Professor Růžena Bajcsy

* 1933  

  • "There was a whole group of people related to my father in Bolešov, in the Trenčín part and they were all killed. Most of them in Auschwitz, I think. I know this, because there is an Israeli organization that traced this and I have been privileged to see the list of all these people. There are several pages of Kučeras who were exterminated in Auschwitz. But anyway, my family, meaning my father and my stepmother, survived until 1944, then, after all these exceptions were off, on November 21, 1944 the Nazis came and picked up both of them. And again, according to this Israeli organization, in one month they were killed and they are buried in Kremnička in a mass grave."

  • "I and my half sister survived by pure accident. We were in a different room playing with the neighbours’ children and the Nazis didn’t look. My stepmother had a moment when she was able to come and whisper ‘Be quiet, we will be back,’ but that was the last time I saw them."

  • "There was a certain point in my life when I wanted more from it: opportunities, intellectual opportunities and I just felt very suffocated in the communist regime…very naturally, he (Julius Bajcsy) had a family there, he didn’t have all these persecutions, things behind him, as I had, so clearly he wanted to stay there, be close to his family, which was very natural, I understood that. But especially in 1968 when the Russians moved in, I said ‘no chance that I would go back.’ The price I paid was that I had left two children behind. That was an extremely painful decision, but I was taking the risk saying that ‘if I don’t do it now’ – at that time I was already in my thirties – there is no chance that I could come back and make the life here for myself. So I took the chance that I would stay and make life for the children. Which was risky because it was not clear whether the children would accept me. Initially it was touch-and-go but eventually they did and I think they are quite happy here."

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    Kalifornská univerzita, Berkeley, USA, 28.04.2016

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    duration: 42:15
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I refused to identify my parents after the mass grave was opened

6315-portrait_former.jpg (historic)
Professor Růžena Bajcsy
photo: archiv pamětnice a Helena Pěchoučková

Růžena Bajcsy was born in Bratislava on May 28, 1933 in the Jewish family of Mr. and Mrs. Kučera. She does not remember her mother, who died tragically when Růžena was three years old. When Růžena’s father remarried, the family converted to Christianity. Růžena’s sister Marie, who was seven years younger, was born from her father’s second marriage, and the sisters developed a very close relationship after their parents had been arrested by the Gestapo in autumn 1944 and never returned again. The sisters survived until the end of the war in an orphanage and then they found their aunt in Budapest who has survived the war. However, their paths separated soon after: Růžena Bajcsy remained in the orphanage and later she lived in foster care. She began to study mathematics, and her study compensated for her loneliness which she was experiencing since the loss of her parents until she turned twenty. At that time she married Július Bajcsy and their two children were born. After graduating from the Slovak Technical University, where she earned her master’s as well as the doctoral degree, she traveled to the USA for a one-year study stay in 1967. The subsequent invasion of the Soviet army to Czechoslovakia caused her to decide not to return home anymore. She became a respected expert on computer science and robotics, she has worked at several universities and she still lectures at the University of California in Berkeley. Her first marriage ended in divorce, and professor Sherman Frankel later became her second husband. Růžena Bajcsy lives and works in the USA and she has become a legend in her field of expertise. She found her freedom and home there and after many years of waiting she was eventually reunited with her children who moved the USA as well.