title

Eva Lutovsky

   

Handler

Eva Lutovsky (maiden name Málková), 1922

Eva at a friend's wedding, Germany

Eva at a friend’s wedding, Germany

Eva Lutovsky was born in Vysoké Mýto, eastern Bohemia, in 1922. Her father, František, owned a flower shop, while her mother, Hana, worked as a secretary at the local courthouse. When Eva was still a toddler, her mother moved to Prague without her father and started working at the Supreme Court in the city, raising Eva on her own. Eva was sent to the capital’s English gymnázium to study, for which she says she was subsequently extremely grateful to her mother. During WWII, Eva and her mother sheltered two Jewish women active in the Czech resistance movement PVVZ (Petiční výbor Věrni zůstaneme) for 22 months in their apartment until liberation. One of the women, Heda Kaufmanová, wrote about this experience afterwards in her memoirs, entitled Léta 1938 – 1945 {The Years 1938 – 1945]. Eva says the women had to lock themselves in the bathroom when she and her mother had visitors, and that the hardest part of hiding the women was that Eva’s rations and those of her mother had to be split in half and shared amongst the four.

 

Following liberation, Eva went to work as a clerk and translator at the British Embassy in Prague. She left Czechoslovakia with the help of a guide shortly after the Communist putsch in 1948, crossing the border into West Germany, where she says she went to work for Radio Free Europe in Munich pending admittance to the United States. In 1954, she was duly granted a U.S. visa and flew to Chicago, where she has lived ever since. She wrote of her adoptive home to the Chicago Tribune in 1995: “After 40 years, Chicago is my home, my favorite city which I watched grow from a duckling into a beautiful swan. More power to it.”

Eva says she grew up trilingual

“Prague English grammar school was I think the very best thing that happened to me in my life. Yes, I’ll tell you, if you speak English… when you speak any other language, and especially if it is one like English or like German, so many people know it, speak it, use it – you’re half a step close to them. So when I left over the border illegally, leaving Czechoslovakia, I knew English. So when they asked me ‘Do you speak English?’ I said ‘Yes, of course I do!’ And they were of course surprised, because they didn’t expect that. And that was one of the first times I started thanking and thinking of my mother; how bright, how farsighted she was, to steer me to a foreign language, because my maternal grandmother – she was not Czech, she was German, but at that time when my grandparents got married, such close, close-by intermarriages were no surprise, no nothing. The Germans were right here, and we were right next to them and they were right next to us, so the mingling was very… ‘Yeah, of course, sure, why not?’ No problems, no friction, no nothing.”

Eva and her mother sheltered two Jewish women during WWII

“They had to stay with us, in our home, and never move out, never even open the window when mother and I were gone to the office in the morning. They knew they cannot move because you can hear on the lower floor that somebody is walking up there. My first thing here in America, anywhere I went, I would always listen – can I hear the people from above? No you can’t, because your building is different! But you know, here we are laughing, but it wasn’t laughable. But well, we just felt, we must be lucky enough, because that means there will be four people alive after the War – my mother and I, and the two ladies we were sheltering.”

Eva remembers hearing the news that WWII was over

“Well, we just sat down, and first and foremost my mother said ‘I know this is my last cigarette, but I know I’ll be able to buy them easier now, so I’ll just smoke this one to celebrate.’ So my mother celebrated for all of us, because she was the smoker.”

Category: Chicago, Oral History