Ladislav Petík, born 1922, Chmiňany, Prešov district
Ladislav Petík was an active soldier in the [Slovak] Army in Trnava. After the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising he joined the partisans, among whom were many Roma. He was with the partisans in the forests for a whole month. Because of the lack of food, they shot military horses and roasted them on a spit. They melted snow to get water to drink. They reached the town of Banská Bystrica and the village of Staré Hory, and made it as far as [Mount] Ďumbier, and [the peak of Mount] Prašivá, where they were captured. Many Roma were killed in the fighting.
The prisoners were taken by the Germans to Germany; Petík named Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen. The prisoners had to undress, after which their clothes and gold were taken away and they were herded into a steam room for cleansing. Then they were given clothes and were divided into barracks and work teams. There were about a hundred prisoners in one room. Petík related that it was a long room with three-decker bunk beds; he slept in the top one. The prisoners were lying on bare boards covered with blankets; there was no heating in the barracks and they were cold.
They worked from six in the morning until noon and then again until six in the evening. After returning from work, the prisoners were confined to their bunks. Petík recalled how hunger forced them to go to the kitchen to steal raw potato peelings. When a prisoner was caught, he received twenty-five lashes. In the morning the prisoners were given ten slices of bread and tea or black coffee without sugar. At noon, they had beet soup and a few potatoes. In the evening it was soup, potatoes or rice gruel again. Petík tells us how much weight he lost in the camp. Before his capture he weighed eighty kilos, but only sixty after three months in the camp.
There were many Roma from Slovakia in the concentration camp. He specifically recalled an elderly man with two sons who came from the same region as Petík. All three were shot because they tried to escape. There were prisoners of various nationalities in the camp, including Czechs. Petík mentions the prisoners who informed on the others to the Germans. German was the most common language spoken in the camp; according to Petík, they were not allowed to speak Romani, and if they had they would have been gassed. Everybody was afraid, so the Romani people told stories in Slovak. He mentioned the Slovaks as well, older men who also knew how to tell beautiful tales.
Petík recalled an eighteen-year-old Slovak from Bratislava who joined the Germans. This SS man, as Petík called him, kept watch over them – he was like a prison warder in the camp and Petík went to his guardhouse every night to heat it for him. One day the warder asked him to get hold of some cigarettes, so Petík went to his German kapo, imprisoned for having been a Communist, and brought the warder a few cigarettes. The warder told him that the Russians were in Bratislava already. Petík passed the information on to another prisoner and soon everyone knew.
About two weeks before the Russians began to take Berlin, Petík was evacuated together with other prisoners. They were herded westward, the Russians watching them from planes, but not bombing them. Petík recalled that they were wondering all the time whether they would stay alive.
He went with other men from eastern Slovakia – an old Slovak named Haluška from the village of Čirč [Stará Ľubovňa district], a Roma from Hanušovce [nad Topľou] and a Roma musician. It was cold in April, so they broke some twigs in the forest and made a fire. The Germans who accompanied them gave them matches, and then they warmed themselves by the fire with them. Petík recalls that they had nothing to eat or drink on the way, so when they came to a stream or well, they drew water and made tea from herbs. The journey lasted about two weeks, and the food – a one-pound package containing biscuits and condensed milk - lasted only one day.
-  It is not mentioned which camp.
-  These were Roma who, like Ladislav Petík, were captured during the suppression of the Slovak National Uprising. (ed.)
-  A folklore tradition in Romani communities that was an extremely popular yet dignified cultural activity until about the beginning of the 1980s. (ed.)
-  Bratislava was occupied by the troops of the 2nd Ukrainian Front on April 4, 1945. (ed.)
After the liberation, the first thing Petik tried to get was food. They jumped onto cars or wagons and stole food. Petík took a jug of honey from a Polish man's car. He reported that the Jews, who got out of the camps after years of starvation, threw themselves on everything greasy and fatty and caught jaundice from it, he believed, and died. Petik and the men in his group therefore first ate a spoonful of honey before each meal, as they had been advised by one of their number who had experience of World War I in Russia. By then there were only four of them and no one to watch them.
On the way they saw a horse-drawn wagon with a German and his wife on it. They went home with them. The German gave them some food for the horses and then they left with the wagon. They arrived at a town, where there were Americans and among them a Czech captain, who gave them another horse to pair up with. After a time they were stopped on the road by the Americans and learned from a Pole that they were heading in the direction of France instead of home. They spent the night in a village [name not given], where a French woman gave them milk and eggs, and in the morning they started back the same way. They arrived at “Prenzlav” [not found; apparently this was not Prenzlau], where the Russians were already, who took their horses and drove them to the town in a car. There were about two thousand Czechoslovaks concentrated in the barracks there, and they cooked Czech food for them. After a couple of weeks they were well-fed and sent home. Petík recalled that he got so fat there that they couldn't recognize him at home.
-  Name not given.
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, 763-766 (ces), 767-770 (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/ladislav-petik (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
The interview with Ladislav Petík was originally prepared for a publication that should have been published in the 1980s. However, the original recording could not be found, so it was not possible to compare it with this edited version.
Where to find this testimony