You know, it was such a terrible thing to happen to my country. I’d always grown up with a memory of the Nazis coming in and killing part of my family and all that, and then we were so looking forward to a peaceful, democratic world after the War was going to be over and we weren’t going to have any…
We arrived in Vienna and spent four days in Vienna, staying with a friend. But we didn’t feel safe there to ask for political asylum because Vienna was too close to home and we heard about Communist agents roaming the city. So we proceeded; we got on the road and we hitchhiked to Italy.
At night we went on duty. And there was a little hill, and down at the bottom there was a creek and a flour mill. And so I says ‘You know, you guys, I want to go down and see if there is somebody, if I can catch somebody, down by the mill.’ So I went back there, nobody followed me, nobody looked where I was going.
Next thing you know, my mother was arrested, January 25, and was detained in Pankrác in solitary confinement for two months. At that time, we didn’t know this story – when we were here in the States. My family didn’t really talk about what they went through in Czechoslovakia
The Communists then arrested her in the summer of 1949. They took her into prison, they kept her in prison. They didn’t torture her, but they threatened torture. They kept her awake for three nights and three days, they would use sleep deprivation, they would use threats against her children, they would touch her skin with razor blades and say ‘You have to tell us this information.’
All of a sudden, they yanked me out the cell, brought me to a big room full of people, I did not know… nobody told me what it was about. I was there, there were some people up there on the podium, and I couldn’t make out what it was all about. In about 15 minutes they took me back to the cell.
Our mother, she was jailed twice, and she spent a long time in German jails, and during that time our maid was still with our family and also our grandmother, who came also from a family which was German speaking, so she was looking out for us and actually, it was our grandmother and our maid who saved us when our mother was taken prisoner, when she was in the jail.
There is only one time a year where I make Czech food, and it’s a fusion between Czech and American customs. On Thanksgiving, I don’t make turkey because I am not crazy about turkey – it’s dry. I do duck, and I bake the duck the Czech way because it’s one of the best dishes the Czechs are making.
Over there, with kids, we go out hiking or something, we find an anti-aircraft machine gun, we find piles of ammunition and rifles. I remember we found an abandoned Tiger tank and about 15 of us started carrying ammunition and just dumping it in the open hatch – this was deep in the woods – and then we emptied out big shell casings and made a long path of gunpowder that went about half mile away, and lit it. What a bang. That was the entertainment for after the war for kids.
So, I get home. I’m asking all these questions, but I’m just a kid, ‘Shut up, be quiet.’ Well, as my mother wrote in that letter, they came in, they parked in front with the trucks, with the militia. They brought the papers in the house. ‘Sign the papers, or you’re never going to see this house again.’ And this is how we lost everything.