I was always kind of growing or living with the music community, and it was not just the band. It was folk music, folk ensembles, dancers, theatre. So I got to know a lot of people, and also that community was what I always loved. The musical or artistic group of people, we always said that we are different. We have a big love for it. It helped me in my business, too.
I loved school, a lot of learning, dancing. I have a lot of fond memories of growing up in Slovakia – I think because I left when I was so young. I didn’t get to experience what would be the negative aspects of communism, what the adults had to deal with. For me, I was just a kid, I was growing up so… we left when I was only seven.
We were washing dishes and the soldiers showed up and told my mother and my father that we need to pack up something that we can carry on our backs and we are going to leave. So we were taken to the camp in – the concentration camp – in Žilina. You know the difference, there is a concentration camp and there is an extermination camp, so we were just taken to the first place.
I remember at one point in time, he wanted to import some Jewish cookies and things that were used for Sabbath and so on from Slovakia, and he did, and he got into trouble selling it, because it was not something on the government list. It was a constant struggle – him trying to improve the business and the government saying ‘These are the regulations and you can’t do that.’
So this was one thing that we had to do and then eventually, towards the end of the War, he would say ‘Take this and drop it off there and there.’ And it was obviously for partisans, guerrillas, so you know, he said ‘It’s extremely dangerous and you can do it, as a little boy.’
Every young man and every young woman in the Czech Republic had to join dance lessons. It’s a Czech tradition, and every young man or young lady who’s the age of 15 must join and must visit the lesson of classical dance, which means polka, valčík [waltz] and other dancing in formal wear.
It was more a matter of integrity I think. When they came to the United States, they were looking for different spiritual venues, but in Czechoslovakia nothing else existed and remaining Catholic meant that they would be adhering to their values, which they considered superior to the communist ones. So it was partly political. It was kind of a silent protest.