Ignác Zima

* 1938  

  • "The same then later, when I was doing lectures for the cops and the cops were expecting nothing but just bad thing from Roma people, so they must behave badly too. So I told them ‘When in Czech family son “It was the same later on, when I did lectures for the cops, then the cops would pump themselves up ahead of time, so to say, and go there already expecting the Romanis to act up badly and so on, so he’d have to as well. So I told him: ‘So when that boy from that Czech family steals something or does something, saw, you’ll go to that Czech family, knock at the door, explain to the family that their son had such and such a problem, you’ll write down a report, and in that way things will start getting solved. But when you go to a Romani family, you don’t even knock, you just kick the door in and start beating everyone up.’”steals something or do something, you go to Falimy, knock on the door and explain theat their son had a problem and write it up and thus it will be addressed. But when you go to the Roma family, you do not knock but kick the door out and start hitting right away.’”

  • “The hall was big, it was full. Demeter Láďa say at the chairman’s table, he’d studied that school in Moscow. Before they sent him here, he’d worked as a secretary at the central committee, and that helped him to get sent here. And then there was the vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the National Front from Prague, and then one Janda, an employee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and some other person. They started it by saying: I welcome you to the assembly, this is the agenda, and so on, that they had to decide about the Union, whether to continue or not, and those comrades who did not receive an invitation, please leave the room. I hadn’t received an invitation, because I was just an employee. Some others were in the same situation, but I was the type that, when he said it, I took my briefcase and rose to leave. But the others stayed sitting. So when he saw that the others hadn’t reacted, he said: ‘Well, you stay here as well.’ Because I was the only one who reacted. And then the whole time, during the whole meeting, I had a notepad, and I wrote everything down, what people said, and so on. So this here Tomáš Holomek made a harsh attack on Mirek Holomek, who was the chairman at the time. And yet he was his nephew, but he attacked him harshly, they snapped at each other and didn’t trust one another. Then there was one Tataj from Mikulov. Tomáš was a former soldier, and this one still was a soldier, an officer. So they kept together. Then there was Smoleňa, that was his son-in-law, so he was with them. So they threw out all the dirt, that is, everyone who would prevent them from continuing. And now it emerged: ‘This one kept the chandeliers, this one kept the carpets, this one that, this one’s cheating like this and that one’s cheating like that.’ In other words, they were giving arguments regarding those who proposed to dissolve. And another man, one Absolon from Ostrava, the secretary, stood up and said: ‘I may as well take my violin and go play on the square and play for coins in the hat because at my age, what else can I do?’ And he started crying. Then Daniel, the historian, stood up and said: ‘Comrades, what you’ve just done is like taking a toy away from a child. But remember this, we sowed a seed, and that seed will grow again.’”

  • “We started school. We had teachers there who, like, gave those Romani families a helping hand and did their best; specifically, there was one named Cupák, the headmaster in Foršt. And they tried to get the children - because it was mixed, those weren’t just Romanis. He had something of an affinity for Romanis, so he tried to get good relationship started up, so they wouldn’t be judged. So it happened, for example, that some of the children didn’t have proper clothes at school, so the headmaster told the other schoolchildren to ask their parents to see if they have any surplus clothing at home, that they might take it to school. And it happened, so then we went to school dressed in the same way as they were.”

  • “They kept normal relations with them, with the Oslavany ones, the Kopčany ones and the other families did, because the families were variously tied together. They would go visit each other. They’d go on foot, it took maybe two days, but they did it. So they knew each other. And that one Adam from our side of the family, his parents wanted to save him, so they sent him to Kopčany. They knew where. So he came to Kopčany, and he stayed there. It was no problem to look after him. They supported each other. And something similar happened with Věrka, who was then taken in by the second family; she lived there like she was their own. So things worked like that there. But they survived, right.”

  • “The Guardists were kind of on the loose. If they had a notion, they’d often go through with it. If you think of it, there is activity is taken up by the skinheads nowadays. Say, they were in the pub, they got really drunk, pissed, and then in the night, when the pub closed, they went into the settlement, into the Kopčany one, to be precise. It was freezing outside. And they declared they were coming to ‘make order’, as Tiso [president of the Slovak State - trans.] put it. They came to the settlement and chased everyone out of the houses. I remember my mother, she only had a plain shirt on. I also had a longish shirt. They didn’t even give us the chance to put on some slippers or something, so we were barefoot, everyone out in front of the house. We weren’t allowed to stay inside. He went through the place and chased everyone out, barefoot, into the yard. There were, say, five or seven of us in a row. And they yelled at us: ‘What is it, you Gipsies!’ And they swore at us. I don’t want to repeat the words they used. And because they were drunk, [one of them] walked around my mum and lifted her shirt up with his whip. When my father saw it happen, he rushed at him. Of course, they beat him up. He was bleeding. And it was similar with the others. Because they hadn’t had enough, one of them went round to the back of the house. We didn’t have any privies there at the time, so they found a piece of excrement. Luckily, it was frozen. So they made a joke of it. [One man] had to pick the - frozen - excrement up in his hand, and then they made as if to bury it in a hole somewhere. The rest had to go as well. Whenever anyone got out of line, they beat him up, kicked him down. So that’s what they did and that’s what I saw with my own eyes back then in Kopčany.”

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    byt Ignáce Zimy, Brno, 27.11.2013

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If they’d have let us keep on with it, we could’ve been somewhere else than we are today

Ignác Zima was born on 23 February 1938 in a Roma settlement in Kopčany, western Slovakia. His father earned a living in typical Romani fashion as a blacksmith doing occasional farm labour. During the war the local Romanis suffered from bullying at the hands of the Hlinka Guard, although they fared better than their relatives in Moravia, who were deported to concentration camps. After the war Ignác and his family moved to Svitavsko, where his father and older brother worked at a farm. However, they soon returned to Kopčany. At the age of eighteen, Ignác left to find work in Hodonín. He worked as a railroad switch operator from 1956. In 1969 he became chairman of the District Committee of the Union of Gipsies-Romanis, an organisation representing the Romani minority in Czechoslovakia at the time. He was employed at the union’s head office in Brno shortly before it was forcibly dissolved in 1973. He then worked at Czechoslovak Railways in Brno. In the 1990s he renewed his active interest in Romani matters as an intermediary at the Brno employment office. Even after retiring in 1998 he remained publicly active, offering training courses to policemen and teaching Romani at Masaryk University.