And yet at the same time, I think that there was also a sense of sadness of leaving your homeland, with the idea that we would never be able to return. We thought that this was a step where we would never return to Czechoslovakia because we never thought that communism would ever not be there.
1968 emigrant/refugee Tag
When we lived there we didn’t realize it, but when we came back for a visit, it was so gloomy. It was gloomy all the time until I went for the first time after communism was over, and it was kind of more optimistic all over the place. I don’t know what it was, if it was just my impression or something, but before the revolution, it was so gloomy all over the place.
So, thanks to the communists, when I came out of the country, I knew more than my colleagues because they were sitting in one place whereas I was all over – internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, infectious diseases. So I got the best training you can wish to survive. Thanks to the regime, and my belief not to sign ever to become a communist.
Because Stalin didn’t want heritage to be important. They wanted that indoctrination was more important than genetics. So Mendel, whom we all know about, was forbidden at that time. But you know everybody was paying a little bit lip-service, and nobody really took it seriously.
We got a contract through an organization which was called Pragosport, and there was also Pragokoncert. Those were two organizations that negotiated contracts with Western companies. But for that, we had to pay the government a pretty large amount of our salary in Western currency.
We were living in our house in the cellar, or basement, which had metal plates on the windows, and because there was a sign of ‘Doctor’ in front of the house, soldiers would be bringing their wounded colleagues to the house, and as a little boy I would be mingling around and I would see the blood dripping from the stretchers and stuff like that.
[When it came to emigration] one thing was easier for us, because for two years I had already guessed that there will be major economic problems in Czechoslovakia. Our factory was working at something like only 16% capacity. I thought I would have to emigrate for economic reasons. But of course the Russian invasion changed this into political reasons – that’s beyond debate.
I love my mom and I have no complaints about my upbringing, but I think we were just, like, running wild. I remember running around the city when I was really young. Getting on the tram unattended. Going downtown, running around. It’s not like here where you’re worried about what’s going to happen to your children.
For me it wasn’t too bad because I was traveling. I spent with theatre, from ’58 to ’68 – I was most of the time out of the country. I was in Poland twice, in Russia twice. In Russia, I was there a year and a half. To Bulgaria; I was in Hungary twice. Paris, one month in ’67. Paris was a jump to Miami.
We were taught quite well. What it was is – I understand it now, I didn’t understand it then – the communist system said basically this: ‘We are paying for it; therefore, you will take the classes we tell you to take. You are not going to take any Mickey Mouse classes. There will be no Mickey Mouse classes.