Zora Sigalová

* 1938

  • “As the civil war (in Yugoslavia) began, as they say, so Czechoslovakia, back then it was still one country, invited us, to come as guests, not refugees, but guests to Bohemia. Suddenly on 7th September it arrived, that we can go and on the 13th they already came for us. To get away from the grenades, of course we went, we were not dumb. There was a parents meeting and now: ‚Who from the teachers comes?‘ And the parents at me: ‚Comrade, you should go, children like you, we do too, we will be safer if you go.‘ Well all right, I said I would go. And they told me off at home: ‚It is none of your business, you don’t care what happens with us here!‘ We went to Seč and stayed for four and a half months. And when the children asked me when we would come back, I replied: ‚In a fortnight.‘ Two weeks passed by and I said again: ‚In a fortnight.‘ Then there were Czech teachers, who taught physical education to kids, but only that, the rest was up to us to teach in Czech. I had a class in the pavilion D and I called it a wooden-glass castle, in fact it was a montage hall. I was a teacher, mum, dad, aunt, barber, cleaner, everything. I had to play all those roles. And I was all by myself with kids from five to eighteen years of age. But they obeyed me, all of them, but not my colleague. But when I told them on Sunday: ‚So now you dress up nicely, lock you rooms and we shall go for a walk.‘ We set off at three o´clock in the afternoon, or at two, as it was winter, walked around the whole town of Seč, we found out there was a small hydro power plant, there were also other camps and returned back at half past six and they were not at all naughty. And they said to my colleague: ‚Nah, we will not go.‘ They simply had to listen to me. But it was not nice... In my pavilion no crying ever occurred as they did in other places. There was war here, but I didn’t allow them – when the phone rang, I had to pick it up first. And when they informed me something bad happened, no, no. I didn’t say it. Not to the child. As its psyche would get damaged. They left so that their soul stayed healthy. And then my colleagues told me: ‚What if you stay until Easter?‘ So I turned it round and told the children: ‚We leave in a month. Then it was beginning to get a bit silent, sometimes around 21st January, 1992 we were acknowledged (Croatian independent state announced on 15th January, 1992). And I said: ‚On the second school term we go home.‘ And everyone said: ‚Our teacher knew it. Then we returned, but there was yet a lot of action going on... I remember the grenades still falling.”

  • “My name is Zora Sigalová and I am a retired specialised teacher. My parents, Velimir Sigal and Blažena Horešovská, met in Prague, my mum was originally Czech born in Unhošť near Prague. There is still a house, the pub U Slovana that was a pub of my granddad. And my father studied in Prague, otherwise comes from Sarajevo, and his mum and dad were in Sarajevo, even aunt and uncle. They met in Nouzovo that is a trip place near Unhošť. Daddy was in Sokol, mum was too, and once they had a trip, and mum got a whole bouquet of flowers from him, and so they met. Then they were dating in Prague and in five years moved to Yugoslavia, where dad worked in the railways and our granddad worked in Sarajevo. But what I wanted to say: in the village of Tešanjka in the house, the first neighbour was 300 metres from us, another 500 metres, so we were quite secluded. Tešanjka was eleven kilometres away from Doboj and about fifteen from Teslič. We stayed there until the end of WW2. We were only little, so we played, didn’t bother by grenades flying over our house. And one day there were partisans, the other day ustaša and the third militia. We were really small and didn’t understand it all. And mother taught us Czech as children tell everything. So the rest was in Croatian. Daddy was in Croatia (during war), not in Bosnia. But I was born in Bosnia, so I was Bosnian Czech, at least they told me so during studies.”

  • “There is a special school in Končenice, they have a single Czech class from the fifth until the eighth (in Croatia elementary school has only eight grades) and one Czech class from the fifth until the eighth Croatian. I taught one or the other, one lesson in Czech and the other in Croatian, the same material. Therefore I used to say: In Končenice brotherhood and unity always ruled. There was no arguing. And there were Orthodox (Orthodox Serbs), there were Croats, people from Zagorje (region bordering Slovinia) – that is Stražanac and Dioš (smaller villages belonging under Končenice) – and Czechs - Končenice, Otkopi and Brestov (Daruvarski Brestovac, also belong under Končenice). But there was no arguing amongst them. And there were no obstacles, as Croatian children next to Czech ones learnt some Czech. So one confused me in Zagreb, I think he went to learn craft there, he was called Marijan. That was many years ago. Along with four other boys they were friends. He was suddenly coming along, we met and he told me: ‚Good day, comrade.‘ They sometimes used to say it. I replied: ‚Good day. How are you?‘ I was thinking: Dear god, did he actually attend Czech school or not? Well he went to Croatian and wanted to show off in front of the boys how he speaks Czech. And I was pleased, it was cute. That was before (earlier). About thirty years ago.”

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    Daruvar, 09.06.2016

    duration: 01:21:40
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I am Bosnian Czech, so they always told me

Zora Sigalová wearing a Czech traditional costume in 1958 or 1960
Zora Sigalová wearing a Czech traditional costume in 1958 or 1960
photo: archiv pamětnice

Zora Sigalová was born on 14 October, 1938 in a village of Tešanjka in today´s Bosnia and Hercegovina. Her mother Blaženka comes from Unhošť and at the end of 1920s she met her future husband Velimir during a Sokol gathering, who came from Sarajevo and studied in Prague. In 1930s she left with him back to Bosnia and had four children. The witness and her siblings grew up in Tešanjka, and experienced WW2 with their mother, while the father worked in Zagreb. In 1946 the mother decided to leave for her relatives in Czechoslovakia, who lived in Prague-Košířích, where Zora Sigalová and her siblings went to school. There they also learnt Czech. In 1950 they went back to Yugoslavia, as their father was not allowed to go to Czechoslovakia and the mother guessed they would not be able to cross the borders later. They returned to Croatian Daruvar. The witness went to the Czech eight grade elementary school there, then to the Czech part of the local gymnasium and later to Higher School of Pedagogics in Sarajevo. In 1958-1960 studied chemistry and mathematics. Since 1960 until retirement in 2003 taught at the second grade of the Czech school of J. Růžička in Končenice, teaching Czech and Croatian. At the beginning of the Yugoslavian war she stayed with her Daruvarsko students for four months in Seč near Chrudim, where they were sent in refuge from war. All her life Zora Sigalová participated in various events organised by the Czech minority associations; currently plays theatre and takes care about the Czech library of the local Czech association.