In the late 1970s and 1980s, Elena Lacková began narrating her life story to Milena Hübschmannová, her friend and the leading Romani studies scholar in the former Czechoslovakia, who recorded the story, translated it from Romani into Czech and edited it for publication. Narodila jsem se pod šťastnou hvězdou was not published until 1997 and appeared in English translation in 2000.
The book recounts Lacková’s life story from her childhood in the Romani settlement until her retirement in 1980 told through the lens of an extraordinarily gifted and strong-minded Romani woman against the background of developments in the second half of the twentieth century in the former Czechoslovakia. Lacková´s fate is testimony to the fate of the Roma as a group in that country.
The text describes the frictions between, on the one hand, Lacková´s position as a Communist and a civil servant taking part in the implementation of state policies towards Roma as citizens of socialist Czechoslovakia and, on the other hand, her approach to life, her attitudes and her way of thinking, which reflect her immersion in Romani tradition and values as well as the hierarchies of rural Slovakia. Also reflected is her determination to help improve the situation of local Romani communities, which had suffered war-time persecution and isolation, and from the ignorance of the post-war local authorities. The book describes her motivation and willingness to take part in the Romani emancipation movement.
In addition, the narrative reveals her gender perspectives as a woman achieving emancipation through her work as a socialist state official and the need (and ability) to negotiate (and suffer) conflicts related to conservativism and traditions of her own family.
In her translation, Milena Hübschmannová succeeded in capturing the charm of Lacková’s simple narration by using plain and at times repetitive, albeit very cultivated, language. The insider perspective is brought to life by including Romani terms for historical events as well as cultural traditions and social practices as well as by employing Romani proverbs and sayings, just as Lacková did in the original as a means of illustration and explanation of her perspectives.
Source of text samples
Lacková, Elena. 2000. A False Dawn. My Life as a Gypsy Woman in Slovakia. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, pp. 143–153.