Ilona Gesko

Born in 1925 in Velký Blh into a poor working class family. In November 1938 her native village was swallowed up in Hungary’s occupation of southern Slovakia. When the front reached Velký Blh at the turn of 1944/1945 the village was taken over by German army units. In the end, however, it was spared the worst hardships of the war and on 17 January was occupied without a fight by Red Army forces.

The next day the Soviet military administration issued an order regarding forced labour for all employable residents aged 16 to 45. Initially this was to have been for three days. Up to 130 village residents were interned and later forced to go by foot via Bátka and Putnok as far as Miskolc where they spent almost a week at the local police station. At the end of January 1945 the villagers were placed on cattle wagons for a journey of almost one month to the USSR, specifically to the Donetsk coal basin (Donbas for short).

At the end of February 1945 the train reached the village of Buchayovka, home to a POW and labour camp. For three months Ilona Gesková was tasked with handling and servicing coal carts. From time to time she also signed up for work at a kolkhoz, where prisoners were able to steal foods that were permanently in short supply at the camp. As the quantity and quality of food remained poor infectious diseases spread throughout the camp, with dysentery in particular claiming many lives.

After three years of imprisonment, the camp commanders informed the prisoners in 1948 that they were being released. They were taken by train to a transit camp at Sighetu Marmației (in today’s Romania, known as Máramarossziget in Hungarian), where they underwent medical examinations and questioning as to their origins. The released prisoners travelled via Debrecen to Budapest, where they reported to the Czechoslovak consulate. In the end Ilona Gesková reached Velký Blh via Rimavská Sobota and Jesenské. Her father also returned, a week later. Of the 130 Velký Blh residents hauled off to the USSR, 19 met their deaths. Ilona Gesková lives in Velký Blh to this day.


Return to original orientation of tablet, or