In 1944, the Germans started taking away women who were, and who had been, married to Jewish men. And they had a camp, a slave labor camp, in Prague. And in that camp they manufactured windshields for German fighter airplanes. So my mother was taken to that camp. And before she left she hid me with some friends, actually farmers, that we had been living with after the Germans expelled us from our home.
Child emigre Tag
My father believed in communism. He thought, after the War – it was the Soviet soldiers that liberated him, it was the Soviet soldiers that liberated Auschwitz, and so, my mother wasn’t involved at all, but my father was a member of the Party. And he believed that this is the right way to go. And now, bang, his brother gets arrested and he says, ‘No, this is not possible, this is wrong.’
When you go to the Czech Republic or Slovak Republic, there is more hatred between each other. Prague people will say ‘Oh, we don’t like Slovaks,’ or Slovak people will say ‘I don’t like Czechs.’ But here I never hear anybody say that we don’t like each other. Here we are like one big community, and it’s like a brotherhood over here.
He was just upset with the lack of freedom, but the details he would know more than I. He actually wanted to escape by flying over the Dunaj (the Danube River) into Austria – there’s a peak above the river – with a hang glider at one point. He wanted to actually do that. So those were some pretty extreme measures that he was planning.
I have photographs of myself being a year and half sitting my dad’s lap and his hair is a big curly afro and drinking beer in pubs. I understand that at that time pub life was very much the center of social life where people were able to vent their opinions and be in maybe safer company.
The city was so old, and the building stones, the buildings, they always sort of spoke to me and they were trying to tell me things about the city and it was so fascinating. I was just transported, in a way, and I wanted to know what it was trying to tell me. It was a great introduction to learning the history, which I proceeded to do by writing about it eventually.
We lived in one room. And I believe, off and on, there were either two or three families sharing one room. It was a relatively large room. The bath was actually down the hall, so that was shared by several other families. It was an old army barracks, it was an old kásarna that had been bombed during the War.
There was that one unfortunate, well, peculiar incident just one year before I went to gymnázium when I was on the street with a couple of my friends and one of them was eating, I think it was plums, and was spitting the pits out into the street. And suddenly a German who had a swastika attached to the fender of his car stopped and seized us, claiming that we were desecrating the German flag.
I remember during the War, and I especially remember when I had diphtheria and I was in the hospital, and every time the bombers came they put us under the beds if they did not have the time to take us down to the cellar. So, we sort of escaped the War in that respect, because we were in nursery school, my brother and I, but because I had diphtheria, he was quarantined, so he could not be in school with the other children, and at that time a bomb hit the school building and all the children there did not make it.