Though she was just a young child when the horrors of Nazi death camps were forced upon her and her family, Ceija Stojka once said she lived with those memories every day of her life.
Stojka would grow up to become a voice for her people–the Roma, or Gypsy, people–and was a self-taught writer and artist who used her creativity to both express her sorrow and act as a salve on old wounds. She and five others were the only survivors out of 200 of her family members, and she once said that writing was a way for her to expel the demons brought on by a childhood of horrors.
“If I could write down all my thoughts, they would surely be an endless book of suffering,” she said. “But my thoughts race more quickly than my hands are able to put everything to paper.”
Released from the camps at age 12, she moved on with her mother and four surviving siblings in Austria, where they made a living selling carpets. Her art came later in life–she was in her 50s–and when it did, she found herself the voice of all those who had been killed simply because of the family they’d been born into. As recently as a few years ago, she spoke to an entirely new generation about the injustice of those killings…and begged them not to let it happen again.
“How is it possible at the beginning of the new century that the Roma population … is still humiliated and maltreated — and sometimes killed as it happened in Hungary — for the only reason of being Roma?” she asked a group of Hungarian university and high-school students after several Roma hate killings took place there. “Let my grandchildren live.”