I also remember that one time there was a big commotion outside on the street and the soldier – I don’t know who it was – were after somebody, and they shot him right in the street, several men. That was kind of scary for me. Then one time – I had to walk to school past a church, it was like a churchyard – and apparently there was a bombing or some shooting there, and they had a bunch of bodies laying on the church ground, covered with cloth, and I had to walk through there to get to school and it really scared the heck out of me.
Child emigre Tag
She got beaten quite a bit in the camps, because you had all this quota that you had to fulfill. Since she was a professional seamstress she was really very good. And she worked very hard, and of course they were on starvation food – they got watered-down beet soup, watered-down oatmeal – that was kind of the food of the day.
I don’t think our family really assimilated very well, as a whole, because all our friends were Czech and a lot of times if I wanted to do something I wasn’t permitted to do it because it wasn’t something that we did. So that kept me separated from everybody else a little bit.
There were a lot of Czechs, a lot of Slovaks, a lot of Romanians. The camp wasn’t too bad. We were one of the luckier ones – we had a small cottage. They even had hot showers there. A lot of other people weren’t as lucky. They slept in a tent and had to use public showers which they had there. The food was horrible, I mean horrible.
Just how the country was run, it was like you don’t have any ambition, you don’t have any drive to become a better person, a wiser, more mature individual. It’s so difficult out there to be able to make something of yourself, to be able to stand out and live your life, and she thought the freedom allowed in America would be a great, great asset for he and I to be a part of.
I remember they were always teaching us about how great the Soviet system was, but it really did start changing in the mid-’60s and I remember when everybody was saying ‘Oh every guy from the Soviet Union is great,’ and then I remember one teacher – there was this picture with Stalin in it – and she said ‘Well, he is no longer on the good list because he had some of his own people shot.’
And then going to school was fascinating, because there was a lot of shrapnel on the road, and it was suggested that it would be helpful to collect the shrapnel, so we had bags or buckets or whatever, putting the pieces of shells in to collect so that they could melt it and shoot it back.
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.
If I want to be honest, I had a bad education because those three or four years when I was in high school, we were learning about the Germans, and what was actually produced in Germany and history in Germany, every city in Germany, and we were actually neglecting quite of bit of education that we should have. Except maybe mathematics, but the rest of them – it was really poor education at that time.
Mother actually pressed charges, and the trail went all the way to court, to the High Court in Vienna, and the man was found guilty. And I believe he was sent to the eastern front. I think it was a very brave thing of mom to do and I was very proud of her because, had she lost, the consequences would have been very dire.