Emílie Koudelová

* 1926  

  • “I started off in Dežanovac [a village near Daruvar - ed.], it was Sunday morning, I was called off to a birthing. I came there, and her mother started laughing and asked, you’ve got your things in your lap? I said I didn’t have anything with me, I first needed to see when it would come. When I looked, I said, this will probably be tomorrow morning. I said, I’ll go back home for now and come again in the afternoon, everything is okay. Except at school you have a delivery room, a bed, everything you need, a strong light, and here they had just a stool and some straw. You have to prepare for the delivery, so everything works out okay. And the next morning she really did give birth, it was a girl, and I think the girl even took up my profession. I don’t know where she lives now, I don’t even remember her surname, but I know she was the first. My first one was a girl in Dežanovac. I worked there some seven months; I wanted to start in Daruvar, but they didn’t take me there, so I went to work in Pakrac.”

  • “My childhood was not a pretty one. I was the oldest child, and I remember a lot. But what I remember the most is that my mother’s sister bought me a little porcelain doll with hair. My parents didn’t have much money then, to buy us toys or things like that, so I played with it. And I also remember that my aunt bought me earrings, but I don’t know where they are, they’re lost. Mum sewed us a lot of dolls. Back then we lived in Palešnik with a gaffer named Mila, and my sister and I cleared and cleaned out one shed, which we furnished nicely, and that’s where we had the dolls. When a doll was sickly, I’d prick [inject] it with a toothpick, and then my sister would bury it. So that’s my earliest childhood. I remember when my sister Marie was born because Mum was alone, and I had to go to the neighbour to call the midwife, Mrs Volnová. When she came and when the little one was born, I - just a child myself - lifted the baby up and put her on the bed beside Mum. Then I grew up a bit, and I started attending school in Palešnik, but life was pretty hard. And so Mum, because she reckoned she could manage better as a seamstress in Garešnica, so we moved to Garešnica. And I grew up and completed school there, my father died there. So my childhood days were everywhere, but mostly in Garešnica, where I grew into youthhood. We didn’t have many toys as children, but we did have what today’s children don’t - we had meadows, we had good neighbours...”

  • “When I was working at the factory [in Germany], a soldier came into the door, and I gazed at him like this, and he actually blushed all over. He was a German soldier, but a coerced one. When he was on duty on the Russian front, he let his feet freeze, so they’d cut off a part [of his toes] and he could go back, so he wouldn’t have to fight. We became acquainted and even engaged, but when the end came, I returned home, not knowing that I wouldn’t be able to go back again. His name was Rudi Ethel; I don’t know what happened to him then. I even visited him at home, his parents were really nice, they liked me, they even said they’d look after the children [the witness’s younger siblings - ed.] if they survive. He helped me get the children out into a village, they were in an evacuated school, but they weren’t in Leipzig. Then when the war was slowly coming to an end, I left to get the children and brought them home, but no sooner had we reached the train station, there was another air raid. They clobbered us a full week, but no more after that. The people we were in touch with, although they were Germans, they were kind people. I was also in touch with people from the camp, there were a lot of us there, I can’t remember how many. And another thing is important: I was allowed to go by tram, I was allowed to walk wherever I wanted to, no one caused me any trouble. In the end they didn’t even notice I was a foreigner any more because I learnt to speak German so well that they couldn’t even tell. And one time I was in a tram, and some Czechs came there, they’d come to do [forced] labour in Leipzig. Boys will be boys, when they noticed a girl... They were also allowed to move freely [around the town], they were no trouble. And there was one Erika in the tram, and they crowded up to her, they wanted her to go to the cinema with them, but they couldn’t speak good German, so it didn’t go so well. And she said she wasn’t interested. I knew where they lived, and I heard they spoke Czech, I knew who they were. So when Erika got our, they came to me and started, Miss here, Miss there... One said, Miss, you could come this evening. And I said, if I hadn’t heard what you spoke about with Erika, perhaps I would have. Christ! She’s one of us Czechs!” [The boys were surprised that she could speak Czech.]

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    Dolní Daruvar, Chorvatsko, 14.06.2016

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The things a baby has to endure during birth would be hard for an adult to take

Emílie Koudelová 26 years old
Emílie Koudelová 26 years old
photo: archiv pamětnice

Emílie Koudelová, née Kraislová, was born on 8 November 1926 in the village of Veliki Bastaji in current-day Croatia as the oldest of five siblings. Her parents were Czech immigrants, and so the family always spoke Czech at home. They frequently moved because of work, later settling down in the town of Garešnica, where Emílie attended her four years of mandatory school. In 1938 her father died, and when the war broke out, her mother sent Emílie to her uncle in Cerna near Vinkovci and then on to her aunt in Belgrade. In spring 1941 people began evacuating the city because they were afraid the Germans would bomb it. Emílie and her aunt also left. She waited at the Belgrade train station for three days before succeeding in boarding a train home. She left the city two days before it was bombed. In January 1942 she moved to Leipzig, Germany, in search of a job. She worked as a cleaning lady, later as a worker at a cannon factory, and finally as a nurse. She quickly learnt the language and became engaged with a German soldier, Rudi, who sabotaged factory production. Emílie Koudelová experienced air raids in Leipzig; during one of the last raids, she lost her brother, who was never found again. After the war she and her whole family went home, and she did not see her fiancé again. In autumn 1946 she met her future husband Stanislav, and they married that same year. They had two sons, Mirek and Drahoslav. In 1952 she applied to a nursing school in Zadar, specialising as a birth attendant. Her husband stayed at home to look after their little children. From 1954 she helped give birth to babies in Daruvar and the surrounding area. In the years 1975 to 1977 she worked as a nurse and midwife in Al-Khums, Libya - the European personnel of the local hospital were provided by Yugoslavia. She returned home to her sons when her husband died. Her son Drahoslav emigrated to Czechoslovakia to find employment, and Emílie Koudelová joined him in 1989. She lived in Prague for three years and worked as a gatekeeper at the Větrník Students’ Hall. In the meantime, war broke out in Yugoslavia, and the witness’s family house was looted and destroyed. She thus lost many family documents and papers with notes on her work.