Ambroz Skrovanek (born Ambroz Škrovánek), 1928
Ambroz Skrovanek was born in 1928 in Senné, a small village in south central Slovakia. His father, Karol, was a state notary while his mother, Margita, stayed home and raised Ambroz and his two younger brothers, Tomáš and Pavol. When Ambroz was nine, the Škrováneks moved to Modrý Kameň for a short time, then to Devín, in order for Ambroz to attend gymnázium in nearby Bratislava. Shortly thereafter, Devín was occupied by German soldiers, and Ambroz says his family was encouraged to leave the area. They moved to Komárno, a town on the border of Hungary. Ambroz, however, stayed behind and lived in a dormitory while finishing school. From a young age, Ambroz was fascinated with radios and electronics. He attended Slovak Technical University (STU) in Bratislava where he studied mechanical engineering for his first two years, as his chosen field of study, electronic engineering, was not yet available. During his summer holidays, Ambroz worked at TESLA, which led to his being offered a job there following graduation; he subsequently worked as an audio electronic engineer at TESLA for over 20 years. Ambroz married Kamila, the daughter of a family friend, and they had two children together, Thomas and Eva.
Following the Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968, Ambroz began to consider leaving Czechoslovakia. Through letters exchanged with his brother-in-law who had already emigrated to the United States, Ambroz made plans for his family to leave. In July 1969, the Skrovaneks went to Yugoslavia for a vacation, but instead of returning to Czechoslovakia, crossed the border into Austria. Ambroz says that while waiting for permission to immigrate to the United States, a family friend arranged for them to stay in a private apartment in Vienna. In November 1969, Ambroz and his family flew to Washington, D.C. They lived with his wife’s sister’s family for nine months before renting a home. In 1972, Ambroz bought a house in Bethesda, Maryland. Ambroz’s first job was installing and repairing car radios. He soon found employment as an electronic engineer, and through his career earned several patents. In recent years, Ambroz has become involved in the Slovak American Society of Washington, D.C. Now widowed, he continues to live in Bethesda, Maryland.
Ambroz had to report for military training exercises
“Once I was assigned to the kitchen to wash dishes. I washed them very quickly – they were surprised how quickly – but every one was dirty. They had to delay military lunch for the generals for one hour until somebody else washed the dishes. So they were, I guess, inclined to kick me out, but they didn’t send me home. And once they woke up the whole barracks for military exercises at 12 midnight. So of course, everybody jumps into uniform and was running to the cars and running somewhere. I was running to the cars, made a turn to the garage, sat down, and slept for two hours. When they came back, I joined them and together we went back to the barracks. Nobody noticed me, I was not so important at all.”
Ambroz and his family decided to leave the country in the summer of 1969
“I had a car, and every year we used to go to Bulgaria or Yugoslavia for vacation, maybe a week or two weeks at the most. So then we spread the news that we are going for vacation in Yugoslavia. We went simply to the southern border at Komárno and down to Yugoslavia, but we did not go to the Mediterranean Sea, but we turned north to Austria.”
The Skrovaneks were helped by Ambroz’s brother-in-law when they arrived in the United States
“[We] landed here in Washington, National Airport, and Albrecht’s family were expecting us, and since then they took care of us because we had to get used to this type of life. Without a car you cannot exist here. You cannot go shopping a mile and carrying back a load. So they were really very substantial friends to us, and I helped them if they needed some repair or advice – technical advice – cars or TVs or radios, everything around the house, like I am doing now.”
Ambroz talks about his first job in America
“So the first job I got was in a radio shop for repairing auto radios, installation and repair. The old one we have to take out and put a new one in. So I worked from January to May – I don’t remember, four or five months – and then I made ten repairs while the other technicians made one or two daily. The owner was quite impressed and told me ‘Hey Ambroz, would you like to become my partner?’ And I told him, ‘Well, I am appreciating your confidence and offer, but I want to go a little bit in a different world, I cannot stay.’”
Category: Oral History