While these brave negotiations and costly arrangements were in progress over Europe and the Middle East, the group of more than a thousand Czech refugees bided their time in cold, bleak Bratislava. There they were accommodated in two ill-equipped hostels, Slobodarna and Patronka.
”Slobodarna was a hostel for singles, built to accommodate about a hundred people. The 450 of us received straw palliasses to sleep on; the men were given the basement and ground floor and the girls – the minority – the two upper floors. The overcrowding and lack of sanitation were disgusting but we were told it would only be for a short while. The Hlinka Guard (Slovak Fascists) permitted us to walk in the yard for three hours together and to play cards. But we were young and could take it better than the elderly. We were an organized group united by a common goal: Palestine and kibbutz. By the end of December, we thought, we should be sailing down the Danube on our way to freedom and three or four weeks later we should be in Palestine. That was the plan.
In December we were told to get ready to leave in January. January 1940 came and went. We waited. Month after month passed by and we were still at that hostel. There were reasons: more people had to join the group; by the time the others arrived, the Danube had frozen, then there were no boats. Each commune bought basic provisions for the voyage, such as sugar, biscuits, crackers, soap, canned sardines, flour, egg powder and cigarettes. All in preparation for our voyage to Palestine.” (Uri Spitzer)