Jana Fiserova-Dadik (born Jana Fišerová), 1925
Jana Fiserova-Dadik was born in Prague in 1925. She was raised with her three siblings in the Smíchov district of the city, where her parents, Rudolph and Barbora, owned a restaurant. Jana speaks fondly of her childhood in and around the business; she remembers actors from the National Theatre coming to the restaurant following their performances. After the Communist coup in 1948, Jana’s family lost possession of the business. Jana enrolled in Charles University’s Medical Faculty in 1952. She says that she received a small scholarship throughout her time at university, but that she also had to work as an assistant to one of her pathology professors and teach Czech and Russian in the evenings to pay her way through college. Jana remembers her professors being strict, but says that she received an excellent education at university in Czechoslovakia.
Upon graduation in 1958, Jana’s first job was in a hospital in Kunčice pod Ondřejníkem, Silesia. She worked there for five years until she was became head of the pathology department at a hospital near Mělnik. Following the Communist coup, Jana’s older brother Karel had settled in the United States. In 1963, he came back to Czechoslovakia on his first visit. Jana says that she had repeatedly been denied a passport on account of her brother’s emigration. In 1968, however, she was granted permission to travel to Yugoslavia with her younger sister, Milada, and her sister’s two children.
Jana and Milada found themselves in Yugoslavia when the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia took place on August 21, 1968. They decided to travel to Austria and seek asylum. They came to Vienna, where they were helped by a Catholic priest who found the family accommodation and Jana work in a laboratory. Jana’s brother Karel then sent his sisters affidavits and paid for their tickets to the United States. Jana arrived in Vermilion, Ohio, in September 1968. On weekends, she helped her brother at his restaurant, Old Prague. Otherwise, she says she did not see him much, as she lived in Cleveland during the week, where she retrained as a doctor. After an internship at Mary Mount Hospital, Jana worked at St. Luke’s and then for the City of Cleveland. She became an American citizen in 1974. Today, Jana travels to the Czech Republic at least once a year, but says she enjoys the ‘freedom’ of living in America. She lives in Avon Lake, Ohio.
Jana studied at Charles University’s Medical Faculty between 1952-1958
“My role-model was Professor Benešová, who was the head of pathology, pediatric pathology, with whom I worked as an assistant. Because I did not receive any financial aid. I did get a merit scholarship, because I received all A’s and 1’s, and I worked in the pathology unit and also received money for that. And as well as that I taught in the evenings, Russian and Czech. I had to earn my own living.”
During the summer holidays, Jana participated in a number of student work brigades
“We built student dorms.”
“I don’t remember where. In Podoli or…”
How did they look, and what was the work like? Was it manual, hard work?
“Yes. In the morning we would get there and, because I’m left-handed, I would do everything wrong. I hammered nails in the opposite way, I built doors the opposite way round. And the foreman would always say ‘You’re awful! I have to redo everything you’ve built!’”
Jana came to Vienna in August 1968, following the Warsaw Pact invasion
“I went to have a look at Traiskirchen and said ‘Absolutely not.’ I’m a Catholic, and I went to a church and cried, because in Traiskirchen, in that camp, it was horrible. There were refugees there, and then there were thieves and lots of prostitutes. It was horrible, it was horrible. This was in Traiskirchen and also in [the camp in] Vienna. Whatever you didn’t sit upon was stolen from you. And so I sat in this church and a priest came to me. I was crying and he said to me in German ‘Why are you crying?’ I understand German and I said to him that I was a refugee and he started to speak to me in Czech.
“He was a Czech priest who had fled communism and who lived in Vienna. He said ‘What do you want to do?’ I said ‘I don’t know. I have my sister here, she has two children. I have a certain responsibility for them.’ He said ‘What do you do?’ I said ‘I’m a pediatrician.’ He said ‘You speak good enough German. Come back here to the church tomorrow.’
“So I went back the next day. And he said ‘Look, here is Dr. Liska, she is a pediatrician. You can work in her laboratory, you can test samples and you can help out. And you’ll be paid for it.’ And like this, he gave me a key to an apartment and said ‘Her mother died a month ago. This flat is yours to use, and so is everything in there. Move in there, I’ll give you a lift.’”
Jana remembers her first days in Vermilion, Ohio
“When I came to America, my brother gave [his wife] Colette money because I didn’t have anything, only a handbag. So she took me to the May Company, to their bargain basement, and when I saw these tons of clothes, how they lay there in a mess, I was in shock! I didn’t want to believe it! And my sister-in-law dressed me for $20.”
Category: Cleveland, Oral History