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“I am afraid that Europe is forgetting its past and that Auschwitz is only sleeping. Anti-Gypsy threats, policies and actions worry me greatly and make me very sad. If the world does not change now, if the world does not open its doors and windows, if it does not build peace — true peace — so that my great-grandchildren have a chance to live in this world, then I cannot explain why I survived Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Ravensbruck.”
Ceija Stojka (1933 – 2013) was an Austrian-Romani writer, painter and musician, survivor of the Holocaust. She was from the Lovari ethnic group and the fifth of six children. Together with her mother and four of the five brothers she survived the Holocaust and the internment at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her father was deported to the Dachau concentration camp in 1941, then he was killed in Schloss Hartheim. In 1943, the whole Stojka family was deported into the Auschwitz Birkenau II concentration camp, where most of them were executed.
Ceija survived the Holocaust, but her unforgettable experiences became a central and eternal theme of her artistic work. Her paintings reflect upon the entrenched sorrow in the bodies and spirits of the victims. There are many books and films which attempt to capture her life. She was a charismatic author and wrote the first Romani autobiographical account of Nazi persecution. Her first book was published in 1988 with the title “We Live in Seclusion: The Memories of a Romni”. It made the European public aware about the struggle of Austrian Roma in the Nazi persecution. Later on in 1992 she published another autobiographical book called: “Reisende auf dieser Welt: “Travellers on This World”.
Besides painting and writing Ceija also sang in Romanes. In 1989, at the age of 56, she began to paint. Her work has been exhibited in western and eastern Europe and in Japan. In 2005 the Jewish Museum of Vienna organized an exhibition with the title of “Ceija Stojka, Leben!”.
- Wir leben im Verborgenen: Erinnerungen einer Rom-Zigeunerin “We Live in Seclusion. The Memories of a Romni”. 1st ed. Vienna: Picus, 1988. Available (in German) at Amazon
- Reisende auf dieser Welt: Aus dem Leben einer Rom-Zigeunerin. “Travellers on This World” Vienna: Picus, 1992. Available (in German) at Amazon
Karl Stojka (1931 – 2003) was the fourth of the Stojka children and older brother of Ceija. He lived after the Second World War both in Austria and in the United States. In 1985, he began teaching himself to paint. In his paintings, he expressed his life story as a persecuted Rom. In addition, he gave exhibitions with over 80 images in Japan, the U.S. and in Europe. Karl and his younger brother Mongo survived the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Flossenbürg and the ensuing march of death. However, they barely avoided death themselves.
“I was an innocent child of only 11 years, when Hitler’s Nazis arrested me in school, abducted me, stole my name from me and turned me into a number and a slave, made me hungry, beat and tortured me. The Nazis had murdered my father and my brother. They had taken everything I loved and treasured from me. I didn’t have a past anymore, no present, and even less so a future.”
- Auf Der Ganzen Welt Zu Hause: Das Leben Und Wandern Des Zigeuners Karl Stojka. Wien: Picus, 1994.
- Ein Kind in Birkenau. Wien: Karl Stojka, 1990.
- Gas. Wien: K. Stojka, 1996.
- Mein Name Im Dritten Reich: Z:5742. Wien: K. Stojka, 2000.
- Wo Sind Sie Geblieben–?: Geschunden Gequält, Getötet:Gesichter Und Geschichten Von Roma, Sinti Und Juden Aus Den Konzentrationslagern Des Dritten Reiches. Oberwart: Edition Lex Liszt 12, 2003.
Johann “Mongo” Stojka (1929 – 2014) was the oldest of the Stojka siblings to survive. It was only Mongo’s son, Harri who was able to convince him to speak about the atrocities he witnessed during the Porrajmos. So, in 2000 he published his first book “Papierene Kinder: Glück, Zerstörung und Neubeginn einer Roma-Familie in Österreich” (Paper Children: Luck, Destuction and New-beginning of a Roma Family in Austria – Available in German from Amazon). In 2003, an area of the Belgradplatz in Vienna, in front of the factory where the Stojka family and other Lovara, Roma, and Sinti gathered prior to the war, was renamed as “Barankapark Hellerwiese” in honor of Mongo, Karl, and Ceija’s grandmother. As well as a gazebo and chestnut tree (planted in 1999 by Mongo), there is also a memorial stone reading “a me gindinas pre du me”.
Johann “Kalitsch” Horvath (1912-1983)
Kalitsch grew up in Oberwart, Austria, a Burgenland Romani settlement. It was there he met and married his first wife, Juliana in 1935. Together they had three children – Johann, Theresia, and Irene. However, during the war the entire population of Oberwart were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz, where Kalitsch watched his wife and three children perish. Only 20 survivors ever returned. However, the settlement had been completely destroyed and they were left with absolutely nothing – no family, no accommodation, and no income.
With great effort Johann made a new life for himself and acquired a humble prosperity – at least compared to fellow survivors. He worked for many years as an unskilled laborer on building sites and in the 1950s he managed to buy a plot of land and build a small house.
Kalitsch at this point was living with his first wife’s sister, and was the father of another five children (Karl, Helene, Alexander, Johann, Ludwig). In 1966 he married his partner Elizabeth (1924-1985), called “Lulu”. During the 1980s he had to endure another stroke of fate when his daughter Helene died under tragic circumstances at a young age. She left him five children for who Kalitsch and “Lulu” cared until the end of their lives. In March 1983 Johann Horvath died at the age of 71 due to lung cancer.
More than 30 years ago Mozes Heinschink met Johann Horvath. This meeting resulted in records of Kalitsch so that at least a part of his repertoire of fairy tales and songs will not fall into oblivion. One of “Kalitsch’s” favorite fairy tales, the “Märchen vom dummen Hansi”, along with other stories and songs, was published in 2000 in the collection “O Rom taj o beng / Der Rom und der Teufel” (Available from Amazon in German and Rromanes).