People Stories
Karla - The War Years
By Karla Skoda - 31 October 2015
I was born 8th of March 1940 in Bratislava, now capital city of Slovak Republic. Then it was a city in Czechoslovakia, as a second child to my parents Anita and Voytech Miškovic. Their first child was my older brother Voytech, named traditionally after our dad. He was 15 months older than me.

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According to European folklore, the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. The legend is very ancient, but was popularised by a 19th-century Hans Christian Andersen story called The Storks. German folklore held that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. These caves contained adebarsteine or "stork stones". The babies would then be given to the mother or dropped down the chimney. Households would notify when they wanted children by placing sweets for the stork on the window sill.

A mother who was confined to bed around the time of childbirth was said to have been "bitten" by the stork.

Photographs provided by
K. Skoda
We were living in town Skalica. My father has his judicial practice in our very big house. He was a lawyer. Our house was 200 years old. Our family lived upstairs. Downstairs was spread to another street. Beside dad’s office was accommodation for lots of people like the man with wooden leg who looked after our cows, pigs and other farm animals – chooks, ducks, geeses. Lady who was doing our laundry lived there with her adult son, too. We had no taps for water or any canalization [plumbing]. We had to bring our water from pump in courtyard. My mum had domestic helpers who also looking after us children. One of them was my father’s cousin, Maria, who was from village where my father was born. She also was learning how to cook and clean, etc.

Many things about my childhood I learned from my mum and other people. I was too young to remember them. Mum said I was quick on my feet, walked at 8 months old and very flexible. At age of two I nearly died with inflammations of middle ear with no penicillin or other antibiotics available. As the last resort doctor suggested radium rays to put through my head. Like a big miracle it worked and within 10 days I was totally cured.

Although being a 2nd World War child I can hardly recall all the misery and horrors of the war. Yet shrieking sound of sirens warning us of an air attack, of enemies dropping bombs on our town is haunting me often in my dreams. I do remember a bomb was dropped near our house. We were hiding down in the cellar and felt the impact of it. The house shook but proudly stayed unharmed. Only a few hens and ducks died in the courtyard. Close to our back entrance was a huge hole in the road and the smoking remains of the bomb.

Lots of happiness from those days are very blurred in my mind. I remember one family of evacuees from badly bombarded town found shelter in our place. My mum also hosted, for some strange reason, some Russian officers. I had some old photo with my father in soldier’s uniform but I don’t really know of his participation in the war.

On the 29th of October, in the early morning hours my brother – we shared bedroom together – and I were awaken by a crying baby in the house. Vojto asked me, “Can you hear that cry?”

“Yes I do” I said. “Maybe the little daughter of the evacuees is crying.” Soon after our dad came down and told us that we have a new little baby brother. We ran to the room where he was born to meet him. He was the first newborn baby I saw in my life. Parents told us a stork brought him to us. The stork injured our mum with his beak and she had to recover from it in the bed. We were a little confused about whether to like or dislike that bird. Anyway, mum recovered very good and we were happy to have our brother Ivo.

In the spring of 1945 the war finally ended and the new life began for the country – repairing and rebuilding damages from the war.