THE MAN who wrote “the first authentic Roma novel” in Slovakia, according to the SITA newswire, Ľudovít Didi, died on September 15, at the age of 82. Didi was born in Púchov, western Slovakia, and graduated at 32 from the Pedagogical Institute in Nitra and later, after political rehabilitation, was given his diploma from the University of Economics in Prague.
Didi started publishing his work only after he retired, and his first novel, Príbehy svätené vetrom (Stories Blessed by the Wind), was published when he was 73, the TASR newswire wrote, adding that he wrote two more novels after that. He also received a memorial medal for his contributions to Slovak literature about the Roma.
In an interview for the Roma Press Agency (RPA) in 2005, Didi said that he had a difficult childhood and was forced to leave home when he was 15. He quickly graduated from secondary school and started teaching at an elementary school at 18, with some of his students being only 3-4 years younger. He later graduated from a teaching college and became a fully qualified, full-time teacher.
However, after protesting the Soviet-led 1968 Warsaw-Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, and especially after he signed the anti-communist Charter 77 (as the only Roma in Czechoslovakia to do so), he was not allowed to teach for 16 years, until the fall of communism. In the years shortly before retirement, he managed a children’s home in Koliňany and was a chief educator in a special school in Vráble.
He began writing after he started suffering from various health problems, including diabetes. He told the RPA that his first novel is, to a large extent, autobiographical. Didi and his non-Roma wife had three children.
7. Oct 2013 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská