Janis Pataridis

* 1937

  • “They placed us in these children’s homes and we lived there. The nurses there were from the Red Cross and they always took care of us. We were all in one room, but there were several rooms in the house. The nurse Květa… we were afraid of her. You know, we were curious. We were going out from the building, although we were suppose to sleep – because many children from Greece were sick, there was an epidemic of tuberculosis. But we were curious. And she yelled at us: ‘Damned boys!’”

  • “And so they found the weapons – they brought men from the village and they had to demolish our wall and they pulled out all the weapons which were hidden there. Dad was still in Greece, he was hiding, he was an illegal official in the [Communist] Party. So they arrested mom. Mom was in some other place, and my brother and I were not at home, either. They said that if my mom did not show up, they would shoot my two sisters who were there. They terrified us. I was a little boy at that time. They arrested mom and they took her to Thessaloniki. There was a court trial. The trial was later transferred to Kilkis, a district town. We were going there with my sister, she was sixteen – she was always taking me with her so that my mom would see me. Or so that I would see mom? She was on a balcony on the third floor, she saw me from that ‘tower,’ but we could not even speak to each other, such was the situation there. Then one day the older sister came there and the prisoners told her that they had taken her to an execution site. So they executed mom.”

  • “We were little children. There was a director of the children’s home while we were in Unčín, even before the others came there. He really was a wonderful person. He had this relationship with the children. Since we could not speak Czech, we gathered in a room and he would point to us in Czech: ‘This is a chair,’ and he wrote ‘chair,’ but we could not write. ‘And this is a table, this is a glass.’ Simple words like this so that we would learn them. And he repeated them over an over, until we learnt them. At that time, my hand-written ‘a’ was not like this, but it looked like that. I signed my name Pataridis, with ‘a’ like this, and ‘t’ and ‘a.’ He was such a good and patient man. I have such fond memories of the people who worked for the Red Cross. They were mostly Red Cross workers assigned to work with Greek children and teach them Czech. And to teach them pronunciation like this: for example, the letter ‘ř,’ which for us was like: ‘rzzzzzz,’ ‘lzzzzzz.’ Or ‘ž,’ or ‘š.’ We could not pronounce them. Greek language does not have anything like this, the diacritics, and so on. So we were gradually learning something. But we did not learn much. The children were sometimes making fun of it.”

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    Budějovická, 25.04.2017

    duration: 02:04:47
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The Red Cross. They were wonderful people!

Janis Pataridis
Janis Pataridis

Janis Pataridis was born in northern Greece on 1st February 1937. His parents took part in the communist resistance movement against the Nazis and after the end of World War Two they refused to surrender their weapons to the government which was controlled by the English. Janis’ father joined partisans and he was killed in combat, and his mother was executed for hiding weapons. Janis and his siblings were sent to Yugoslavia, but following a conflict between Tito and Stalin - the Greek communist party sided with the Soviet Union - the Greek refugees were no longer able to stay there. School-age children like Janis and his brother Charis were sent to socialist countries, Czechoslovakia being one of them. The Red Cross, which was subject to the governing political party, was taking care of them throughout this time. Janis Pataridis subsequently stayed in six children’s homes all over Czechoslovakia. He never stayed in a same institution as his brother. From the last children’s home he went to live in a student residence hall in Prague, he graduated from the Czech Technical University (ČVUT) and he remained in Czechoslovakia.