Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Petrinetz - October 25, 1982

Before The Hungarians

Did you notice any, anything unusual between the relationships uh, between Jews and non-Jews before the Hungarians came in?

Well, we lived in a small town, about 30,000--35,000. Everybody knew everybody. There were some anti-Semites, but it wasn't too bad. Czechoslovakia was a democratic country. It wasn't like in uh, Hungary or, or, or different other places. But uh, when uh, they started giving Jewish businesses and Jewish things away, they were getting big eyes. You know, and they were happy takers.

After the Hungarians came in you mean...

Yeah.

You mean the Czechs were happy takers.

No. No. I'm talking about the townspeople. You asked me about the people in town. The Czechs, when, when, they had to leave in 1938, when they left Uzhgorod, they left. That was it; they were gone. You know they weren't...

The Czech citizens before were forced to leave?

The Czechs, well... How should I explain it?

The people...

There were different, there were different--Uzhgorod was the capital of Carpatha Rusland. Czechoslovakia was uh, was uh, look the way this, this is the way how Czechoslovakia was. This was Czech, this was Morava, this was Slovenska, and this the smaller end was Carpatha Rusland.

The easternmost part.

Yeah. That was on the Polish--close to the Polish border. That's where we lived. And Uzhgorod was the capital of Carpatha Rusland. It, it was states. Different ethnic groups--different groups lived in different states. There...

So there were Hungarians there already?

There--in, in Uzhgorod, you had Czech schools, Hungarian schools, Russian schools, German schools, Jewish schools. There were all kind of people.

So the Hungarians...

So when the Hungarians took over...

Were the Czechs...

The Czechs...

Forced to leave?

Left. They were forced to leave, yeah. They left before the Hungarians, the Hungarians came in.

So when you refer to the "happy takers" after the Hungarians took over ???

Those were the townspeople...

That were...

That remained. Not the Czechs. The Czechs never harmed us. They were the nicest people. We were very happy. We were-- they were democratic. Very, very seldom did you see that a Czech should be an anti-Semite. The Hungarians, yes. We had a neighbor across the street. In the old country, if you had a home, generations lived in it. You didn't move. Were--you didn't run away from one ethnic group to the other or when the neighborhood went down. The neighborhood never went down. If we would have stayed there most probably I would be still living in my parents' house. We had a neighbor across the street. She was an old widow and she had a son living with her. We were good friends. We lived across street from each other for many years. When they were taking us out of the house, I seen him peeking out from behind the window shade. Not even saying goodbye. Not even caring where they're taking us. There was another man, he was a bachelor, he was also living across the street. He knew me. He saw me, girl growing up there. He knew my parents. He was nice. When I came back after the war--he worked for the city--he asked me whether that Gentile man, who was my father, was working under his name, whether he gave me any money for our horses. I said no. He said I need to come up to the city hall, I'm gonna show you the papers where he signed it. That he took so many hundreds of pengös, that time the pengö was the Hungarian money, Hungarian currency--that Hungarian government paid him. He never--this, this is a man who wouldn't let me in my house, who occupied our house. When I approached him and I asked him, he says he never got any money. He denied it. I was in no mood to argue with him over it. I was glad I was alive. Well actually I wasn't glad I was alive, I was very bitter because I started to realize that my father isn't coming back. I knew my mother was dead, but I was hoping that my father will come back. Then people started to--some survivors who started to come home, I kept on asking. I did find someone who saw my father die, who was there. He died of starvation after the war already. He was ??? very strong man, healthy man, good-looking man. Maybe if liberation would have come a month earlier he would have survived it. He worked, as I mentioned before, my father had a sister. Someone told me that her husband was with him. He worked for him too. He was a thin little man. And my father shared his rations with him. Tried to hide him and help him. They both died; neither of 'em came back. After I was already home--if you call it the empty walls home--I started to blame myself for my mother's death. [crying, coughing] I couldn't for...forgive myself for a long time that I didn't run after her and gone with her wherever she went. It took me years to realize that I was scared and there was nothing I could have done. The Germans wouldn't have let me go with her anyhow.


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