Jolana Blau

* 1938

  • „I was born in Banovice nad Bebravou near the town Trenčín. My father was a Hungarian. He originated from a very poor family living in Carpathian Ruthenia. When he was looking for work before the Second World War, he arrived to Bánovice where he fell in love with my mother. They got married and I was born in 1938. Then the war erupted. In 1941 my father, my aunt and uncle were sent to Auschwitz. My father perished in Majdanek. We found it out one year later. My mother, me and my grandma were sent to Novaky in a labor camp for Slovaks. We spent there two years.”

  • „You know the name Andy Warhol for sure. He painted a picture of my husband and daughter. He had visited our store to buy carpets. We gave him carpets and tapestries and he made painting in return for us. Once I asked him if he spoke Slovak – he originated in Slovakia like me – but his answer was: no. But it was not true; he just didn’t want to speak Slovak. His hair was red. He visited our store very often. (Q.: ‘What kind of man he was?’) A little bit strange as any other artist. He painted the most famous actors and actresses. Warhol painted my daughter Andrea when she was five years old. It happened 30 years ago. He had used the oldest type of Polaroid. He made approximately 24 pictures of her from different angels, then we choose one we liked and he painted it. My husband wanted to get the photo too but Warhol had insisted on the photo, so we got it too. The same happened later with my husband. When he went to Warhol’s atelier to pick up the painting, Warhol’s assistant pointed out that Warhol hadn’t signed it yet. My husband answered it didn’t matter that Andy would sign it when he would visit our gallery. But in the meantime Warhol went to hospital and died.”

  • „We were sent to Novaky instead of Auschwitz. My mother had been making hats there from 1942 till 1944. The Slovakian uprising erupted in the same year. We were let to go free. We were hiding in woods and caves. We acquired even false papers. Then we lost our grandmother. Finally we were caught and transported to Terezin. There I experienced the liberation in May 1945. I was seven years old. We had been caught in the woods. They had sent us to Sered first, then to Terezin. My mother had not believed we were not going to Auschwitz, but a decent German, who had given me sweets, had told her not to be afraid. It had happened in October or in November in 1944. The last transport to Auschwitz had departed previously. So I am still here. (Q.: ‘Who had helped you in the woods? Partisans?’) Yes, we had lived among partisans, later at some farm. It had been complicated. It had taken several months before we had been caught.”

  • „I remember only few events from Terezin. I know we had lived in some house near a railway station. I remember how I was impressed when a train arrived and carriages were opened. Inside were people incoming from Auschwitz. Just begs of bones, living corpses. Half of them had been already dead. I was only seven years old. I was staring at the scene unable to comprehend it. In Terezin I had played with other children of course. My mother had worked in a bakery. Our family owned a big bakery before the war. In Terezin she met my stepfather too.”

  • „It is very interesting story how my husband had started in the carpet business. Once he got a phone call. Some friend had a large carpet to sell. My husband was neither experienced nor educated in selling of carpets. So he tried to offer it to other friend. But the carpet was too large to fit in friend’s living room. He stood on the street helpless. Someone advised him to go to a store of Mr. Zajíček, an experienced carpet dealer. Vojtěch went there. I have heard this story hundreds of times during our marriage. Everybody wanted to know how he had started because my husband really represented a success story. He arrived in USA in 1962, he didn’t speak English, he had no money and in 1976 he was selling carpets to White House. People usually guessed his parents had worked in carpet business, but the family had got only a general store. So my husband entered the store of Mr. Zajíček. They talked for a while about carpets; Zajíček explained him the differences between several kinds, where carpets came from etc. After my husband left the store he knew this is the business he wanted to perform. But Mr. Zajíček hadn’t behaved in a very friendly way. So Vojtěch called his mother living in Slovakia and asked her to bring a goose, duck and goose liver next time she would come to Prague. She brought a big bag. He took it and returned to the store of Zajíček: ‘I would be really pleased if you would train me in the carpet business.’ When Zajíček saw the bag he was not able to refuse. My husband visited Mr. Zajíček regularly for three months several times a week. After three months Zajíček told him it was all he could teach him: ‘Do you know something about carpets now?’ My husband answered no and asked: ‘Are you displeased with me?’ Zajíček told him: ‘Now you have to try on your own and learn from experience. If you will need some advice, visit me.’ My husband became a business associate of Mr. Zajíček within six months.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 21.05.2007

    duration: 01:14:14
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

„He was completely stunned when I called him. Of course, he was already married.”

7 portret.jpg (historic)
Jolana Blau
photo: Jan Horník

Jolana Blau was born on 27th April in 1938 in Bánovice nad Bebravou. Usual destiny of European Jews affected her family when she was three years old. In 1941 her father, her aunt and uncle were deported to Auschwitz, her father later perished in Majdanek. Jolana with her mother and grandmother were sent to labor camp Novaky. After the Slovakian uprising erupted in 1944 they were freed for several months. Three women were hiding in woods among Partisans. Finally Jolana and her mother were caught again and transported to Terezín in autumn 1944. Jolana survived in Terezín until the liberation in May 1945. She was seven years old. Only Jolana, her mother and grandmother had survived the war from the family of approximately 200 members. After the war they moved to Prague. In Prague Jolana graduated at a High School of Bussiness. She got married at her twenties for the first time. After the invasion of the armies of The Warsaw Pact in August 1968 Jolana emigrated to USA via Austria with her five years old daughter Simona. Within several years she got married for the second time to Vojtěch Blau, a Czech emigrant and very famous dealer of Persian carpets and tapestries. She lives in New York.