Ceija (pronounced “Chaya”) Stojka was born into a family of traveling Olah Roma (Lovari) at a time when her family was still able to live a truly traveling lifestyle.Pintura de Ceija Stojka “La mamá” © Pacific University Oregon
The Stojka family resisted increasingly strong pressures to settle. They were forced to do so in 1939. During the Nazi era, all of the closest members of Ceija’s family were displaced into various concentration camps. Her father was imprisoned in Dachau, where he was murdered. Ceija and her mother, sister and three brothers were first transported to Auschwitz, where her youngest brother Ossi and other relatives of hers died. The end of WWII did not bring any recognition by Austria of Romani people having been targeted as racial victims of Nazi persecution…
Ceija, her mother and her sister later passed through the concentration camps at Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen, while her brothers passed through Buchenwald and Flossenbürg.
“An Austrian Roma Family Remembers: Trauma and Gender in Autobiographies by Ceija, Karl, and Mongo Stojka.” German Studies Review 31.1 (2008): 64-86. JSTOR.
María Sidi Stojka y su hija Ceija Stojka © http://members.chello.at/romanes/index.htm
After the war ended, the surviving family members found one another in Vienna.
Ceija Stojka, Ohne Titel, 1995 (Ausschnitt) – © Nachlass Ceija Stojka, Hojda Willibald Stojka, Wien / VG-Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
Of course, the end of the war did not bring any recognition by Austria of Romani people having been targeted as racial victims of Nazi persecution, which meant they were denied both societal rehabilitation and direct material compensation. Ceija and her family had to rebuild their lives once more without any kind of external aid or support. Moreover, they did so in an atmosphere in which neither non-Romani nor Romani society wanted to remember the horrors of the war, for various reasons.
Painting by Ceija Stojka
The artist Karl Stojka in front of the barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau where his brother…
The book We Live in Seclusion (Wir leben im Verborgenen, 1988; Czech title Žijeme ve skrytu, 2008), made Ceija famous. It is an autobiographical narrative of the most tragic period of her life. It evidently would never have been published had Ceija not been firmly resolved to complete it despite the dismissive, skeptical attitudes of those closest to her, and had she not had the support of the book’s editor, Karin Berger.
When the book was finally published in 1988, it caused quite a commotion. The heretofore ignored topic of the Romani Holocaust was now public for the first time, and it was a woman, moreover, who had opened up the issue. This meant breaking a basic taboo within the framework of the Olah Romani community, where women do not usually have the right to appear publicly unless asked to do so by a male relative.
In addition to her literary talent, Ceija discovered she had artistic and musical talent as well, like her brothers Karl and Mungo. Despite her age and the pain it caused her to recall the events of the Second World War after so many years, she tirelessly participated in public debates, educational programs, and readings.
The following excerpt is from an interview conducted with Ceija Stojka by Karin Berger; translated from the Czech translation of We Live in Seclusion (Žijeme ve skrytu), 2008, pgs. 63–67
Q: Did you have any specific reason for deciding to start writing this all up?
A: (Read the rest of the article here) This article draws on a text by Helena Sadílková, published in the textbook Druhá směna (Second Shift) (Praha: ROMEA, 2012).
Ceija Stojka with Silvia © – 1949 y 1955 Willi, Silvia and Jano http://members.chello.at/romanes/index.htm
Ceija Stojka chronicled Roma persecution at the hands of the Nazis | died Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, in Vienna | age 79
See also The Romani Elders : Ceija Stojka (1933 – 2013) was an Austrian-Romani writer, painter and musician, survivor of the Holocaust. She was from the Lovari ethnic group the fifth of six children, sister of Karl Stojka and Mongo Stojka, also writers and musicians. Together with her mother and four of the five brothers she survived the Holocaust and the internment at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her father in 1941 was deported to the Dachau concentration camp, 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.
Reisende auf dieser Welt: Aus dem Leben einer Rom-Zigeunerin. “Travellers on This World” Vienna: Picus, 1992.
Träume ich, dass ich lebe? Mein Leben in Bergen-Belsen. Vienna: Picus, 2005.
CD: Me Dikhlem Suno. Vienna: non food factory, 2000.