Lubomir Martin Ondrasek (born Ľubomír Ondrášek), 1972
Lubomir Ondrasek was born in Topoľčany in western Slovakia in December 1972. His father, Ľubomír, was a military officer and his mother, Elena, worked in various clerical positions. In the early years of his life, he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Anna Nemcová, who lived in the small village of Beckov and with whom he maintained a life-long close relationship. In 1976 he moved with his parents to Martin, a city in northern Slovakia, where he attended elementary school and started gymnázium. Later Lubomir attended gymnáziums in Topoľčany, Žilina, and Nové Mesto nad Váhom, where he earned his high school diploma. A junior in high school in 1989, Lubomir has strong memories of the events of the Velvet Revolution and the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia.
In 1995, Lubomir left Slovakia for the United States with the purpose of pursuing his theological education. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Zion Bible Institute in Barrington, Rhode Island, in 1999, Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston in 2003, and Master of Theology from Harvard University in 2005. While pursuing his theological education Lubomir worked several odd jobs and also served as a minister in two New England congregations.
Lubomir moved to Chicago in 2005 and is a doctoral student at the University of Chicago where he is concentrating on political, philosophical, and theological ethics as well as the ethics of war and peace. He is the president and co-founder of Acta Sanctorum – a Chicago non-profit founded with his wife in 2009 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution – and also is an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. Lubomir became a naturalized United States citizen in 2007. In the same year, he successfully fought a battle with cancer. Today he lives with his wife and daughter in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Growing up during the normalization era affected Lubomir’s attitude toward school
“I did not really like school too much at that particular time of my life. And part of the reason was that in our educational system, pupils were told what to think, what to say and how to say it – all in the atmosphere of fear, which, you can imagine, is quite detrimental to authentic learning. The teachers were, in my opinion and in the opinion of many, excessively authoritarian. Education served as a powerful instrument of oppression in the hands of those who, through the process of social engineering, wanted to bring ‘heaven to earth.’ Our individuality was suppressed; uniformity was expected. I think it was during these early years I subconsciously began to abhor all of forms of oppression and all kinds of domination and I began to rebel against the system.”
Lubomir calls the Velvet Revolution his ‘greatest political memory’
“When I grew up I thought I would never be able to visit non-socialist countries even though the Austrian border was not too far from where I used to live. But when I was a junior at high school, an unprecedented event took place in the world which directly impacted my future life. In 1989, as you know, communism collapsed and the Cold War ended, and I joined hands with thousands of other students in a peaceful march for freedom. And I especially and still quite vividly remember participating in the general strike that took place on November 27, 1989, in the city of Žilina, where I lived at that particular time.”
Lubomir reflects on his journey towards the American dream
“I came with a single purpose in mind, namely, to learn and adequately prepare myself for what I believed was God’s call on my life. Ten years later, I received a post-graduate degree in theology from Harvard University. In order for me to pursue my education in the United States and at the same time provide for my family, I worked. And I worked as a librarian, landscaper, custodian, translator, security guard, teaching assistant, instructor and a minister in two churches in New England, and probably some other jobs I have done that I have forgotten. One can also think about the hundreds of hours I studied immigration law in order to find ways to remain in this country legally. I can think of traveling over six hundred times from Smithfield, Rhode Island, to Boston, Massachusetts, to pursue my education. One can speak about a battle with serious illness and various disappointments that I had to overcome on this rather adventurous journey. So it has not always been easy but I believe it has been a worthy endeavor, and I consider my decision to leave for the United States in 1995 to be one of the best and most important decisions of my life.”
Category: Chicago, Oral History