Gypsy Spirit


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Gypsy Spirit is the story of fifteen year-old Zilka Sucuri, a Gypsy girl who is thrust into the horrors of the Holocaust. Her life of traveling from town to town, singing and dancing the Gypsy way comes to an unconscionable stop when a SS death squad shoot every man, woman, and child in her kumpania. If she had not literally been up a tree, she would have been among those lying dead in a mass grave. Her lungo drom (the long road) takes her across Poland, Austria, and Germany in a driving struggle to help an American pilot return safely to his unit so he can return to bomb the many concentration, work, and death camps all across Poland and Germany. Her efforts reveal the truths of Belzec, the challenges of the partisans, and the burning desire to survive to be a living witness of what truly happened to the non-Aryans of Hitler’s Germany. Gypsy Spirit is a story of the driving spirit of a Gypsy girl, who took it upon herself to document the truth. Her strength and determination brings to light a story of magnanimity and the fears and atrocities such a Gypsy girl might have lived through.



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Date de parution 30 octobre 2012
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EAN13 9781773621418
Langue English

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Gypsy Spirit Tango of Death ~ Book 1
By Rita Karnopp Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-0-2286-0102-9 Kindle 978-0-2286-0103-6 PDF 978-0-2286-0104-3
Print ISBN 978-1-77299-320-2 Amazon Print 978-0-2286-0105-0
Copyright 2016 by Rita Karnopp Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introdu ced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
Dedication For centuries, the people known as Gypsies roamed E urope. They preferred lungo drom, ‘the long road;’ they had no home and wanted none. Their life was an endless journey to nowhere in particular. It is widely recognized that the persecution and mu rder of the Roma and Sinti has been largely overlooked by most scholars studying the Holocaust. Because most Romani communities of Eastern Europe were much less organized than the Jewish communities, it has been more difficult to assess the actual number of victims, though it is believed to range from 220,000 to 1,500,000. The first memorial commemorating victims of the Rom ani Holocaust was erected on May 8, 1956, in the Polish village of Szczurowa commemorating the Szczurowa massacre. In 1996 a Gypsy Caravan Memorial crossed the main remembrance sites in Poland, from Tarnów via Auschwitz, Szczurowa and Borzęcin Dolny, gathering the Gypsies and well-wishers in the remembrance of those murdered during the Nazi regime I dedicate this book to those Gypsies who found the ir free spirit stolen from them without provocation or justification . . . and to the survivors who bore witness of what truly happened . . . and to their descendants who now carry on the free spirit of the gypsy. I wrote this story to create awareness and to pay homage to those Gypsies who lost their lives during the porraimos (the devouring) as the Gypsies called the Holocaust. Being of Polish decent, I’ve been drawn to the stru ggles and incredible spirit it took to survive this unconscionable time in history. I pray this bo ok touches your spirit with compassion and new understanding.
Chapter One Poland – Slovakia – Germany 1943 The twins ran past Zilka, their skirts blowing in the breeze nearly tripping them. The coins tied to their blouses jingled with each step. Their laughter carried on the wind. “Mayla, Vanya, where you running off to?” Zilka hoped they’d ask her to join them. “Varekai,” Mayla shouted. Zilka stomped her foot and frowned at them. “Don’t wherever me. I know you’re headed to the pond. You want the boys to find you. I’m telling papa.” “Shush, you baby. Don’t be tellin’ papa anything or I’ll tell him you and Petre were up in that tree last night.” “You keep your tongue or I’ll tell papa you and Vil as were kissing out by the horses this morning.” “Quiet, both of you before everyone knows, including papa.” Mayla leaned toward the girls and whispered. “A vardo came in late last night.” “Just one? Why would just one wagon come?” Vanya asked. “Who was it?” Zilka looked around the encampment and adjusted the woven flower ring on her head. “It was a family of diddakois.” Mayla answered with an exaggerated expression of distaste. “So what, we’re a family of half-gypsies.” Zilka shook her head and rolled her eyes. “They stayed with Natsi’s family. She said they were nervous and scared. They all went to the Shero Rom and talked and argued for hours before finally settling down for the night.” “What were they arguing about?” Vanya whispered. “I asked Natsi, but she didn’t know. The diddakois did a lot of crying.” “You think they were sent away from their kumpania and they want to join ours?” “We’ll have to ask papa. He’ll know.” Mayla reached over and pulled on Zilka’s necklace. “Atch,” she shouted, then grabbed Mayla’s long, sandy braid and gave it a tug. “You little schej.” She yanked Zilka’s flowers down over her eyes and ran. Vanya followed on her heels. Zilka smiled. She loved it when the twins called her a little Gypsy girl. The early morning chill sent her fetching a shawl before following them. Their house on wheels snuggled under a tree on the edge of camp. Zilka smiled. She loved the blue and green carved gilded spokes that housed a sitting space just outside the front door. The windows of the wagon were covered by lace curtains and the wheel spokes were painted gold. The curved roof edges were carved and painted yellow and red from which they hung copper ornaments. She picked up her shawl and readjusted the flowers she always wore. “Bajram, you cannot be serious. Mayla deserves a mu ch younger man than Istvan Radita. Even his son, Ivan would be a better choice. She will never agree to it.” “We should never have promised the girls they could approve or disapprove their tumnimos. Mayla is the eldest and must choose her betrothed first. They are all getting too old for me to arrange marriages for them. We should have taken care of this long ago.” It wasn’t right to listen to her parent’s conversation, yet Zilka couldn’t bring herself to leave.
“Bajram, you are a good taj and the girls love you.” “A good father would do what’s best for them even if they don’t understand. They know I love them and want them happy. I’m the laughing stock of our kumpania where the girls are concerned.” Zilka smiled to herself. Everyone knew Bajram Sucur i could not say no to his girls. He was fiercely strict and protected them, but in the end the girls had the last word. There would be no abiav until Mayla agreed to marry. Then they’d have a fabulous wedding feast. “What if Rosalia and Adam Bogdan are telling the truth? We must—“ “You want to divorce me and go back to the city? Would you take my chavis from me? It would tear my heart out, Elise.” “You know I love you, Bajram,” Elise stifled her emotions. “If the SS are now arresting Gypsies, we must consider what this means.” Zilka sat and leaned her shoulder against the front door, afraid what she would hear next. “It can’t be true,” Bajram slammed his fist on top the wooden table. “We are German citizens.” “We are also Gypsies.” “No. I am Gypsy,” Bajram shouted. “You are Arian and our chavis are mischlinge.” “Yes the girls are of mixed ancestry, but they could easily pass as Arian because they are jenische. Maybe being a white Gypsy is a blessing now. I coul d take them to my grandmother’s chalet in Switzerland. We could wait out the war there until you return for us. I am not divorcing you.” “I’m not convinced we have to do this. We should wait until we can confirm these rumors. What if—“ “We can’t take the chance. We have to think of our girls . . . “ Zilka didn’t want to listen to another word. She bo lted from the wagon and ran down the trail. A sharp rock pierced the bottom of her bare foot and she hobbled a short time, then sped ahead. Tears filled her eyes and streamed down her face. “We’re over here, Zilka!” She heard Vanya in the distance. Blinded by tears, she ran along the edge of the pond. Finally out of breath, she stopped and sat on the dry shore. Pulling her legs into her chest, she cried until it hurt. “Zilka, why on earth did you keep running?” Vanya asked, gasping for breath. “Are you okay?” Mayla slid her arm around Zilka’s back. “I heard mama and papa talking.” She paused and hiccupped. “They said they were going to make Mayla marry Radita.” “Ivan is actually really nice. He has been—“ “Not Ivan. His father, Istvan.” “What? That is dinilo. He’s almost as old as papa.” Mayla stood and paced back and forth. “I won’t do it.” “You won’t have to.” Zilka wiped her wet cheeks with her palms. “You’re not making any sense. Why are you crying?” Vanya sat and pulled Zilka’s hand between hers. “Mama is leaving papa and is taking us to our gadze’ grandmother.” “No, that can’t be true.” Disbelief edged Mayla’s tone. “In Switzerland? Why would she do that? You must have heard wrong.” She sat next to Zilka. “No, I know what I heard. It has something to do wi th those people who came last night. Papa said the SS were arresting Gypsies. Mama is going to make us look like gadze’—“
“She wouldn’t leave papa,” Vanya interrupted. “I’m not going to dress like a non-gypsy. I refuse to act like a gadze’ and pretend to be only Arian. I won’t leave papa and Petre.” Zilka wiped at the new stream of tears. She found comfort sandwiched between her sisters. “We need to talk with mama and papa.” Mayla suggested. “They can’t make us leave. This is our jamarokher. We are not gadze’ and we’ll never think like them. Never to travel. To be confined to one town. It is not for me.” Zilka pulled her flower ring off her head and studied the yellow and pink flowers. It always brought her comfort – until now. “It is our home, schej,” Vanya soothed. “Let’s see what mama and papa have to say before we get all upset and worried.” Zilka allowed her sisters to pull her to her feet. A dark cloud settled over her as they headed back to their vardo. She had not known such unhappiness. How could she leave papa? She would stay with papa and the kumpania. How could she live without m ama, Mayla and Vanya? New tears surfaced and freely rolled down her cheeks. * * * “What you’re telling us makes no sense.” “Surely they didn’t . . . kill them,” Bajram said. Zilka sat with her family, as did all the members o f the camp. Such stillness for the large kumpania was unusual. “You don’t have to believe us.” Adam Bogdan pulled Rosalie’s shoulder into his chest. “Why didn’t they take you and your family, too?” Shero Rom, Ljatif Nyari, asked. “My horse threw a shoe and so I settled our vardo in a clump of trees just short the camp. I took the horse into town and left him to be worked on. I would go back in the morning to get him and join the kumpania later.” “We could see the main camp lights from our vardo. They weren’t all that far ahead of us. Adam turned out our lights and we settled down for the n ight. The children were exhausted and I must admit, we were quite tired, too. Instead of talking like we usually do, we settled down next to Stane and Kallai and quickly were asleep.” Rosalia’s voice cracked and she swallowed hard. “We hadn’t slept more than a couple hours when we heard several guns fire. I jumped awake and asked Rosalia to keep the children quiet. Shortly thereafter we heard crying and shouting from the camp. I told my wife that I was going to go and check it out and they should stay in the vardo.” “I could not,” Rosalia interrupted. “I could not have him go and never come back to me. So I followed him with the children. Stan is fourteen and Kallai is ten, they know how to keep quiet. So we—“ “We quietly moved in the woods . . . closer . . . a nd closer . . . until we could see what was happening.” “Who were they?” Someone asked in a hushed tone. Zilka glanced around the circle of people. Silence and fear stared back at her. Adam shifted his feet, then continued. “I think the re were eight or ten black-uniformed SS officers with guns rounding everyone up. The twin s ilver flashes on their collars flared in the firelight. They made the men hang their wives and older daughters.” Adam cried into his hands.
Everyone remained silent, respectfully waiting for him to continue. Zilka welcomed the comforting arms of the twins as they sandwiched her between them as they always did. With shaking palms, Adam rubbed his cheeks, then cleared his throat. They ordered the men to dig a deep hole and throw their . . . throw the dead into it. At gun point they had the men hold their young children and stand at the edge of the trench . . . and shot them down.” Adam choked back the lump in his throat. “Once it was done they drove away laughing and talking like they had just stopped for a casual gathering. They didn’t even cover them.” Zilka wiped at the tear that rolled down her cheek. She glanced around at the members of their kumpania. Adam and Rosalia’s loss showed deeply on the faces of the men and women alike. The Shero Rom swallowed and quickly drank some wisniak made from wild cherries. “Were they . . . are you Kelerari?” “Yes, from Poland. They were our entire kumpania. We have no one left.” Rosalia’s cry tore from the depths of her soul. Stane and Kallai clung to her. “You are not alone. We are all Gypsies here. You are now part of our kumpania. We will have a great celebration to welcome you at a proper time. Right now our council must meet and decide what we should do.” “We must go to Hungary where there are no Germans,” someone shouted out. “Maybe we could hide out in the Matra Mountains until this nonsense stops. They can’t kill Jews and Gypsy forever.” “Only until there are none left perhaps,”Ljatif Nyari rose and leaned his leader stick against the arm of the chair. “It is my responsibility as your Shero Rom to lead you as it was my father before him and his father before him. We have always been persecuted in one way or another. We have always felt the hatred of the gadze’. But this hatred is different. It has no conscious.” “Where will we go?” “Who can we trust?” Zilka shook as the crowd grew louder and frenzied. Ljatif raised his arms and patted his palms downward, encouraging them to quiet down. “All good questions my people, all good questions. Our c ouncil will discuss this matter. Right now everyone should go back to their vardos and pack yo ur belongings. What you don’t need you must leave behind. Our wagons must be as light as we can make them.” “We cannot just leave our beloved possessions behind,” Johann cried out. “My dear Mrs. Debarre, would you rather have your children to your breast or your belongings? It is that simple, my people. We are at a crossroads of decisions. I do not want you to be wiped from this earth as Adam and Rosalia’s kumpania was. Hurr y . . . hurry and prepare for another lungo drom.” People rushed away in every direction. Zilka allowed her sisters to each take a hand and guide her back to their vardo. “Will the SS men find us and make papa hang us?” Her voice choked back with fear. “No, schej, we will not let that happen to you. Papa won’t let anything happen to us.” “Girls, come inside. Papa and I must talk to you quickly.” Zilka glanced at Vanya, then Mayla. She didn’t miss the uneasiness and sadness in their posture. “I’m not going to be a gadze’.” “Shhh.” Mayla patted Zilka’s shoulder.
She sat on a blanket between her sisters. Never had there been such tension between her parents. Papa glanced around the small area, careful not to look them in the eyes. He washed his hand in the male wash bowl, careful not to drip water into the female or vegetable and fruit rinsing basins. Mama handed him a towel, then fussed with her coin necklace as she always did when uncomfortable. “Mama and I have been discussing what we should do. Our shero rom must protect the kumpania as is his responsibility. My responsibility is with my family, all of you. What is happening around us is serious. We can’t afford to make any wrong decisions. I must decide what is best for each of you. It is my decision you girls will go with your mama to Switzerland and –“ “I will not go! I will not leave jamaro kher. I will not leave you papa,” Zilka stood and clenched her fists to her sides. “I wish to stay and marry Petre Sidako.” “It is not your decision!” Bjram Sucuri glanced down at his feet. “Zilka, you will be safe with your grandmother. Papa will come and get us after the danger has passed. We will return to the kumpania after the war.” Vanya stood, remaining silent for a short time. “I do not wish to go to Switzerland with mama. I will not stay with the kumpania either. I . . . I am going to marry Vilas Kochanowski and—“ “You will do no such thing!” Elise shouted. “Mama, we are in love and—“ “He is partisan,” Bjram said. “Everyone in the kumpania knows this. I will not have my daughter running the countryside with a rifle and killing Germans. You will go with your mama. All of you will.” “I will not!” Vanya ran from the wagon. Zilka turned to follow but Mayla grabbed her wrist and pulled her onto her lap, holding her tight as she fought to get free. “Let me go. I want to go with her.” “No, Schej. You must stay here. She needs time alone to think.” Mayla wiped away the tears that streamed down her face. “Mayla, go after your sister and make her come back. You two should not be separated.” Bajram pulled Elise into his side. “I am losing control of my family. Mama, find Vanya and take her with you. I cannot allow her to—“ “Papa, she just needs some time alone. She will come back like she always does. We don’t want to leave you and go with mama. But we will. Zilka is Gypsy in heart. She will not be happy being a bareforytka.” “You won’t be big-town Gypsies if you go to your grandmother’s house to live,” Elise smoothed the front of her dress. “You will be Aryan. You will have to forget you have Gypsy blood. You will all go with me.” “I’ll not go, mama. I could not live anything but the Gypsy way. I would rather die as a jenische than to live a gadze.’ I will stay with papa. We must not all desert him.” Zilka stood, feet spread and placed her hands on her hips. “You cannot force me to leave the kumpania.” “Zilka, you must stop this stubborn nonsense. It is for your own good.” Elise pressed her palms upward in exasperation. “Mama, I love you. But if you force me to go with you I will only get you arrested. I will not dress or act gadze.” “Mama, Zilka has always been more Gypsy than the twins. She will be fine with me. We will take care of each other. Won’t we, Schej?”
Zilka drew in a long breath and ran into the arms o f her papa. He held her close to his heart and she closed her eyes. She was staying. What would life be without mama and her sisters? She didn’t want to think about it.
ChapterTwo Zilka rolled onto her back and stared up at the sta rs. “You won’t see anything like this in Switzerland.” “Of course we will, Schej. It will be the same stars and we will be thinking of you,” Mayla said. “Exactly,” Vanya added. “We will be wondering if you’re staring up at the sky just like we are. “I can’t imagine what it will be like . . . not to . . . be safe between you two. I don’t want you to go. Why can we stay and mama can go to grandmothers?” Zilka choked back the emotions that built. “Mama can’t go alone. Besides, she is only going to save us. If we stay then she will also have to stay. That saves no one in our family. We will all be arrested and—“ “Vanya, please say no more. It’s best not to upset Zilka more than she is. Schej, you belong here at the kumpania. You must take care of papa. If there is danger, you must promise you’ll hide. You must do whatever you can to survive.” Mayla sat and pulled her shawl tight around her shoulders. “I promise. What if I never see you again? I can’t bear to see you both leave. I don’t want mama to go either. She shouldn’t be doing this. She shou ld keep us together. She is wrong in this decision.” Zilka sat and leaned into Mayla. “I’m not going with mama,” Vanya blurted out. “You’re staying with papa and me! Oh, I’m so relieved and happy.” Zilka clapped her hands together. “You’re not coming with me? We’ve never been apart. You must come with mama and me. I . . . we must stay together. Why have you decided to stay with papa?” “I’m not . . . I . . . I’m running away with Vilas.” Vanya sat and faced her sisters. “I’m telling you now because I need to say goodbye. I couldn’t just sneak out without telling you why I left.” “You can’t leave,” Mayla shouted. “I will tell mama and papa before you run off. I won’t let you do this.” Zilka grabbed Vanya’s hand. “Where are you going? W hy would you not go with mama and Mayla or stay with papa and me? I don’t understand.” “I’m sorry, Schej. I’m sorry Mayla. This hasn’t been an easy decision. I can’t tell Vilas goodbye. We’re in love. He’s leaving in the morning with the partisans. I’m going with him.” “Vanya, you can’t possibly want to be a partisan. C ould you carry a gun and kill Germans? Live in the woods with a bunch of people you don’t know? What are you thinking?” Mayla stood and paced back and forth. “You don’t understand. You don’t even like Vilas.” “That’s not true. I do like him. You two are great together. I don’t like him taking you away from me. Ask him to wait for you . . . and if he loves you he will agree. After the war is over—“ “We can’t wait that long to be together. I need you r blessing, Mayla. I have given this a lot of thought. Now that mama wants us to go to Switzerland . . . well, I can’t go with you. I must follow my heart.” “Mama will be devastated . . . I must go with her. Deep in my soul I know it’s the right thing to do.” “Vanya, you want to follow your heart. Mayla you talk about what you feel in your soul. Well I feel a need to protect my spirit. This is not good,” Zilka said. “Our family is breaking apart.”