Ján Antal

* 1950

  • And you couldn't run away from there, because where? Either you freeze or the beast eats you. And secondly, they didn't know where they were. There was a case, she mentioned that one escaped and they caught him. So they stripped him naked and left him outside to freeze as he was. That was way they also did punishments. So there a person changed his mind whether to do something or not. There they built roads, collected dwarf pine , simply all the work that men also do. She was in the group where they dug for gold. They dug a pit, put dynamite, threw it out and they went and collected. The men were separately and the women separately, but sometimes they visited each other. Because there was no fence or any gatehouses. When you didn't get caught, it was good, when you got caught, it was bad. (…) They dug a hole, about a meter and a half or so, the abbess who guards them came, put dynamite there, they left, it exploded, but then they went and collected grains. Because there was gold on the surface, but only such small pieces. When she managed to find a bigger one, she hid it for the next day as well. Because they measured it, it must have at least two grams.

  • They packed her in Poprad and took her to Siberia. She did not remember well, because for three months they traveled by train, by cattlecwagon, and she was pregnant, she miscarried on the train. So she doesn't have fond nice memories of it. The train that was carrying them went through Poland to Vladivostok. Then they went to Magadan by boat. And there they were divided, because there are many camps there. There was little food, drink too, it was cold, and when someone died in the wagon, they took his things to keep warm.

  • The only thing I remember is when the Russians gave me to my mother through the train window and said: "This is your mother." And I saw her for the first time and I didn't understand. She hugged me... I have no idea or memory of that period before. I just have this flash that as a boy I was in the crib, that I was holding on to the crib and that there were about five or six cribs and that the windows were open and that swallows were flying there. I remember that. I have such a deeply etched memory of watching those Barn swallows fly. And I don't know how many there could have been, maybe five or six children, in one room. That's all I remember.

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    Bratislava, 29.03.2022

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    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of the 20th century
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Ján Antal was born in the gulag

Ján Antal photographed during the recording of the interview
Ján Antal photographed during the recording of the interview
zdroj: Post Bellum SK

Ján Antal was born on February 24, 1950 in the gulag in Elgen as the son of Irena Kawashová. His mother was arrested and taken to Siberia in 1945. She was convicted to 15 years, although the real reason for her arrest has never been established. She was finally freed after Stalin‘s death, in 1954. Ján was managed to get back about a year later. Irena experienced a three-month journey in a cattle wagon to Siberia, where there was a lack of food, drink and extreme cold. She lost her child when she was pregnant. After a three-month journey from Slovakia to Vladivostok, they were transported by boat to Magadan, where they were divided into labor camps. She ended up in a women‘s camp in Elgen. They mostly worked outside, even in minus forty degree frosts, and mined gold. After a head injury, Irena was transferred to work inside. In 1950, she gave birth to a son, Ján, whose father is still unknown. Ján was given to a woman from a nearby village who to breastfeed him, but after two years his mother was no longer allowed to visit him because he was moved to Vladivostok. After returning to Czechoslovakia, Ján and his mother lived for a while with their grandmother in Teplička. When they managed to claim half of the house from their mother‘s ex-husband, they returned to Kežmarok. Ján also went to elementary school there, he went to Kysucké Nové Mesto for high school. He was initially indifferent to the communist regime, but later felt a great aversion to it, although he did not connect it to his family history. He rebelled rather superficially, for example by listening to Karel Kryl. August 1968 found him in Hradec Králové. He divorced his first wife because she was from a strongly communist family. He spent the seventies in Prague. Later, in Kežmarok, he took care of his sick mother, who suffered from diabetes. The Velvet revolution found him in the hospital, where he was treating a broken joint. He perceived the disintegration of Czechoslovakia negatively also because he lived in the Czech Republic for a long time.