Jozef Bobalik

Born in 1928 in the village of Lukov in the district of Bardejov in the east of Slovakia. In 1938 his father emigrated to America. Despite the fact that Jozef had done well as a student he could not remain in school as he had to start working on the farm. He became a farmer at 15 or 16 and remained so until 1944. In 1947 he and his family took the opportunity to leave for the Soviet Union, where they hoped to find fertile soil and wealth. They found the opposite. Fifty-nine families – not just the poor but those considered well-off in the village – had moved from Lukov to Ukraine. Though they had left of their own free will they still met huge disappointment.

Jozef Bobalik found himself in a small town Mirohošč in the district of Dubno. With the passing of time, Jozef and his family became used to the harsh conditions there. He hoped to study further; having completed seven grades, his aim was to enrol at a vocational school. However, on 18 February 1948 everything changed. Jozef’s friend was getting married and he was invited to the stag party. During the dance, three men in uniform entered. They asked who could read Ukraine and Jozef was pointed out. An armed man pulled out a leaflet, pointed a pistol at Jozef and ordered him to read it. The leaflet ended with the words “Death to Stalin!”

A couple of months later Jozef Bobablik was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His term began on 20 May 1948. After a year in jail in Dubno the court delivered a verdict of 10 years imprisonment and two years deprivation of rights. After a distressful journey on transits through Kiev, Kharkiv, Novosibirsk and Tayshet he worked at the Ozerlag camps (Siberia).

He was later moved to Magadan and Ust–Kuyga. Initially Jozef worked on a general brigade, on which all kinds of prisoners carried out all kinds of tasks. Thieves, murderers and political prisoners were thrown in together. Fortunately he eventually got to return home when in 1955 the outdoor service of the Yakut ASSR was freed.

On his journey home he travelled by plane from Verkhoyansk to Yakutsk and from there to Irkutsk. From there he went by train to Kharkiv, where he returned again after seven days. From Kharkiv his journey continued for two more days until he reached Mirohošť, to the home he had so longed for in 1947. On returning home he began working and later started a family with his wife Mária. In 1967 they returned to Czechoslovakia. He lives in Prešov.

The story was processed by Post Bellum SK for the project Central European Map of the Gulag.


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