Ceija Stojka biography

1933 Birth of Ceija Stojka on 23 May in Kraubath, Styria, Austria. She is the fifth child of Karl Wackar Horvath and Maria Sidonie Rigo Stojka. In accordance with Romani tradition, the children take their mother’s family name. The Stojkas are from a line of horse traders, the Lovara, who came to Austria in two main waves of migration: from Hungary and Slovakia in the second part of the 19th century and, from Hungary again in 1956. Ceija has three brothers and two sisters: Maria (“Mitzi,” born in 1926), Katharina (born in 1927), Hans (“Mongo,” born in 1929), and Karl (born in 1931).

1935 Birth of Josef, “Ossi,” Stojka, the sixth sibling.

1938 "Annexation" of Austria by Nazi Germany ("Anschluss") on 12 March. In May, the laws of the Reich begin to be applied in Austria, especially Himmler’s decree to “fight the Tzigani Plague.” Considered as "asocial" outsiders, the “Tzigani” are listed and registered by the police. Mixed marriages are prohibited, children are excluded from school and adults from the army, and workers are subjected to a special tax. Many are deported to labor camps. The Stojka family is living in Paletzgasse in the 16th district of Vienna. They have become sedentarised under the general pressure of anti-Roma prejudice and in accordance with transforming their caravan into a wooden cabin. The father and the sisters are working in a factory and, despite Nazi laws, the youngest children go to school.

1941 Ceija’s father is arrested and deported to Dachau concentration camp. Sidonie is left alone with their six children. They live in hiding.

1942 Wackar dies at Schloss Hartheim Euthanasia Centre in Upper Austria. At her own request, Sidonie is sent her husband’s ashes by mail and will keep them with her until she too is deported.

Sidonie Stojka and her children, Karl, Maria, Joseph, Ceija et Hans, mid 30’s.

Karl Wackar Horvath, Ceija’s father, index card from the special registration imposed on “Tzigani” by the Racial hygiene and population policy research center of the Reich Health Office in 1938.

1943 A decree dated 29 January orders that all "Zigeuner"/"Gypsy" families be deported to the "Zigeunerlager"/"Gypsy camp" at Auschwitz. On the 3rd of March, Ceija, her mother, brothers and sisters are arrested and locked up in the Rossauer Lände prison in Vienna. In late March they are deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they are registered on the 31st. Each member of the family has an identification number tattooed on their arm, starting with Z (Zigeuner). Ceija’s number is Z6399. The family is held in the B-II-e section, or “Camp of Tzigani families.” In all, some 23,000 Roma and Sinti are imprisoned in this camp. Ossi dies of typhus at age of 7.

1944 Shortly before the liquidation of the "Zigeunerlager"/"Gypsy camp", Ceija, her mother Sidi and her sister Kathi are deported to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück where Mitzi was sent in April. Her brothers Karli and Hansi to Buchenwald and then Flossenbürg.

1945 In winter, Sidi and Ceija are taken by truck, and then by foot, to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, from which they are liberated by English troops on 15 April. Kathi is sent to the forced labour camp of Rechlin-Retzow, and Mitzi to Buchenwald, probably in March. It takes Ceija and her mother four months to get back to Vienna on foot, crossing Germany and Czechoslovakia from north to south. There they find Kathi, Mitzi, and, after a few months, also Hansi and Karli, who miraculously have also all survived.

1946-48 After staying a while in an apartment abandoned by fleeing Nazis, the family is forced to leave when the owners return. Their persecution goes unrecognised. Unable to find accommodation, they resume their travelling life as horse traders, on the road in their caravan during the summer and in furnished rooms during the winter. Sidi remarries and gives birth to another daughter, Monika.

1949 17 May, Ceija gives birth to a son, Hojda, in Knittelfeld, near Graz, in the region of Styria.

1951 On 3 September, Ceija gives birth to a daughter, Silvia, in Vienna.

1955 21 December, Ceija gives birth to a third child, Jano, in Vienna. They are living in the 20th district of the city. Ceija sells fabrics from door to door.

1959 Ceija obtains a licence to sell carpets at the market, an activity she continues until 1984.

1979 11 October, Jano, who is a musician, dies suddenly.

1985 Karl Stojka, who left Austria for the United States in 1968, returns to Vienna. In his spare time, he paints pictures representing his experience of the camps. These are exhibited in the 1990s.

Ceija and her mother, after the war.

Ceija and her daughter Silvia Stojka, 1952.

Horst Prügel, Ceija Stojka, Karl Stojka, 1954.

Ceija at her carpet selling stall, early 1970’s.

1986 Ceija meets the documentary filmmaker Karin Berger, who encourages her to write down her memories, then transcribes the manuscripts.

1988 Ceija publishes her book Wir leben im Verborgenen – Erinnerungen einer Rom-Zigeunerin [We live in hiding – Memories of a Rom-Gypsy]. Ceija sings in public, a mix of her own compositions and traditional Lovara songs. With no formal training, Ceija starts drawing and painting.

1991 First exhibition of her work in Vienna, Bilder aus dem Leben einer Romni [images of the Life of a Rom-Gypsy].

1992 Ceija publishes the book Reisende auf dieser Welt. Aus dem Leben einer Rom-Zigeunerin [Travellers on this World. Stories from the Life of a Rom-Gypsy]. Ceija now becomes the Austrian spokeswoman in the struggle for recognition of the Roma and Sinti genocide, and against the discrimination they continue to suffer in Austria and Europe.

1993 Ceija wins the Bruno Kreisky prize for a political book (Wir leben im Verborgenen – Erinnerungen einer Rom-Zigeunerin [We live in hiding – Memories of a Rom-Gypsy]).

1995 The catalogue Ceija Stojka, Bilder und Texte [Paintings and Poems], 1989-1995 is published.

1996-1997 Ceija's paintings and writings are exhibited at the Ravensbrück Memorial, Germany.

1999 The film Ceija Stojka, a documentary by Karin Berger, is released and then broadcasted on Arte in 2000.

2000 She is awarded the Joseph Felder Prize by the regional council of Bavaria in recognition of her civic merit and work of general interest. Her album Me Dikhlem Suno [I had a dream], for which she wrote and composed seven of the songs and her son Hojda played guitar is released.

2001 Gold medal of merit awarded by the Federal State of Vienna. She gives talks in Japan, England and Germany. Her paintings are exhibited in Kiel, Germany.

Ceija, Vienna, 1988.

Karin Berger and Ceija, early 1990’s. ©Navigatorfilm

With the chancelor Franz Vranitzky, 1992.

2003 Her book of poems Meine Wahl zu schreiben – Ich kann es nicht [My choice to write – I cannot not do it], is published in Romani and in German.

2004 Her works are exhibited at the Jewish Museum in Vienna.

2005 Humanitarian medal is awarded by the City of Linz. The film by Karin Berger, Unter den Brettern hellgrünes Gras [The Green Green Grass Beneath] and the book Träume ich, dass ich lebe? Befreit aus Bergen-Belsen [I dream that I am alive – Liberated from Bergen-Belsen] are released. Gold medal for merit awarded by the Federal State of Upper Austria.

2006 Ceija Stojka and Karin Berger receive the documentary prize from Austrian television for Unter den Brettern hellgrünes Gras [The Green Green Grass beneath].

2008 Order of merit is awarded by the Austrian Federal Minister of Education, Arts and Culture. Publication of the exhibition catalogue Ceija Stojka, Auschwitz ist mein Mantel [Auschwitz is My Coat].

2009 She is made honorary Professor by the Austrian Federal Minister of Education, Arts and Culture. The exhibition, Live-Dance-Paint, Works by Romani Artist Ceija Stojka, tours at Sonoma State University, California, USA; Pacific University, Oregon, USA; West Branch Gallery, Vermont, USA. (Curators : Lorely French and Michaela Grobbel).

2012 Death of Silvia Stojka on 5 December.

2013 On 28 January, Ceija Stojka dies after a long illness. French television broadcasts the documentary “Mémoires tsiganes, l’autre génocide. Les Tsiganes dans l’Europe de la Seconde Guerre mondiale” by Idit Bloch, Juliette Jourdan and Henriette Asseo, in which Ceija speaks at length about her experience.

Hojda, Ceija and Nuna, 1990s. ©Navigatorfilm

Ceija Stojka and Kalman Horvath in their apartment in Kaiserstrasse, ca. 1996-97. ©Jerzy Palacz

Ceija, 1992.

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