There was no rabbi or synagogue to really practice the religion. My parents were Holocaust survivors. They didn’t go to any concentration camp, but they survived in hiding and they were afraid to practice, but we always knew from people that we are Jews because kids in school made fun of us and even the teacher would not favor us, knowing that we were Jewish.
That was the so-called kádrovanie, you know the sort of political… x-ray, you know, who you really are. But the funny thing is, they didn’t find out who you really are. I was lucky that my father was dead. If my father was not dead, I am out of medical school. You know, that’s what your origins are – you know, your belief, your religion – this is what counts. If you were not on their side, on the left side then, that’s it.
“I played guitar. When I was about 14, I went to work for a summer in a cinderblock factory. It was hard work, but I made some money and bought my guitar. That’s also a time when I met a lot of people. You look, it’s a cinderblock factory, but everybody was an ex-professor, ex-teacher, ex-accountant, because they lost their job and the only thing they could do was doing manual labor. So that was another thought, ‘Now hold on just a minute, this is not right.”
In eighth grade we started a rock and roll band, of which I was the lead singer and guitarist. And of course we played The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. That was seen like not only blasphemy but an anti-communist gesture, you know. So… we always had a lot of troubles, because of the long hair and everything else… But somehow it all sort of worked out, we squeezed by, you know.
We went to the streets, we talked to them [the soldiers], and it essentially was pretty much hopeless. There were some guys who would throw the Molotov cocktails at the tanks, but it was pretty much useless. You cannot fight the tanks and an armed army with bare hands and with stones. And if you do, they will shoot you. So then I went home.
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.
I think that the most incredible period for me personally, for us as a young generation at that time, was the invasion of rock and roll. The music. Rock and roll culture. Radio Luxembourg. For us it was a fascinating world because we thought that if this is possible, something over there must be right.
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.
The free education, the free medical care. There were a lot of good things and if you could have political freedom and travel and exchange, then I think the system would have been very good. I didn’t understand why anybody would say no to it, because we didn’t want to declare war on Russia or some stupid thing like that.