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Zora Horváthová

Zora Horváthová, known as Hajnalka, born 1929 at Turňa nad Bodvou, Košice district

  • Testimony abstract

    Zora Horváthová came from a group of Hungarian Roma – her mother, Ilona Makulová, was from “Göncluska” in Hungary,[1] and her father, Gustav Mako, from Turňa nad Bodvou [Košice district] in eastern Slovakia. Her mother’s husband with the surname Glonci[2] had been chosen for her by her parents, but she was already in a secret relationship with Gustav Mako and they arranged to run away together when everyone was drunk after the wedding. Her husband did not seek her out, but declared that he would not divorce her. The couple fled to Turňa nad Bodvou, where they lived on the main street next to Gustav's brother. The house was adjacent to the houses of the Slovaks, while the other Roma, poorer than Zora Horváthová's family, lived on the other side of the village and lived by begging. Her parents lived honestly, and went around the villages trading. At home, her mother repaired umbrellas and made cords and laces for trousers and waistcoats using a loom made by Zora’s father; he himself sharpened knives and scissors in the square. After school, Horváthová and her five siblings used to go to the fields to help the neighbours; they were given food and clothing in return for their work.

    • [1] Probably the village of Göncruszka, located about forty kilometres southwest of Turňa nad Bodvou.
    • [2] First name not given.

    Turňa nad Bodvou belonged to Hungary during the war. In August 1944, Zora's three older sisters – twenty-two-year-old Ilona, eighteen-year-old Brigita and sixteen-year-old Zita – were taken away, and her uncle's daughter was also taken. Their parents were told that they were going to work with sugar beet, but instead they were taken to the synagogue – by that time the Jews had already been taken [to the concentration camps]. Other people from other villages were gathered at the synagogue; they were then taken by truck to the station and loaded into wagons. The Horvaths’ house was close to the railway tracks, so early in the morning the mother heard her daughters screaming and crying; from then on she did not sleep or eat, but only cried and smoked. She learned from a neighbour who used to watch the synagogue that they had been taken to a concentration camp. Their neighbour Joži Senk was behind it all, Horváthová said , because no one else was taken from the village except these girls. Senk denounced them to the Germans, with whom he was hand in glove, but his wife was kind. There were other people working for the Germans in the village, but they always warned the family.

    On December 15, 1944, the parents were taken as political prisoners to a concentration camp, first to Ravensbrück, later to Auschwitz. A Hungarian SS man of about eighteen who had been forced to work for the Germans used to come to the family almost every evening and informed my father about the situation at the front. One day the Germans shot him and the same evening they came for Zora Horváthová's parents. They dragged them out into the snow in the yard, searched the house, scattered everything, and took the parents away. They were kept in a cell for a few days, and could choose between a court martial or a concentration camp. A friend of Horváthová’s father who was guarding them, advised them to choose the camp, saying he would help them escape during the transfer; he was supposed to take them by horse and cart and hand them over at the border. But her parents refused his offer, because they wanted to see their older daughters – and they actually met them in Auschwitz. Her father became seriously ill in the camp, and his brother saw him thrown alive into the furnace. Her 4-year-old mother was put on a transport with old people. Her daughter Ilona managed to get to her, but according to an eyewitness they were shot from an aeroplane. The remaining two sisters Zita and Brigita fell ill in the camp and were treated by the Russians who put them in a cart home. In the end Zita died on the way, in a hospital in Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš, and only Brigita returned home at the end of May [1945]. Her uncle and his relatives also survived.

    Fifteen-year-old Zora had to take care of her siblings after her parents were taken away – Otto was twelve and Agata was seven. She procured fuel and went out begging so they would have at least some food. One day the Germans came to their house and shot the furniture to pieces. She was afraid of being raped, so she covered herself with soot and dirt. Often she had a close call, but she said there was always someone who stood up for her – even among the Germans, she said, there were people with good hearts. One day they announced on the radio that there would be shooting for six weeks, so she and her siblings left home and wandered in the woods, taking only a blanket with them. The first evening they reached the village of “Áj”,[1] where they were given soup by a kind lady and were able to sleep in a barn, but all three caught lice there. Then they went to Jásov; it was freezing outside, but someone advised them to go to the monastery to ask for help. They got beans and sausage there, the first proper meal since they were left alone without their parents, and then they could go there every day to eat. They were also allowed to go around asking people for food, but they said almost no one gave them anything. Zora also went begging to the nearby barracks, where there was a military kitchen, and learned that they buried the unused entrails from chickens and pigs. She and her siblings would dig them up and eat them. She recalled how one afternoon they survived an air raid, with bombs everywhere, and people running away, but they escaped.

    Then they arrived at a secluded place where they were taken in by a woman who was waiting for her husband who was at the front. They did not return home until some time in April 1945, when the weather was fine. They found the house destroyed – the corner where their bed had been was missing, so if they had stayed there they would probably have been killed.

    • [1] Probably Háj, about four kilometres north of Turňa.

    They had a new house built for them In the village, with floors and electricity. A neighbour taught Zora how to make roses out of crepe paper, which she then sold for a few pennies. Not yet sixteen, she left to work in Bohemia with her thirteen-year-old brother Otto and her school friend Šarlota. Her sisters Agáta and Brigita stayed at home – Brigita already had a bridegroom before the war and married soon after it was over. Horváthová, her brother and her friend arrived in Říčany, where the landowners in the yard of the sugar refinery selected them, she said, as if they were choosing slaves. She worked for one of them for about three weeks, but one day when she was loading hay onto a ladder truck, she tripped him up with her pitchfork and he threw her out. On another farm a few kilometres from Říčany she was constantly harassed by men, and her brother insisted he wanted to go home, so after three months they went back home. However, there was no work in Slovakia and Brigita's husband reproached her sister for having to support her siblings, so Zora and her friend went back to Bohemia, to Přelouč, where she worked for a landowner called Slavik.[1] He had two daughters, Eva and Jana, and he adopted Horváthová as his own. They asked what her name was, and instead of Zora, she kept saying in Hungarian that she was Hajnalka, so they started calling her Hana. They didn’t pay her much, but she got on well with them. Then when everything was taken away from the family,[2] she had to look for another job. She said she made capacitors and amplifiers at the Tesla factory and because she was skilled and hardworking, she became a shockworker. After a while she got the news that her brother Otto was living in north Bohemia with a cousin, so she went to them and worked there as a tram conductor and then in a shoe shop, but she didn't like the work and she didn't like Ústí, so she left. At the age of twenty she returned to Slovakia, where she cleaned offices in Nagyida [Veľká Ida] near Košice, and met her husband Arpad. After the war, his parents bought a house in Turňa nad Bodvou, where Zora and Arpád then lived. Their first son was born before they were married, and then her husband went off to military service – and to shorten it by three months, he accepted an offer to work in the mines in west Bohemia. Two more children were born there, a daughter and a son, but her husband began to seek other entertainment and eventually they divorced. Horváthová found a job at Tesla where she could earn good money, but suffered from health problems related to the hardships of the war. All three of her children had families. Zora’s sister Brigita lived in Turňa nad Bodvou, and her brother in north Bohemia, but had since died. Agáta lived in the flat above.

    • [1] First name not given.
    • [2] Apparently as part of the collectivization of the countryside, when the communist state expropriated farms to create the state-owned agricultural cooperatives.

    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, 63-77. 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/zora-horvathova-hajnalka (accessed 4/13/2024)
  • Origin of Testimony

    The narrative was recorded in the course of two visits to Zora Horváthová, in 2001 and in 2005. The text has been edited for publication in a book.

  • Where to find this testimony

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