Victoria Bursa

* 1949  

  • “In Paris we went to a protest march and at that time there were large protests of French students going on. And our protest march somehow got mixed up with one of these students. So, when we were marching and we saw soldiers and police officers ahead and it looked like they were going to fire some tear gas, we turned and went down a side street.”

  • “It was an Italian boat, the Mesapia, the company was called Adriatica. It was quite an old ship. All of us refugees had third class because it wasn’t us paying for the tickets, but Israel. Karel was in the higher class part, so he had a better coupe and better food. We had spaghetti and sardines basically the whole time. Everyone else had good food. Also, we were never allowed to go out anywhere. The ship docked at Piraeus on Cyprus, and Karel left to go buy some things for his sister and we had to stay behind on the ship.”

  • “You had to make an official request, fill out a bunch of papers. It took a very long time and because of the fact that we didn’t have anyone there any longer, and we couldn’t benefit the country, they let us come. It loosened up. We had to write down everything that we planned on bringing with us. They assigned us to one customs officer who actually lived with us for a few weeks and who made a note of every spoon that we wanted to take. Everything was packed into one big box which we had specially made, and it was sent by boat. In the end we left with a suitcase. We took a train to Vienna and from there they took us to the concentration camp. It was called Neuchonburg. It was a sort of big barracks there with tons of people and there were some dormitories and disgusting bathrooms. They gave us soup to eat and then Uncle Karel Hahn, who had come to see us from Israel, and Aunt Růžena Haberová, who had come from England, took us to some hotel in the center of Vienna and that’s where we stayed for awhile.”

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    Cambridge, 11.10.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 01:18:20
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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We must talk about the Holocaust

Photo of Victorie Bursa from the 1960s
Photo of Victorie Bursa from the 1960s
photo: archiv Victoria Bursa

Victoria Bursa was born on 6 December 1949 in Ostrava-Vítkovice as Viktorie Melcerová to a Jewish Czech- and German-speaking family. Her parents, Edita Fischová and Leo Melcer, survived internment in the concentration camps, where they lost their previous partners, her father survived only thanks to being on Schindler’s list. In October 1939, part of her family members was relocated by the Nazis to Nisko nad Sanem, from where they made it to the Soviet Union. Three of her uncles entered the ranks of the Svoboda Unit in Buzuluk, one of them, Viktor Fisch, died a hero’s death in the Battle of Sokolovo. The witness graduated from primary school in Ostrava and, after the death of her father, her mother decided to join up with her relatives in Israel. At first they were placed in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Vienna, from where Uncle Karel Hahn met up with them, and they sailed together from Naples on a ship named Mesapia to Haifa. In the kibbutz In Israel she went to school and learned Hebrew, though her mother did not feel comfortable in the holy land and she returned to Czechoslovakia in 1965. In Ostrava Viktoria completed high school and after graduating she and her husband went on their honeymoon to England. It was there where she learned of the August occupation of the Warsaw Pact armies in August 1968. She never returned Czechoslovakia thereafter, later she married a geography professor from Cambridge and took on his surname, Bursa. She still lives in Cambridge today.