Tibor Cico (born 1930, Pavlovce nad Uhom, Michalovce district) was a basket maker. His father abandoned the family for another woman and the grandparents cared for the mother and children. Cico’s two older siblings became ill and died during the war. Tibor Cico remained with his grandfather even after his mother remarried; it was from him he had learned how to weave baskets. When his grandparents died at the end of the war, the mother and stepfather took care of the boy.
According to Tibor Cico, the Roma chief chose the Roma for the labour camp: who was sent to the camp, and who was not was entirely up to him. Cico himself was too young, he was twelve or thirteen. Tibor Cico’s grandfather was spared because the Roma chief belonged to the same family, but his stepfather was taken to the camp. They took grown men, and also wanted to take youths who were of enlistment age, but the military authorities did not permit it them, and so took them for work and released them nine months later.
According to Tibor Cico, the Germans then took the Roma from the settlement, led them to a meadow, and released the women and children. The men they took to the village, but a Slovak for whom the local Roma had worked in the forests, went to the German military command and vouched for them, so they returned home. Tibor Cico remembered that the Germans then left and did not have time to murder them; then the Russians came and everything was all right. At the end of the interview Tibor Cico answered affirmatively to the question as to whether any Roma with them in the village was with the partisans.
Origin of Testimony
The interview took place at Tibor Cico’s home in the presence of some Roma studies students drawn by an interest in the recollections of those who had lived through the war, and by the intention to purchase baskets for the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno. When many Roma lost their jobs following the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, they tried to return to traditional crafts – among them Tibor Cico. It is possible that in his memories of the war he confuses conscription in labour camps organised by the Slovak authorities with forced labour (chiefly digging trenches) imposed by the Germans on the Roma after the beginning of the occupation of Slovakia. He was still a boy at that time – nine years old at the start of the war.
In the introduction to Tibor Cico’s reminiscences the editor mentions the role of the municipal authorities responsible for choosing the Roma destined for deportation. Theirs was the decision about which of the so-called gypsies or anti-socials should be sent to the labour camp. In some municipalities the notary, mayor and members of the Hlinka Guard passed this duty on to the Roma chief, who however often tried to protect his own relatives. If the duty was not fulfilled he was punished by the non-Roma authorities.
Conscription into the first east Slovakian labour camp of Hanušovce nad Topľou took place at the beginning of July 1942. Preparations for the intended extermination of the Roma of Pavlovce by the Germans took place in autumn 1944.
Where to find this testimony