Mária Horňáková (1920)
“We were not afraid, we wanted to do something.”
Mária Horňáková was born on November 21, 1920 in Komjatice. She attended the first five years of elementary school in her native village, but then she continued studying in the town of Nové Zámky. She remembers the village of Komjatice before the Vienna Award, under which it was ceded to Hungary, as a quiet and comfortable place to live. However, the mood in the village quickly changed when the Hungarians took it. A new situation affected her life almost immediately as she and her classmates weren’t allowed to attend school. She and some more girls finally managed to leave for Nitra, where she was supposed to pursue her studies, but she didn’t stay in Slovakia for long, because the government permitted an establishment of the Hungarian Royal State Secondary School with the Slovak language of instruction in Šurany, which was opened in December 1938. In 1939, her uncle Jozef Kelemen made her be there when the Slovak political weekly (later daily) newspaper Slovenská jednota was founded. Mária attended school in Šurany, where she passed the leaving examination in Slovak language in 1941. However, her certificate wasn’t accepted at the university in Budapest, so in summer she also had to do the leaving examinations in Hungarian language. After passing it successfully, she could enrol at the university in Budapest in October, where she wanted to study pharmacology. Nevertheless when her native village and home were bombed out, she was forced to stop studying. In 1943 she worked in a pharmacy in Bratislava, but she didn’t manage to return to school. Mária never gave up her desire to finish her education, so she tried to enrol at the university in Bratislava in 1945, but she wasn’t accepted again. She worked at the Czechoslovak state grammar school in Šurany as an auxiliary teacher for about one and a half year and after moving school to Nové Zámky Mária kept teaching at the municipal school in Šurany. Later, she went to Košice, where she taught at the grammar school until her daughter was born. Mária got married for the second time, but the year 1948 affected the life of a young family. In the early 1950s a show trial with her uncle Jozef Kelemen was held, her younger brother Libor was arrested and Mária lost her job shortly thereafter. She moved house several times, when she finally settled down in Bratislava in 1957. There she could not find job for the first few years because of a bad personal evaluation. Later she worked in the field of water resources management and she retired in 1977 when she worked as a member of a planning committee. Since then she has alternately lived in his native village of Komjatice and in Bratislava.
When the Year 1938 Came
“When the year 1938 came, the November, everyone was surprised; everyone was shocked as they hadn’t been prepared for something like that, maybe only the richer ones. However, we weren’t prepared for it, so it was quite a big shock for us. Back then a lot of soldiers stayed in the village, it was in high fermentation, and people started to talk about it. We were about seventeen pupils who still attended school, later in Nitra, and I also count pupils from higher classes. And we also went from Šurany to Nové Zámky. We entered into the building, because it was a school, it was the Hungarian-Slovak grammar school and Hungarian classes were located upstairs and Slovak classes downstairs. We were there and we saw the writings on the doors in Hungarian saying it was this and this class. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere, so we stood and waited in the hallway until professor Báno came, you know, he was a very good person, though he was Hungarian. He was really nice, he taught at the Slovak Institute, and he also taught our classes. He came and said, ‘Girls, you have to,’ there were girls from Šurany and from Kesov, ‘you have to go to those classes, but if you don’t want.’ Then, the girls from Šurany said that they definitely wouldn’t go to the Hungarian classes. Therefore we had to go home, because they would only teach in Hungarian there. We burst into tears immediately and a huge chaos arose, we didn’t know what to do. Then we left the school and went home, we left the building and went on the train. We all cried and when I came home everybody was frightened, too, they didn’t understand what was wrong with the world. Nobody could imagine how it would end.”
Slovak-Hungarian Disputes I
“The situation was rather unsettled here in Komjatice, because, for example, our masses were celebrated in Hungarian or the Hungarian anthem was sung there. When our people heard that anthem, they left, but the church was full of the Hungarians, soldiers. However, outside the church, there were such clever young girls, or rather they weren’t so young, but girls, you know, we were just kids back then, so we weren’t involved. They were there to sing the Slovak anthem among people. I want to explain how it actually was. We were said that we wouldn’t go to school even though the older ones knew it wouldn’t be good, they knew it would end badly. So we went ice skating, we took our skates and went to the bridge near Vinodol as the river overflowed its banks there. However, we only stood and waited what would happen when they would sing. Suddenly we heard banging and rattling, cries and screams, so we couldn’t stay there, we disobeyed our parents. We came up in front of the manor house, there was a gate and we already saw soldiers riding horses, trying to disperse the crowd with bayonets and shouting. And those women squealed, you know, it was really horrible. It was obscure; there wasn’t only a lot of fear, but also a lot of courage. Even though we were afraid, we wanted to do something. Soldiers were driving people out of there, but we wanted to get there, unfortunately, it was upstream. A soldier with bayonet approached us, so we couldn’t do anything. We had such experience. Then, people went home and sang religious songs on the way, anyway.”
Slovak-Hungarian Dispute II
“We came home in the evening; I lived near the post office, and we were frightened as we didn’t know how it would end. Then, Kelemen stayed at home, he couldn’t go there, because he had to avoid being arrested to be able to keep going to Bratislava. It was in the evening when a man came to tell us that some guys had been taken by the police officers to the police station, which was situated in a front part of the manor house. They were there and then we, we were four Molnárová, Špacírová, Jahnátková, Ragúňová, and I, decided to go there. We wanted to do something for those boys, because we also were there. We went there, you know, there was such a glass porch, Čížik family had lived there before, they had two girls, one of them was my classmate, so I knew their house, their flat very well. Moreover, they left it only a month before. Those guys were leaning against the wall and had to stand on their toes. As soon as one of them stood on his heel, the policeman immediately hit him with the butt across the toes. We cried when we saw them, but then a woman came, I don’t remember which one, and she took us from there, ‘What are doing, you can’t be here, don’t be afraid, they will let them go.’ Then she went to the police station and that policeman closed the windows and we saw nothing then, so we went home. And in the morning, the boys were released. Almost all of them left before sunrise. They moved to Slovakia.”
Establishment of a Slovak Newspaper
“It wasn’t easy at all, it was really strange, and nowadays people can’t imagine what a problem it was. For instance, there were no radios. We only had such a small radio on bulbs or what, which belonged to my grandfather, who wanted to know everything. There were no newspapers except the Hungarian ones; no Slovak newspaper could be delivered. Then a small group of young people from Komjatice decided to publish a newspaper. At that time only Kelemen published a sort of handwritten announcements. Later, they decided to change it into a normal newspaper. They went to Slovakia and came with the information that if it hadn’t been permitted, reciprocity would have been applied. It was all right, they could arrange it.”
Working for the Slovak Newspaper
“Then a Slovak bank was founded and some room was reserved there, rented, and at last reconstructed, so that it could serve as a dormitory for boys. It also was built for girls, but only girls from Košice stayed there. And all the boys and girls living in the dorm had to work for the newspaper, do what was necessary. And it was good, it was organised very well.”
No Hungarians Will Be Here!
“I came to Bratislava and in the meantime my husband, as I had already been married, died. I started attending the university there, so I brought my record book from Budapest. Professor Nábělek, I still remember many of those professors either from Budapest or from Bratislava, said he would accept it. You know, there was different study system in Bratislava and in Budapest. And I said that I had my record book there and I submitted it. And the man from the dean’s office, a bursar probably, caught it and threw it away and said that he wouldn’t read anything in Hungarian as he didn’t speak that language. In fact, I agreed with him, it really was Hungarian, but I told him, ‘I’m not a Hungarian!’ However, at that time the Hungarian action, by which the Hungarians were moved out, was in progress as the society was against Hungarians then. But I said, ‘I beg, I have already talked to professor Nábělek.’ And he took the paper from professor Nábělek and said, ‘Go away! No way, no such Hungarians will study here!’ He sent me away really nastily.”
When the Truth Does Not Matter
“When the trial was held, there were many people from Komjatice, and those guys came, they were three and they were interviewed immediately. Jožo was the first, I don’t know his surname, then, it was Ľudo’s turn and everyone nodded, those boys nodded to everything they asked them. And when Libor came, he put his hands together like this behind his back and jerked. ‘It is not true! He hasn’t done it!’ Of course the bell rang immediately, people started making noise. ‘Be quiet! Quiet!’ Suddenly four policemen encircled the boys and took them away. And I don’t know if it was half an hour or ten minutes, it was something terrible. I think nobody can imagine that such thing could happen. Then, those boys came, just imagine, auntie and the whole family, even my mom and the boy’s mom, they all knew what it would end like. He came with his head bowed, hands along his body, almost by his knees and he said yes. It was the end, nothing more needed to be said. And my uncle was sentenced. What did the family of that boy say? What? What happened in the family then? How could he break the whole family? However, I can say that everyone understood it, even though he didn’t have a backbone. He really didn’t. But what could he do? They changed his mind within half an hour. I do not know how they managed it, but he was done. It was the truth.”
The story and videoclips of this witness were put together and published thanks to the financial support of EU within the programme Europe for Citizens – Active European Remembrance.