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Ivana Dobrakovová

Picture of Slovakian winner Ivana Dobrakovová

Ivana Dobrakovová est une écrivaine et traductrice slovaque basée à Turin. Son début littéraire, le recueil de nouvelles Prvá smrť v rodine (Première Mort dans la Famille, 2009) a été sélectionné pour le prix Anasoft Litera et a remporté un prix Ján Johanides dans la catégorie Meilleure Fiction par un Jeune Auteur. Son second roman Bellevue (2010), également été nominé pour le prix Anasoft Litera, décrit l’expérience d’une jeune femme slovaque qui a eu une dépression nerveuse après un job d’été dans un camp de jeunesse international basé dans un centre pour personnes handicapées près de Marseille. Le troisième livre de Dobrakovová, le recueil de nouvelles Toxo (2013) a aussi été nominé pour le prix Anasoft Litera en 2014, et son dernier livre Matky a kamionisti (Mères et Routiers, 2018) poursuit ce chemin en ayant aussi été sélectionné pour le prix.

Winning Book

Matky a kamionisti (Mères et Routiers)

Prenant place dans les rues de Bratislava et de Turin, le livre suit les histoires interconnectées de cinq femmes, trois slovaques et deux italiennes, qui se complémentent, se mélangent et se contredisent ; se déroulant dans les corps de ces femmes, leurs relations, en ligne, dans un centre équestre et dans le quartier Vanchiglia de Turin, mais surtout, dans leur tête. Les relations de ces femmes avec leurs mères et leurs conducteurs de train, certaines virtuelles, certaines trop réelles, et certaines inexistantes.

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Excerpt

Otec

Vyberiem jeden obraz, netvrdím, že čosi vystihuje, poznám ho len z rozprávania, sama si nič také nevybavujem: Sedím vedľa svojej sestry na pohovke v obývačke a spolu sa pozeráme na rozprávky. Sestra je odo mňa o štyri roky staršia, v tej chvíli môže mať tak šesť, ja asi o niečo menej než dva roky, otec je v kuchyni. Bývame na hradnom vŕšku, pri Mudroňovej, v tej najsamskvelejšej bratislavskej štvrti, v garáži máme krásny Ford, v obývačke kozub a z balkóna výhľad na Rakúsko. Už rok chodím do jasieľ, lebo obaja moji rodičia pracujú.

Vojde mama, uťahaná z práce, obvešaná nákupmi, a tak nás tam nájde. Moja sestra so sopľom až niekde na kolenách, vďaka ktorému však aspoň necíti, že jej mladšia sestrička Svetlana je totálne posratá, so skrz-naskrz presratou plienkou, otec, áno, v kuchyni, ale spiaci, s hlavou položenou na obruse, vedľa fľaše. Čohosi. Netreba upresňovať, každému jasné.

Niečo by som však upresniť chcela. Otec s nami nebýval. Často k nám cez týždeň chodil, často prespával, ale trvalé bydlisko mal inde, v dedinke na maďaroch, pri jazerách, kam sme sa v lete chodili kúpať. Keď sa rodičia zobrali, mama aj plánovala, že odíde za manželom, veď už bola tehotná s mojou sestrou, ale bývala v takej peknej časti Bratislavy, kozub, výhľad atď., preto sa na poslednú chvíľu rozhodla, že nie, ona k Maďarom nepôjde. Možno v tom má trochu prsty moja teta, mamina sestra, celý čas jej dohovárala, veď tí by ťa nikdy neprijali za svoju, bola by si tam navždy cudzinkou. A ešte k tomu k svokre. Daj na mňa. Dala, mama. Lenže potom sa zaťal aj otec. Jeho domov je tam. A bodka. Skrátka, bývali oddelene. Aspoň prvé roky. Než sa zhoršil otcov zdravotný stav.

Vlastne neviem, čo povedať o otcovi, o tých prvých rokoch. Bol plešatý. Hrozne sa mi to páčilo. Volala som jeho plešinu kolo kolo mlynské. Tiež som chcela mať také kolo na hlave. Jedného dňa, presne si ten moment vybavujem, som vybrala zo šitíčka nožnice a vystrihala si dieru do vlasov. Celá hrdá som sa išla ukázať mame. Na jej reakciu si už nespomínam, ale spomínam si, ako to potom každému rozprávala. Okrídlená rodinná historka.

Vybavujem si aj dedinu na maďaroch. V Bratislave otec pracoval na Technickej univerzite, ale doma bol drobný roľník, hospodár, vždy s rýľom, motyčkou, hrabľami či hadicou, do pol pása obnažený. Jeho záhrada sa mi zdala v detstve obrovská, hotové kráľovstvo, kde sa dalo driapať po stromoch, spadnúť do studne, spotiť sa v skleníku. Ohromilo ma, keď som sa neskôr dozvedela, že otcova záhrada je len zlomok pôvodného hospodárstva, ktoré naďapovi znárodnili komunisti. Siahalo vraj až k jazerám. To by bolo, skákať do vody priamo zo záhrady, mať aj kone a nielen tie sliepky a králiky, čo chovala naďmama.

Chodili sme tam na víkendy a pri jazerách sme trávili aj celé letá. Naďmama ešte žila a hovorila viac-menej len po maďarsky, na miestnych bastardov pokrikovala kiškuťa, robila nám so sestrou palacinky, o ktorých by som rada vyhlásila, že boli najlepšie na svete, ale pravdupovediac, už neviem, aké boli. Spolu so synom sa starala o záhradu, o to malé hospodárstvo. V skleníku pestovala sadenice, ktoré potom predávala na trhu. Mama sa spočiatku aj snažila byť užitočná a priučiť sa čomusi od svokry, pomáhať, ale veľmi rýchlo pochopila, že jej sestra mala pravdu. Márna snaha. Všetko, čo robila, bolo zle a ištenem, haďd, nešegíč. Naďmama ju odháňala od sadeníc takmer ako nejakého bastarda, ktorý by sa k nám prevliekol cez deravý plot. Až si mama napokon povedala, dobre teda, aj ja toho mám dosť. A venovala sa už len kvetom v predzáhradke a okrasným drevinám. Neskôr začala dokonca tvrdiť, že skôr než by šla predávať na trh s káričkou plnou sadeníc, rozvedie sa.

Otec veľa cestoval a rád na svojich cestách fotil. V spálni mal skriňu plnú žltých obálok s vyvolanými fotkami, v ktorých som sa často hrabala. Otec dokázal cvaknúť dvadsaťkrát tú istú skalu cez sklo autobusu, otec dokázal vyfotiť tri filmy rozmazaných Niagarských vodopádov, otec nemal na fotenie žiadne vlohy. Našla som aj fotky otca v spoločnosti veľmi krikľavo namaľovaných a oblečených žien, ktoré vyzerali čudne a až o veľa rokov neskôr som to dokázala pomenovať presnejšie – vulgárne. Fotky, na ktorých objíma cudzie vulgárne ženské v akýchsi podnikoch, sú jediné, na ktorých vidno aj jeho. Inak len krajinky.

Otec sa na cestách spoznal s mnohými cudzincami, tých neskôr pozval k sebe domov, do rozľahlého poschodového domu, ktorý postavil tesne po páde komunizmu, hneď vedľa naďmaminho klasického dedinského domčeka. Otec na leto prenajímal izby rekreantom, čo sa chceli máčať v jazerách, a niekedy aj svojim zahraničným známostiam. Raz som s jedným z nich, istým Pančom z Peru, išla na futbalový zápas. Teda takto, pôvodne sme sa vybrali na kolotoče na druhej strane jazier, ale nechali sme sa strhnúť davom, ktorý sa práve v tom čase valil na futbalový štadión. On nehovoril po slovensky, ja po anglicky, dorozumievali sme sa posunkami. Ale vlastne sme si na tom futbalovom zápase, ktorý nás oboch nudil, povedali len jednu vec. Panča ukázal na moje topánky a povedal, že sú pretty, nice. Toľko som ešte pochopila. Doma bolo potom ťažké vysvetliť, prečo sme išli na futbal.

Sestra si zo mňa neustále uťahovala. Raz mi narozprávala, že naše jazerá vznikli z pľuvancov. Kedysi to tam vybagrovali a ostala tam taká škaredá jama, že každý, kto šiel okolo, si musel znechutene odpľuť. A postupne, rokmi, sa to nazbieralo. Tie sliny. Neverila som jej, ale tá predstava bola odporná. Musím však dodať, že ma tiež naučila skákať hlavičky z mostíka. A robiť kotrmelce pod vodou. Spolu sme plávali na ostrov. Aj s otcom. Mama spomína, ako som sa raz pri jazerách stratila. Mala som vtedy štyri roky. Otec so sestrou ma nikde na okolí nevideli a už bol čas ísť. Išli teda. Doma otec mame povedal: veď ona príde aj sama. A mal pravdu, než mama upadla do mdlôb, prišla som.

Otec bol jasný patriarchát. Naďapa si vzal naďmamu len preto, že bola najlepšia pracantka na jeho pozemkoch a ako manželku ju už nemusel platiť. Otec tieto názory prebral, s obľubou hovorieval, že žena má pracovať na poli a keď je unavená, má si oddýchnuť pri domácich prácach. Ale ako som už spomínala – mama sa veľmi skoro zaťala pre tie sadenice a pod náporom naďmaminho kritizovania a zalamovania rukami a neskôr už len odpočívala pri prácach vo veľkom dome.

Občas zavárala jahodový lekvár. Otec ju chválil. Svojským spôsobom. Vraj je takmer taký dobrý ako z obchodu.

Bol tiež hrdý na svoje vydreté detstvo, na svoje vzdelanie, ktoré dosiahol len vďaka svojej inteligencii. Keď sa narodil, naďapa s naďmamou žili v šope v strede záhrady, kde nebola elektrina, tečúca voda, len udupaná hlinená podlaha, neďaleko studňa, všetko z dreva. Otec si cez leto vždy z vlastnej iniciatívy vypracoval všetky matematické príklady z učebníc na nadchádzajúci školský rok a potom sa na hodinách zúfalo nudil. Neskôr študoval na univerzite v Prahe. V tom čase mal už dosť veľký problém s alkoholom. Raz bol taký ožratý, že sa z krčmy nevládal dostať po vlastných na internát. Problém však vyriešil logicky. Keďže krčma bola na kopci a internát na úpätí, ľahol si na zem a zgúľal sa až k dverám internátu.

 Naďapa mu po vyštudovaní ukázal zošit, kam si zapisoval všetky výdavky na jeho štúdium. Nič od neho nežiadal späť, len mu to ukázal, aby otec vedel, koľko stál tento špás, koľko naďapa minul na jeho školy. Mama vraví, že otec mu to nikdy neodpustil.

***

Čo viem o vzťahu svojich rodičov? Radšej nič? Je to bezpečnejšie? Niečo na ňom mama musela vidieť. Ale čo?

Raz jej vraj pred ľuďmi povedal, že je nielen múdra, ale aj krásna. Muselo to byť ojedinelé vyhlásenie, výnimočná pochvala, keď si na to tak dobre spomína. Keď jej to utkvelo v pamäti. Keď sa mi s tým zverila.

Jeho alkoholizmus bol vždy prítomný, a preto som ho odmala vnímala ako jeho neoddeliteľnú súčasť, ako čosi, čo k nemu patrí, čo tak má byť. Podobne ako chorobu. Je zbytočné dohadovať sa, čo bolo skôr, vajce či sliepka, čo zapríčinilo čo, labilná duševná konštitúcia, odveký sklon k pitiu, genetické predispozície na jedno aj druhé, obe veci sa navzájom preplietli, posilnili, až sa stali jeho samotnou podstatou.

A predsa niektoré epizódy vystupujú do popredia.

Raz v noci nás mama vytiahla z postele. Na konci s nervami. Dievčatá, vstávajte, dievčatá, poďte povedať apukovi, že bývame o poschodie vyššie. So sestrou sme sa v pyžamách vypotácali na chodbu. Rozospaté. Nič sme nechápali. Otec na druhom poschodí vytrvalo zvonil susedovi, hoci sused stál v otvorených dverách a snažil sa mu v tom brániť. Všetky tri sme potom otca spoločnými silami vytiahli hore schodmi domov. Neviem presne, kedy to bolo. Koľko som mala rokov. Sestra so mnou ešte chodila do školy, takže som mohla byť taká tretiačka. Jeden z prvých takýchto incidentov. Zdalo sa mi to bizarné. Ako sen. Ako nočné dobrodružstvo, ktoré predznamenalo dobrodružnú mladosť.

Tá škvrna tam ešte stále je. V tej našej krásnej bytovke, garáž, kozub, výhľad na Rakúsko. A tá škvrna. Vo výťahu. Výťah bude mať možno už aj štyridsať rokov, nie sú v ňom také tie vnútorné dvierka. V našom výťahu vidíte, ako ubiehajú poschodia. Otec sa raz v noci vracal domov, namol opitý, a chcel sa oprieť o stenu. Oprel sa o ubiehajúce poschodie. Rozrazil si čelo do krvi. Dlhá tmavohnedá škvrna medzi prvým a druhým poschodím. 

Čoraz častejšie prespával u nás v Bratislave. Chodil do Albrechta. Trávil tam celé popoludnia. Priamo oproti oknám mojej triedy. Niekedy som ho zazrela. Uprene som ho sledovala, opretá o parapet, ako ide do krčmy. Nikomu som, samozrejme, nepovedala, že aha, tam je môj otec. Ani sestre. Tá bola na druhom poschodí budovy, ale okná jej triedy smerovali inam. Na ulici sa mi naopak párkrát stalo, že som si ho vôbec nevšimla. Kráčal oproti mne a ja stále rovno za nosom, sklený pohľad. Napokon ma silno chytil za plece a obrátil k sebe. Doma som si potom vypočula, ako sa v kuchyni sťažuje mame, že sa k nemu nepriznávam, že sa zaňho hanbím. Vtedy to však ešte nebola pravda.

Niekedy v tom čase sa k nemu pridala aj sestra. Alebo vlastne, asi až keď chodila na strednú. A nepridala sa priamo k nemu, len sa vybrala v jeho šľapajach. Občas síce zakotvila aj u Albrechta, ale častejšie sa vybrala kamsi so svojimi kamarátmi. Albáncami. To už mama prestávala zvládať. Najprv manžel, a teraz aj dcéra. Raz sa sestra vrátila nadránom, strašne zmaľovaná, fialové oči, fialové ústa. Mama ju začala biť, kričala na ňu, že toto nesmie robiť, že toto už nikdy nesmie urobiť, ale sestra sa tak dobre bránila, tak pohotovo vystrkovala ostré lakte, že napokon nebolo jasné, koho tá bitka viac bolí. Ja som pri tom plakala. Apuka nerušene spal.

A sestra pritvrdila. Začala utekať z domu. Nič nepovedala, proste sa zobrala a odišla. S mamou sme sa potom vybrali na políciu, vyhlásiť pátranie po nezvestnej osobe. Zvláštne je, že si zreteľne vybavujem naše cesty, to, ako som hopsala dolu Hlbokou, ale bez akéhokoľvek pocitu úzkosti. A pritom som nemohla byť taká malá, aby som nevnímala závažnosť situácie. Sestra sa niekedy neukázala aj štyri dni. Raz dokonca išla do Prahy. Polícia bola nanič, sestra vždy napokon dokvitla sama. 

 

(EN) 

 

Dad

I’ll just pick out one scene, I don’t claim it demonstrates anything, I only know what I’ve been told; I can’t remember anything about it myself. I am sitting next to my sister on the living-room sofa and we are watching children’s cartoons.  My sister is four years older than me, she could be about six and I’m just under two. Dad is in the kitchen. We live on the castle hill, near Mudroňova Street, in that super-duper district of Bratislava; we have a beautiful Ford in our garage, a fireplace in our living-room and a view of Austria from our balcony. I’ve already been going to a day nursery for a year because both my parents are working.

Mum comes in, tired from work and loaded down with shopping, and this is how she finds us. My sister with snot hanging down to her knees, thanks to which, however, at least she cannot smell that her younger sister Svetlana is up to her eyes in shit oozing from her nappy; yes, Dad is there, in the kitchen, but he’s asleep with his head on the tablecloth, next to a bottle of something. No need to specify what, that’s obvious to everyone.

There is one thing I would like to specify, though. Dad didn’t live with us. He often came to our house during the week and slept there, but his permanent address was elsewhere in a village in the Hungarian-speaking south of the country, near some lakes, where we used to bathe in the summer. When our parents got married Mum planned to join her husband there; after all, she was already expecting my sister, but she lived in such an attractive part of Bratislava, with a fireplace, view, etc., that she decided at the last moment - no, she wouldn’t go and live among the Hungarians. It’s possible that my aunt, Mum’s sister, had something to do with it, as she kept trying to dissuade her: they’d never accept you as one of them; you’d always be a foreigner there. And what’s more, you’d be going to your mother-in-law’s house. Believe me, she said. Mum did. But then Dad dug his heels in too. His home was there. Full stop. In short, they lived separately. At least for the first few years. Until Dad’s health got worse.

I really don’t know what to say about my father, about those early years. He was bald. I really loved that. I called his bald spot a ring a ring o’ roses. I wanted to have the same on my head. One day, I can remember this moment clearly, I took the scissors out of the sewing box and cut a clearing in my hair. I proudly went to show Mum. I can’t remember her reaction, but I remember her telling everyone about it. An embellished family legend.  

I can also remember the village in the Hungarian-speaking south. In Bratislava Dad worked at the Technical University, but at home he was a smallholder, a farmer, always to be seen with a spade, a hoe, a rake or hose, naked to the waist. When I was a child his garden seemed enormous to me, a veritable kingdom, where it was possible to climb trees, fall down a well, and sweat in a greenhouse. I was astonished when I learned later that Dad’s garden was only a fraction of the original farm the communists had confiscated from nagyapo - my ethnic Hungarian grandfather – in order to nationalise it. Apparently it stretched as far as the lakes. That would have been something – to jump into the water straight from the garden, to have horses as well and not just the hens and rabbits that nagymama, my Hungarian grandmother, bred.

We would go there for the weekend and spend whole summers beside the lakes. My grandmother was still alive and she more or less spoke only Hungarian; she would shout kiskutya at the local mongrels; she made pancakes for me and my sister, which I’d like to declare were the best in the world, but to tell the truth, I can no longer remember what they were like. She and her son looked after the garden, that little homestead. She grew seedlings in the greenhouse and sold them at the market. At first Mum tried to make herself useful and learn something from her mother-in-law, to be of help, but she very soon realised that her sister had been right. It was a waste of effort. Everything she did was wrong and ištenem, haďd, nešegíć. Grandma chased her away from the seedlings almost as if she was a mongrel that had crawled in through a hole in the fence. Until Mum finally said, okay, I’ve had enough, too. And then she only looked after the flowers in the front garden and the ornamental trees and bushes. Later she even began to claim she’d rather get divorced than take a cart full of seedlings to sell at the market.

Dad travelled a lot and liked to take snapshots on his journeys. There was a cupboard in his bedroom full of yellow envelopes with photos I often browsed through. Dad was capable of taking twenty shots of the same rock through a bus window; he could use up three films with blurred views of the Niagara Falls; he had no gift for photography. I also found pictures of Dad in the company of odd-looking women wearing very garish clothes and make-up and it was only many years later that I could find the right word for them – vulgar. The pictures where he was hugging these vulgar strangers in bars were the only ones in which he appeared. Otherwise they were all landscapes.  

 On his travels Dad got to know a lot of foreigners who he later invited to his home, to that large house he had built just after the fall of communism, right next door to Grandma’s typical village cottage. In the summer Dad let out rooms to holidaymakers who wanted to splash about in the lakes, and also sometimes to his foreign acquaintances. I once went to a football match with one of them, a certain Pancho from Peru. That is, we had originally planned to go to the fun fair on the other side of the lakes, but we let ourselves be carried along with the crowd that was streaming towards the football stadium. He didn’t speak Slovak and I didn’t speak English; we communicated through gestures. But in fact at that football match, which we both found boring, we only said one thing. Pancho pointed to my shoes and said they were pretty, nice. That much I understood. Later back home it was hard to explain why we had gone to watch the match.

My sister was always teasing me. Once she told me that our lakes had been created from spit. That sometime in the past they’d dug out gravel and left such an ugly pit that everyone who passed by had to spit in disgust. And it had gradually accumulated over the years. That spit. I didn’t believe her, but it was a repulsive idea. I must add, though, that she also taught me to dive headfirst from a springboard. And to do underwater somersaults. We would swim together to an island. With Dad too. Mum recalls how I went missing once near the lakes. I was four years old then. Dad and my sister couldn’t see me anywhere and it was time to leave. So they left. Back home Dad told Mum: well, she’ll come home by herself. And he was right. I appeared before Mum had time to faint.

Dad was an obvious patriarch. Granddad had married Grandma only because she was the hardest worker on his land and as his wife he didn’t have to pay her wages anymore. Dad adopted the same attitude and was fond of saying that a woman should work in the fields and when she was tired she should relax doing the household chores. But as I’ve already mentioned, at a very early stage Mum dug her heels in. On account of those seedlings and under the strain of Grandma's criticism and hand-wringing. From then on she only relaxed doing the chores in the large house.

She occasionally made strawberry jam. Dad praised her. In his own way. Apparently, it was almost as good as that in the shops.

He was also proud of his hard-earned childhood, of his education, which he achieved thanks to his intelligence. When he was born, Granddad and Grandma were living in a hut in the middle of the garden, where there was no electricity or running water, only a dirt floor, not far from a well and everything was made from wood. In the summer, always on his own initiative, Dad solved all the maths questions in the textbooks for the following year and then was bored to death in the lessons. Later he studied at the university in Prague. Even at that time he had quite a serious problem with alcohol. Once he was so drunk he couldn’t get from the pub to the students’ hostel on his own two feet. However, he solved the problem logically. As the pub was at the top of the hill and the hostel at its foot, he lay down on the ground and rolled all the way downhill to the hostel doors.

When he graduated Granddad showed him a notebook where he had jotted down all the expenses for his studies. He didn’t ask him to pay anything back; he just showed it to him, so that Dad would know how much this lark had cost and how much Granddad had spent on his education. Mum says Dad never forgave him for that.

***

What do I know about my parents’ relationship? Preferably nothing? Is that safer? Mum must have seen something in him. But what?

She said he had once told her in front of others that she was not only wise, but also beautiful. It must have been an isolated declaration, rare praise, for her to remember it so clearly. For it to stick in her memory. For her to tell me about it.

 His alcoholism was forever present and that’s why from my earliest years I saw it as an inseparable part of him, something that went with him, as if that’s how it should be. The same with his illness. There’s no point in trying to work out which came first, the chicken or the egg, what caused what, his unstable mental constitution and his long-term drinking problem, his genetic predisposition to the one or the other; both things were mutually intertwined, they reinforced each other, until they became his very essence.

Nevertheless, certain episodes do stand out.

Mum once pulled us out of our beds in the middle of the night. She was at her wits’ end. Girls, get up, girls come and tell Dad that we live one floor higher up. Still in our pyjamas, I and my sister stumbled out into the corridor. Half asleep. We couldn’t understand what was going on. Dad was relentlessly ringing the neighbour’s doorbell on the second floor, even though the neighbour was standing in the open doorway and trying to stop him doing it. With a joint effort, the three of us dragged Dad up the stairs to our flat. I don’t know when exactly this occurred. How old I was. My sister was still going to school with me, so I could have been about nine. One of the first such incidents. To me it seemed bizarre. Like in a dream. Like a night adventure that augured an adventurous youth.

That stain is still there. In our beautiful flat, garage, fireplace, view of Austria. And that other stain too. In the lift. The lift must be at least forty years old; it doesn’t have an inner door. In our lift you can see the floors passing by. One night Dad was coming home dead drunk and he wanted to lean up against a wall. He leant on the moving floor and cut open his forehead. That’s the long dark brown stain between the first and second floors.

He began to sleep in our flat in Bratislava more and more often. He would go to Albrecht’s. He spent whole mornings there. Bang opposite my classroom windows. Sometimes I caught a glimpse of him. I pressed up against the window sill and stared as he went into the pub. Of course I didn’t tell anyone: look, that’s my dad. Not even my sister. Her classroom was on the second floor of the building and the windows were facing a different direction. On the other hand, a couple of times in the street it happened that I didn’t notice him at all. He was walking towards me and I was just following my nose, gazing vacantly into space. Then he would grip my shoulder hard and turn me to face him. At home I heard him in the kitchen complaining to Mum that I disown him, that I’m ashamed of him. At that time it wasn’t yet true.

Sometime then my sister began to join him too. Or in fact it was probably not until she was attending secondary school. And she didn’t actually join him, but she just began following in his footsteps. It’s true she sometimes ended up in Albrecht’s as well, but more often she went off somewhere with her friends. Albanians. That was too much for Mum. First her husband, and now her daughter. Once my sister came home in the early hours of the morning with awful make up on – purple eyes, purple mouth. Mum began hitting her, shouting at her that she mustn’t do that, that she must never do that again, but my sister fended off the blows, adroitly sticking out her sharp elbows, so that in the end it was clear who was getting the worst of it. I cried while this was going on. Dad slept undisturbed.

And my sister got even worse. She began to run away from home. She would say nothing, simply take herself off. Mum and I then went to the police station to report she had gone missing. Strangely enough, I clearly remember us going there, me skipping down Hlboká Street without the least feeling of anxiety. And yet I can’t have been so young as not to register the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes my sister would not show up for four days. Once she even went to Prague. The police were useless; in the end my sister always turned up of her own accord. 

 

Translated from Slovakian by Heather Trebaticka.