My Family Archives
I do not remember too much of our small village next to the capital city Bratislava, rounded from one side by big state vineyards, fields and meadows, from other by state forests. There were around 200 hundred of identical grey and white washed long brick houses with wooden gates, a front flower garden and a small vegetable garden with livestock wooden buildings at the back. A couple of old fashioned whitewashed wooden cottages stayed behind on the outskirt of the village, where those ‘not in a favor of a new regime’ lived.
Like the family of my Grandmother.
My Grandmother’s parents like the most of the older inhabitants worked as woodcutters in the nearby state forests or as workers in the nearby state agricultural corporation. My Grandmother used to help in the nearby state vineyards from the age of seven. She has attended just four grades in local Primary School, which help her to obtain skills of basic writing and reading. She was used to everyday housework, looking after her three younger siblings and praying every night that her Father would not come too drunk home to abuse and threaten them all. Her worn out Mother taught her to accept world like it is and do not expect too much. Her only joy was the Sunday Mass in the nearby old Catholic Church, where she was allowed to sit and dream about God and asking him to forgive her eldest brother Gaspar for his sin.
Gaspar, who in his teenager years joined German Army, has been captured by Russians and spent many years as a prisoner of war in Sibir. He managed to escape with the help of his Russian sweetheart and returned home long after the war finished, already married. His family shunned him and he moved to the other part of the village. His Russian wife and his knowledge of Russia helped him to join the Communist Party and his ‘shameful past’ was forgotten, but not by his own family. His name was never loudly mentioned again. His biggest sin was that he married a Russian. At the end of the war when Red Army swept victoriously through our village helping themselves to food, wine and spirits in every house and chasing all women and girls, which have not been hidden away by concerned family, a group of them raped my Grandmother, in a high stage of pregnancy, expecting my Mother. From her position my Grandmother could see nearly all male occupants of her family home, some just boys shot dead and marked as ‘German Collaborators’.
My Grandfather’s Father served in both wars, got injured fighting Germans and was a local hero. Like few other communist families he lived with his wife in the upper part of the village. Their only son, my Grandfather lived the life of a privileged communist youth. He was provided with the best schooling in the city.
He was the first in our village who successfully studied in the last year of the Business Academy and was offered a job in the city Transport Department. His holidays have been spent by painting of landscapes. Later in his life, he got ashamed of his ‘unworthy, romantic’ hobby and got rid of all the paintings. Except the one, which he gave to my Grandmother at their first accounter. My Grandmother hanged this picture on a wall of every new accommodation she moved in. I always remember the beautiful detailed picture of two haystacks with a majestic forest behind. I was always puzzled with the idea that my practical Grandfather with excellent accountancy skills could paint like this.
I just can imagine that was the place they fell in love and my uncle was conceived when my Grandmother was just seventeen years old. It was a turn now for my Grandfather to be shunned by his family for marrying in secrecy and with a ‘such unsuitable person’. It was his time to leave his comfortable, careless life behind, which he would never taste again. I had a feeling, that there were times in his life, when he missed his privileged life of the past. They rented the small flat above the local pub. My Grandfather managed to finish studies and started to work in the Transport Department, staying there longer and longer as he less and less liked the idea to coming home to his always tired wife, an always screaming baby son and a noise of the pub from below.
My Grandfather was disappointed in his first born and only son, who grew up to be a weak and sick boy.
During the war my Grandfather went into hiding not to be enlisted. My Grandmother went back home with already two babies, expecting another one – my Mother. After the war, the Grandfather’s Father died from the war injuries cursing his ‘coward’ son on his dead bed. The Grandfather’s Mother was alone and sick and asked them to move in. This was the first time my Grandmother entered her husband’s big house with her three children: one weak boy and two strong daughters.
My Great Grandmother let half of the house to his son and his growing family. She had got a bowel cancer and she suffered it another twenty years. She never spoke to my Grandmother treating her like a servant and a personal nurse for the rest of her life. My Grandmother aged suddenly after her traumatic experience on the Victory Day with the Russian soldiers. Her hair got white prematurely and she stopped laughing. She worked every day from dawn to dusk, looking after the household, garden, domestic animals, vineyard, kids and mother in law. She lost interest in her husband, who spent less and less time at home. In spite of her disinterest she lost a baby every year in complicated pregnancies, until ten years later her last daughter was born – the smallest from them all, my Godmother. My Grandmother worked every day, except Sunday. This day she spent every morning in her church and every afternoon reading a catholic newspaper. Even in the harshest time of the Communist regime, when Grandfather, who was a member of the Communist Party, forced her to give up her religion she still went to her church. Her catholic religion was everything she got left to believe in, that and her hatred of Russians and progress.
My Father’s parents moved to the village to work in the new state transport system, rebuilding train lines repaired hastily after the war and on the new bus line, which made it suddenly so easy to travel to the city. They lived in the new settlers’ part of the village and entered many comities to persuade the old village families, who lived there for generations without any change, about the importance of progress. They have been the first one to buy new machinery or a first black and white TV and invited whole village to watch it through the open window. That is everything I know, unfortunately, due to family fraud, I met them just twice in my whole life.