Oral history interview with Pavel Zgonea
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- Pavel Zgonea
2004 September 26
1 videocassette (DVCAM) : sound, color ; 1/4 in..
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, courtesy of the Jeff and Toby Herr Foundation
Pavel Zgonea, born in Zimnicea, Romania, describes how he suffered a lot when Antonescu deported Romanies in September 1942; being taken with his family to Tighina, Galați County, then Poarta Albă, Tiraspol, Rezenaia, Odessa, and Ochakiv; how they were kept for two months in Kabulga, where there was a military base for hydroplanes; being taken to the shores of the Bug River after two months; working with Jews on the construction of a bridge; how one day as they were working, four of the Jews from his team disappeared never to be seen again; how at another place he worked there were more Jews, dozens of whom were taken one day by the soldiers, after which he heard gun shots but did not see anything; working in fields in four different places doing agricultural work, while Romanian guards watched over them and beat them sometimes; how they mainly ate boiled wheat or boiled rice and sometimes even grass; his appreciation of communism because he had the certainty of a job, a home to live in with his family, and food to put on the table, while before World War II, he worked and lived with his family in the woods and did not have a stable home; how the main reason they were taken and deported was because they did not have homes; how only 20 out of the initial 72 people deported made it back home by the end of the war; how most of them died because of the dire conditions, hunger, and lice; being only 17 years old when he was taken; returning to Romania at the age of 19; how the only good thing was that he learned the Russian language; the ages of the Jews he worked with as being around 16 to 17; incidents in which a guard would come and take 20 people with him and never bring them back; the rumors that followed each time workers were taken; returning to his country in 1944 and being told that they were no longer welcome; the journey back from Transnistria (Dniester Moldovan Republic) and the kind Romanian soldiers, who traveled with them, shared their food, and did not make any distinctions; and how those who died did not die because of the war, nor because they were shot, but because of the hunger, the cold, and the wretched conditions.
Record last modified: 2018-01-22 10:41:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn517720
Also in Oral history interviews of the Romania Roma Documentation Project
Oral history interviews with eight non-Jewish witnesses (Roma) whom were victims of persecution, humiliation, and forced labor in Transnistria during the Holocaust.
Date: 2004 September 25
Radu Frunză discusses being deported with his mother in 1942 when he was a small child from Romania to Tiraspol, Moldova; how some Romanies bribed the Romanian police so they would not be deported; the lack of food; the hard living conditions; staying in stables with other Romanies; the cities they passed through on the way to Tiraspol; being deported with Jews and the ways in which many of them died; the cruelty of the Germans; the dirt in the freight trains; how many Romanies died of starvation or were simply left to die; staying in Tiraspol for two years; occasionally receiving food from the Russians; returning with his mother and a Romanian regiment; crossing the border with his mother, who was dressed as a member of the military; going to Bessarabia with the Romanian regiment; how a chief military person brought his mother and him to work for an aristocratic landowner; working for the aristocrat; and returning to Zimnicea, Romania with his mother.
Ilinca Mosor describes being deported to Transnistria (present day Dniester Moldovan Republic) in freight trains; how the Romanians wanted to shoot the Romanies; the places where she and her family lived; the poor living conditions and the the lack of food; the death of her brother due to the famine; how many people died and were thrown into pits afterwards; how deaths were caused by starvation and typhus; the transportation of the dead to the Bug River; how her father worked for some Russian people and in return received food; the “silversmiths” (Roma), who were stealing and transporting the dead; and the families with which she left Romania and how only two of them made it back to the country.
Ioana Buzatu discusses being deported with her family from Zimnicea, Romania to the Bug River; how the Romanies were transported in Roma wagons to Turnu Măgurele, Romania, then transported to Russia by train; how the Romanies were promised houses and tractors in order to be deported; the bad living conditions; having no clothes and having her hair shaved in order to prevent lice infection; the lack of sanitary facilities; how she did not think she would survive; how her little brother would scream because of hunger; how her father asked the Russians for food; the “silversmiths,” who were Roma who stole and were shot by the Germans; a mill from which they gathered grain; being so desperate for food that they even picked grain out of the droppings of horses; her family and the number of family members she had; her brother’s planned escape and his death afterwards; how she caught and ate raw fish from the Bug River and how she drank salty water from the river; a little store room where they lived; keeping the dead in the room until they were taken by Roma wagons to the Bug River and dropped in a soil pit; how her father wished to bury her brother in a Russian cemetery, but had no power to transport him; how approximately 10 to 15 people died in a week; how only three members of her family returned to Romania; and trying to beg from the Germans and being chased away as stones were thrown at them.
Stan Văduva, born on February 7, 1923, discusses returning to Romania after being deported; how the journey lasted eight months, from March 1 until October; how the return home was extremely difficult because of the lack of food; being deported and how the police issued papers for them that contained a list of things they were allowed to take with them; how all animals and goods were taken from them when they arrived at the Tighina customs post; how approximately 60 families were deported in big cars to the Bug River, where they were held in a cave for three months; carrying out forced labor after they were transferred to a Kolkhoz; how a quarter of the people died while staying in the cave and 25 percent died on the way back to Romania; how at the Kolkhozes, where they were taken after the three months spent in the cave, the locals were Russians, but the sector was led by a Romanian Lieutenant Major; how the Russians repeatedly tried to kill the Roma, but they were prevented by the leader of the sector, because the Roma had been brought to the Kolkhozes in order to work; how the Roma who stole animals were shot by the Russian police; witnessing these executions from a distance of 200-300 meters; how when the Roma were taken into the cave, the Jews remained at the surface; how the Jews were forced to dig pits, then aligned and shot by approximately 20 Russians; seeing the execution from a distance; how 100 to 200 Jews were shot; the difficulties of the three months spent in the cave; drinking dirty water and eating grass and even their own shirts; how after three months they were transported to the Kolkhozes in wagons; how not all corpses were buried; how seven members of his family were deported, but only three returned to Romania; and how he lost everything he owned through the deportation and was never reimbursed for the damages.
Călina Păpănău, born on March 9, 1930 in Suhaia, Romania, discusses how she was taken away from Zimnicea, Romania with her family; being taken by carriage to Turnu (Turnu Măgurele), Romania; being transported across the Prut River in freight cars; their shelter in windowless buildings without doors; spending two years in terrible conditions; their everyday life, including the misery, dirt, and constant hunger; how many of them died of starvation and that the dead were thrown into mass graves; how nine people were taken away from her family and only four returned; the conditions they lived in and the people who died of starvation; how due to the extreme hunger they were forced to eat seeds picked out from cow dung, fish caught by the Russians and left on the bank of the Bug River, and raw horse meat; how she saw many Roma being shot only 50-60 meters away from where she was staying; how the shooters were possibly German or Russian; the reasons the Romanies were killed; many people being killed, but how some managed to flee; how Romanian soldiers came to get them and transported them back into the country in wagons and by cars; and an aerial bombing she witnessed on their way back.
Păun Zgonea, born on August 3, 1936, describes being deported with his family when he was eight years old to Transnistria (present day Dniester Moldovan Republic); the journey and the cities they passed through; going from one village to another; how the adults harvested crops in one village; the conditions they lived in and the way they were treated; seeing deported Jews; living in Ancecrac for a while; overhearing a conversation between his father and a Romanian gendarme about how the Romanies would have been killed if the Queen Consort Elena had not prevented it; being transported to the Bug River; how a few villages were partially evacuated by the Russians and they lived in the empty houses; illnesses and the lack of food; the death of many people including his brother; how the police would pick up the dead from the houses and bury them in mass graves; going in the spring of 1943 to a city with a Renault factory, where his parents worked; being taken to Niceaina to Antonescu’s factory; going to Cetatea Albă (present day Bilhorod-Dnistrovs'kyĭ, Ukraine), where they were caught by the gendarmery and taken to a settlement just behind the front; how the gendarmey fled when they approached the front, leaving the carriages and Romanies; traveling back to Cetatea Albă and going back to Bessarabia, Moldova; traveling to Reni, Ukraine and being stopped by German soldiers; being beaten when they did not keep up; how ten members of his family were deported but only six returned; and how their livestock was gone when they returned to Romania.
Nicolae Dumitru describes not knowing the year, month, nor day that he was born and how he believes he was born in Zimnicea, Romania; how he remembers the beginning of World War II and the Germans starting to kill children and Jews; being taken as a young boy with his entire family to the shores of the Bug River, in Transnistria (Dniester Moldovan Republic); how after two years of hard work he was the only one who survived from his family; his duties maneuvering an agricultural plowing machine and working in the fields under German supervision; how the German soldiers occasionally killed some of the Roma by beating them with a bat; his assumption that they killed far more Jews than Roma; how the bodies of the Jews were thrown in the trenches and burned by the soldiers; how a lot of the forced laborers threw themselves into the river with the faint hope to escape the killings and the beatings; the bad conditions and the poor quality of the food; his assumption that those who killed the Jews were Russians since they were speaking Russian; and how they were moved to another place to work and did not see any more Jews.