Vojtěch Grundza, born 1924, Stropkov
Vojtěch Grundza described the Roma settlement in Stropkov, where his family was living at the time he was arrested. More than a thousand Roma lived there and the settlement had more than 600 house numbers. A stream divided it into a right and a left bank, where the Grundzas lived.
The Germans occupied Stropkov overnight at some point in 1941 or 1942, when Grundza was seventeen or eighteen years old. The Roma were divided into groups – the old and sick were released, and the others taken to Hanušovce nad Topľou. There were three blocks of wooden barracks in the camp in rooms holding twelve people. They were mainly Roma, for example from Michalovce or Trebišov, but there were also prisoners of non-Roma origin. Grundza described conditions in the camp and relationships among the prisoners. He described how one man whom they called the foreman was killed after he had attacked Grundza’s cousin Petre (from Bukovce) with a stick; this was because after arriving at the camp Petre had refused to work. Petre hit the foreman on the head with a pickaxe so that he died on the spot, and then he fled. Grundza described the subsequent investigation, and also that they then took revenge on the Roma who informed on Grundza’s cousin, and suffocated him at night with a blanket. He remembered his own flight, with about eighty other prisoners of which some were caught [it is not clear from the description whether the escape followed the events with the suffocated prisoner]. He himself hid in the cemetery among the family tombs and from there fled home, but was betrayed by two local Roma collaborators to the gendarmes. He and his cousin [it is not clear from the description whether this was the previously mentioned cousin named Petre] were arrested again and imprisoned. However, thanks to the help of a non-Roma gendarme originally from Moravia, he escaped again– first of all home and then to the village of Ladomirová, to his mother’s brother, named Petres. His uncle however collaborated with the Hlinka Guards and took him to the police station in Svidník. Vojtěch Grundza escaped from here as well and, after a fight with his uncle, hid in the forest although he was soon discovered and imprisoned in the Petič camp in Hanušovce nad Topľou, where they punished and beat him. He said he was sent to forced labour [the dates and chronology of these events are not clear] with a Roma married couple in a factory for wooden boards which he loaded onto the wagons which took them to the front. Grundza remembered having relative freedom there – for example, they could go home every Saturday. When, according to Grundza, his mother’s godfather, an excellent primáš, interceded with the chief [not specified], with whom he was on good terms, the Roma from their district were released from the Petič camp. Grundza however had to go to be enlisted [it is not clear fror the description whether this was military conscription], but with another three Roma he was not enlisted because he simulated an eye disorder [on his mother’s advice he chewed tobacco and put drops of saliva in his eyes so they turned red]. At the end of the war he was taken away by the Germans and had to dig trenches, but the prisoners could go home at night. By this time the Russian troops were drawing close and so the Grundzas tried to get away. In the end they reached the village of Raslavice, where the Roma chief let them live in his house, and moved in with his mother. When the Russians came to Raslavice, they began to construct a Katyusha launcher. They took Vojtěch Grundza in and gave him food and drink. His mother wanted to go home and the Russians said they could go, warning them about the mines. Grundza said that only two out of altogether six Roma from his settlement survived internment in the camp and the conditions there.
After their return to the settlement Vojtěch Grundza’s father intended to dig up the belongings they had hidden in the ground before they evacuated, such as pots and other things. But they could only find part of it. Then they repaired the roof so the rain didn’t get in, and gradually put things back in order.
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, 441-445 (ces), 446-450 (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/vojtech-grundza (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
The interview with this witness took place thanks to the curator for the gypsy population for Prague 6, Magdalena Písařovicová. Vojtěch Grundza mentioned inter alia uncle Petres – the same person who appears in the testimony of Vasil Demeter. In the passage devoted to conditions in the Petič camp [near the village of Hanušovce nad Topľou in north-east Slovakia] some of the data differs from other testimonies published in this publication – according to Grundza the prisoners were fed once a day, but according to the witness Jan Horváth three times a day. The difference may be attributed to the fact that they were in the camp in question at different times, or that they took a different attitude towards their privations.
Where to find this testimony