What I remember about school is that the first day of schooling, my official first school experience, was that we had to Heil Hitler when we first started the school day. So these teachers who are all Czech patriots would always do it funny. They wouldn’t do it right.
Child emigre Tag
My mother told me the story that a good friend of his that he went to school with was on the police force in Pardubice – he turned into a communist – and the Communist Party, I believe it was on Good Friday of ’48, and they had a meeting and they were going to take over the country that Easter weekend.
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
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.
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 remember that after we came from midnight mass, my mom and my uncle and we stayed up and he was telling us about America, how great it is and this and that. As a kid you are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you have bananas every day? You can have oranges? You can have this?’ It was euphoria.
Well, it was the Depression, and my father – he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to raise the family here, that it would be easier in Slovakia. You know, you’ve got a little farm there, a little garden, so you can grow some of your own stuff. Or maybe, I don’t know, kill a chicken or maybe a rabbit. So, it was easier to be there than here. Here you’ve got to buy everything, so…
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.
His colleagues were teasing him and said ‘What if you said this?’ When my dad sat before the microphone, he blurted that out, and of course, before he was finished, a couple of Gestapo officers were waiting for him and took him into this infamous Petschkuv Palac. My father wasn’t tortured, but he was interrogated for 24 hours
Growing up in Montreal, there was an enormous Czech community and it was extremely vibrant. Interestingly enough, it was a homogenous group in the way that they interacted with one another, but they were anything but homogenous in terms of where they came from, because there were Czechs, there were Slovaks and there were people from every part of Czechoslovakia.