Holocaust Survivor Ceija Stojka|Austrian#Romani writer|painter|musician

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.
diemamaceijastojka Pintura de Ceija Stojka “La mamá” © Pacific University Oregon
Ceija Stojka (1933 – 2013)


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. tumblr_mhe9x4rvbp1qf41bbo5_500   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.

 karl1   ceijaysumam25c325a1sidi 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.

 au_ceija-stojka-ohne-titel-1995_c_nachlass-ceija-stojka-hojda-willibald-stojka-wien_-vg-bild-kunst-bonn-2014_2 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.

2059868_o Painting by Ceija Stojka

pw-a026p05 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).

ceijastojkaysuhijasilvia  Ceija Stojka with Silvia © – 1949 y 1955 Willi, Silvia and Jano  http://members.chello.at/romanes/index.htm

2059860_220w_1 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.

Ceija Stojka survived the Holocaust, but these never forgettable experiences become a central and eternal theme of her artistic work since 1989. Her paintings reflect upon the entrenched sorrow in the bodies and spirit of the victims. There are some books and film which are capturing her life. She was a charismatic author and she wrote the first Roma autobiographical account on the Nazi persecution. The 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!”.  Also she had the traveling exhibit in 2010 in the United States was the first time her artwork has been exhibited in the U.S.  „I always try to portray my feelings and memories. I want to show my own world to the people. It is important to understand that, we are all human beings and art allows us to live and exist. Art can demonstrate and connect us„
Ceija Stoika, an outstanding Austrian Romani woman, who was a key figure for the history, art, and literature of Romani culture in Europe. Her artistic account offers stories and visual representation of trauma as a new means to face with the past in order to start a new and meaningful dialogue and challenge the various forms of discrimination and violence in the present Europe.

Wir leben im Verborgenen: Erinnerungen einer Rom-Zigeunerin “We Live in Seclusion. The Memories of a Romni”.  1st ed. Vienna: Picus, 1988.
Reisende auf dieser Welt: Aus dem Leben einer Rom-Zigeunerin. “Travellers on This World” Vienna: Picus, 1992.
Meine Wahl zu schreiben–ich kann es nicht/O fallo de isgiri–me tschschanaf les: Gedichte und Bilder. Landeck: Emigan Yayinlari Editions, 2003.
Träume ich, dass ich lebe? Mein Leben in Bergen-Belsen.  Vienna: Picus, 2005.
Stories in the anthology Fern von uns im Traum
CD: Me Dikhlem Suno.  Vienna: non food factory, 2000.

About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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