Patra Karadžu

* 1926  

  • “We went to Tashkent in the 1970’s, my brother and my sister’s children lived there. My husband says, ‘Let’s go to Tashkent.’ We took a week of unpaid leave, we had to work those extra hours beforehand. It took us eight days and eight nights before we got there by train. But the train that went to Tashkent from Moscow, it was a regular one like other trains but the railway from Moscow to Tashkent was only single track. The trains could not go in both directions. They either went up towards the Ural Mountains, or down there. We went on the train around a big desert. There was some accident and we stopped in a desert for eight hours. I had never seen that before. If I hadwanted to throw a stone at someone, I wouldn’t have found one. Just desert, sand and water. Puddles here and there. There were also wild horses. They lived in their own, gave birth, grazed. Here and there, there was a small house. Not a brick house or at least a wooden shed, the houses were made of clay.”

  • "They organised transports. Children or spouses could travel to their parents or spouses to Tashkent. I had those two sister’s children. My father-in-law was a dear, he did not want me to send the children to their father to Tashkent. He would say: ‘Do they bother you? No. The children are going to stay here.’ And I told him. ‘Dad, thank you very much, you’re a good person.’ At that time after the war, many of the children had tuberculosis. At the school where my nephews were staying, there were about forty children infected with tuberculosis. One caught it from another. When I and my husband went to visit them, they did not even let us in. We talked through a window. My nephew said: ‘Aunt, I have forty degree fever.’ And I told him: ‘I know, darling, but I cannot go inside to be with you.’ Tuberculosis was infectious. Then, in 1955, when they were organising transports to the USSR, to Tashkent. They lived near the border with China. I did not send the children, they were ill and if something should happen to them, they would tell me that they were not mine and I did not care for them properly and that was why they died.”

  • „And in November in the ‘49, they brought us to Poland. We boarded a cargo ship. It was a cargo ship but there as a hospital, maternity ward, operating theatres, we had everything. When we sailed from Albania towards the Greek shores, they told us: ‘We’re approaching Grece. Not a single person is allowed on the upper deck. They have binoculars, if they found out that there were civilians on board, they would stop us and that would be bad. Otherwise, it looks that we have a cargo of grain.’ It was a cargo ship but everyone had their own bed. There were several children born at the maternity ward during the voyage. We continued to Spain and then across the Straits of Gibraltar to Poland. In Poland, I do not know where, we boarded a train and they took us to Mikulov to army barracks. There, we got disinfected and the Czechoslovak government provided everyone with a suit on a clothes hanger, clothes, underwear, shoes. They separated us to groups, mothers with children, civilians, resistance fighters. We were in an enclosed area, there were seven housing units on one side and six on another and we couldn’t leave the area. They cared for us for half a year in the barrack. [We got] Everything we needed. Food, clothes, medical care, everything that was needed.”

  • “People from my village who had no children told me: ‘Stay here, we will help you out.’ I told them that I was not afraid that I would stay alone with my children. I was afraid as a woman. If the soldiers found me in the morning, what would I do? Who would protect me? But I was not afraid to be on my own with two children. A boy came, he was thirteen, and he promised me to help me with the children as much as he would be able to. When we walked through the Albanian mountains, Sněžka [the highest Czech mountain, elevation 1602] is a hillock in comparison. It was autumn. Nobody wants to believe me and that hurts me most. So I needed to get my nephew when he was two and half years old, that I have that certificate in my hand [sic! Unclear in the original], I held the boy in my mouth and I held another by the shoulders to be able to get up there with them. There were such small trees, they do not grow here as they do in Greece. When we climbed upwards, I grabbed them. When we were on the border, I noticed that the elder’s [son] of my sister mouth froze from ear to ear. At the border, they told me: ‘Now you do not need to worry, when you reach the village at midday, we are at the Albanian side of the border.’”

  • „So they came in ‘43, the Germans. When they came for the first time, they did not set the village on fire. When they came for the second time, they burned it to the ground. We were hiding in the mountains but the old people remained in the village. The Germans told them: ‘Tell the young’uns of yours to come back. If they come, we won‘t burn the village down. If they don’t…’ They did not set on fire those houses where old people stayed, they burned down the others. The young people said, ‘We’ll walk two hundred kilometres but not to join the Germans.’ They came for the first time and then again, after two months. They went on horseback because there were no roads in the mountains where our village was. So when they came for the second time, they burned the village down. They only left five houses out of ninety where the old people stayed.”

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    Hradec Králové, 14.05.2019

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When people are willing to help, it is possible to survive anything

Patra Karadžu was born on the 9th August of 1926 in the Vovousa village in Greece. During the WWII and the civil war in Greece she only attended the school for two years. During the WWII, the fascists burned their village down but otherwise, she and her family survived the war safely. During the civil war, her brothers volunteered for the Greek People‘s Liberation Army, the military branch of the National Liberation Front and two of them became casualties of war. The family risked persecution after the civil war so they opted for the possibility to join the organised emigration to the Soviet bloc countries. In November 1949, a group of about 70 persons tried to cross the mountains to get to Albania. The group was split on the way and her parents and sisters were arrested and imprisoned in Greece. It was only Patra Karadžu and her two nephews who managed to cross the border. After having spent a week in Albania, they boarded a cargo ship with other groups of Greeks and they sailed to Poland via the Straits of Gibraltar. From Poland, they went on a train to Czechoslovakia and lodged in a refugee camp in Mikulov. The health checks and official paperwork took four months, after that, the witness and many others moved to the castle in Miletín. From here, she started commuting to the Juta textile factory in Dvůr Králové where she worked until 2005. When her nephews started going to school, they were housed in a children‘s home. Back in the refugee camp, the witness had met her future husband Sotiris Karadžos, they raised three children together. In the 1960’s, her nephews moved to Tashkent in the Soviet Union where their father lived. Patra Karadžu kept in touch with them as well as with her family in Greece; after the political thaw in the 1980’s, she was able to visit her homeland many times.