He also worked as a wagon driver, loading sand in quarries and taking it to people to build houses. He came from southern Bohemia; his parents had right of residence at Hluboká nad Vltavou. Kozáková-Vdolečková said they were highly respected there, even their daughter Tonča, the survivor's aunt, was friends with the mayor's daughter. In addition to the Růžička and Kraus families, her father's extended family included the German Roma Lagron, Langmayer and Serinek families. The Lagrons were reportedly wealthy Roma, with three sons who looked like movie stars. Her father's family was also related to Matěj Kopecký's family.
Her mother Johana, known as Žanka, née Čermáková, was born in 1910 in Tišnov near Brno. She came from the Čermák-Janošovský -Studený-Vrba-Holomek-Habr-Daniel families, Čermáková also mentions the Absolons. Her great-grandfather had a circus called Henry.
When the family came to the market, where other related Romani people usually went, her mother would go around the houses, collecting knives and scissors for her father to sharpen, and at the same time she would do palm-reading. She also sold lace, rubber bands, thread and other haberdashery. Instead of cash, she usually received foodstuffs such as eggs, and sometimes even meat such as chicken. She said her father insisted that she always bring it home alive – he used to say that if it was stolen, he wouldn't eat it. He prided himself on raising his children well. She said her mother was a great trader – people in their village would make sets of lace for bedrooms for her and she would sell them in Hlinsko in Bohemia. She always went away with all the goods for two days, and she would bring a lot of money home with her. Meanwhile, the children took care of the household, especially Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková herself, who took care of cooking, washing and ironing.
Kozáková-Vdolečková had six siblings: four sisters and two brothers. The eldest, Anna, was born in 1928 in Jíloviště near Prague, and her brother Jan was born in the same place two years later. The younger sister Filoména was born in 1934 in Strakonice, Barbora in 1936 in Písek. The younger of the brothers, Josef, was born during the war in 1943 and Jana after the war in 1948. The eldest sister and her brother went to school, and their father was very careful to make sure that the children could read, write, count and that they "had an idea about life". Every place they went with their mobile home they would park near the school and the older siblings would go there, even if only for a week. The school principals wrote records of their attendance in a special book.
The godfather of all the siblings was Jan Serinek, known as Žanka. He lived in Zdaboř next to the U Pletánků pub, and made his living by making slippers, which his wife used to go out selling. They had no children of their own, and together they brought up a handicapped boy from an institution. Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková said her godfather knew four world languages and in her eyes he was an wonderful honest man. His nephew František Serinek, the son of his brother Josef, played the accordion and was referred to in the contemporary press as the King of Accordionists. Kozáková-Vdolečková's cousins were Arnošt Vintr and Antonín Vintr.
-  Luxury all-wooden dray with an awning (ed.)
-  Sinti. (ed.)
-  Langmajer (ed.), Kozáková-Vdolečková also mentions Langmüller as a variant of the name.
-  František Lagron was probably his father's cousin. One of his sons, Feri Lagron, was seriously interested in Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková. (ed.)
-  Matěj Kopecký, the founder of Czech puppetry lived from 1775 to 1847. Today, his surname is borne by some Roma who married or intermarried into the Kopecký family. (ed.)
-  Janašovský, or Janešovský. (ed.)
-  Anna Růžičková, known as Nána, see her testimony in the database.
-  Location not specified.
-  See his testimony in the database.
-  See his testimony in the database.
In 1939, her parents saved enough money to buy a two-room house. The family settled in Zdaboř in one of five houses by the road. Here Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková started first grade and her older siblings were able to attend school in nearby Březové Hory. The family built a solid position in the village and maintained good relations with others.
One day, a local gendarme came to warn them that they might be taken to a concentration camp and advised them to go to Slovakia. But the family stayed behind; she said they didn't know anyone in Slovakia and didn't even know that there was such a thing as Slovakia.
In 1942, the family was transferred to Prague before they were "taken to a concentration camp", as she put it. The Roma were gathered in one room, and her father pointed out to her the Moravian Roma and spoke of them as being wealthier.
[The story of Karolína Kozáková-Vdolečková in Auschwitz II - Birkenau will be described in the second volume of the publication, which has not yet been published.]
Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková trained as a printer. At the age of thirteen, she met Jaroslav Novotný, a boy four years her senior, whom she later married. Novotný came from a family of itinerant entertainers or "khále". Her son Václav was born to this marriage in 1950. With her second husband, Miroslav Kozák, she had a daughter in 1952, a son two years later, and another son in 1956. From her third marriage to Jaroslav Vdoleček, with whom she lived in the family house in Brno, she had also a son, who was born in 1973.
-  It is a Romani term for itinerant entertainers, but it also has a negative connotation, reflecting the fact that these people did not know or observe the Romani principles in hygiene and diet. (ed.)
Origin of Testimony
The interviews with Karolina Kozáková-Vdolečková were recorded by the Museum of Romani Culture in 2003 and 2005. An important source is the book-length memoir by Karolina Kozáková, Karolína – A Journey Through Life in a Gypsy Wagon, published by the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno in 2004.
The narrative is accompanied by a reproduction of the manuscript of the autobiographical book and a number of family photographs.
-  The author was mistakenly listed as Karolína.
Where to find this testimony