‘I can never forget those little shoes.’
Margita Nova was born in a Romani settlement near Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia, in 1935. During the first years of her childhood, she was raised by her birth mother – the daughter of a blacksmith who also manufactured paint brushes by hand.
Margita was orphaned at around the age of eight during World War II. Her father reportedly perished in wartime violence; and her mother died after going into premature labour, leaving behind eight children of various ages. Even though her dying wish was that they should not be separated, this turned out to be unavoidable.
A Holocaust legacy
Before agreeing to an arranged marriage, Margita was brought up by the Moravian Romani family of Jozef Holomek, who had changed their obviously Romani surname in an effort to escape further persecution. By the end of the war, the extended family was left with only a handful of its members. The rest had been murdered by the German Nazis and their Czech collaborators.
Jozef and his wife, Anna, had eleven biological children. The only ones to survive childhood were two sons, Ruda and Vena, and two daughters, Zofina and Barka. After the war, Zofina had fair skin, bleached-blond hair and a number tattooed on her forearm. Initially, Jozef and Anna took Margita into their care ostensibly so that Barka could have a playmate, but they eventually adopted her. In this way, Margita and Barka grew up as sisters during the former’s later childhood and adolescence.
When Margita joined the Holomek/Hranek family at the age of approximately twelve, she could neither read nor write, as she had never attended school, but she could independently carry out household tasks, including cooking and laundry. Joszef was known to say that she was his favourite child. He, too, cooked and baked pastries, as well as doing large amounts of laundry.
Anna, by contrast, was not fond of housework. She would go out selling merchandise from door to door and thus provide for her family financially. She purchased fabrics in a store and travelled from one village to the next in order to resell them or trade them for lard, eggs and chickens. Occasionally, she read some of the villagers’ palms.
Once she became part of her new family, Margita learned about their fate during the war and added their songs, including ‘Ausvicate’, to her repertoire. As adults, she and her sister Barka travelled to Poland in order to visit Auschwitz. Speaking of the exhibit that shows collections of the victims’ belongings, Margita says ‘I can never forget those little shoes’.
Margita Nová sings Aušvicate hi kher baro:
_Aušvicate hi kher baro
Oj, odoj bešel mro pirano
Aj, bešel, bešel, gondolinel
I pre mande pobisterel
Aj, ada Ruska balval phurdel
I mro pirano už man mukhel
Aj, mukhel, mukhel pharip[naha]
Aňi phenďal ačh Devleha
Odoj kalo čirikloro
Čhinel mange mro liloro
Mro liloro – bari romňi
Aušvicate bokhel baro
Bokhel baro, bari buti
Aňi nane koter maro
Na na na…_
There’s a large building in Auschwitz
That’s where my beloved sits
Oh, he sits and sits, contemplating
And forgetting about me
Oh, a wind is blowing from Russia
My beloved is leaving me
He is leaving, leaving with a heavy heart
You could not even say goodbye
The little black bird over there
Is writing my letter for me
My letter – my great wife
There is much hunger in Auschwitz
Much hunger and much work
And not even a piece of bread