Community life Tag
“I think I was mostly inconvenienced, being a teenager, by the restrictions on our lives – social lives – and curfews at night. I tried to go to ballet school and I couldn’t go because you had to be home before dark. Everything was all closed up without lights, because they worried about the Allied planes going over and bombing.”
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.’
Once you grow up somewhere else and you basically go live somewhere else, I think you’ll be kind of living on both sides of the fence for the rest of your life, so it’s kind of difficult to decide where to jump. Sometimes I feel I am home only when I am on the airplane or the ocean; that way I am nowhere.
You were very cautious about everything you did. With my mother’s first cousin, Oliver, he was probably about 60, we were in our 20s. And I can remember crossing the Austrian border and there was a border patrol, one gentleman at the Austrian border in a shack and he saluted us and he said, ‘Good luck.’ We go into the bridge into Bratislava, and everything there is machine guns, soldiers. There’s not a tree, there’s watchtowers every thirty feet. It was so frightening. They’re looking under your car with mirrors, they’re opening your car – frightening, frightening.
They had machine guns, but my mother kept yelling ‘Italiano!’ She thought they were Italians, she was hoping they were Italians. They were not, unfortunately. They took us back to that little house, and on the other side of the road they had caught a man who was Polish, trying to escape. And these soldiers were young kids; they were 18 to 21, they were kicking this man, they were beating him on the floor.
We’ve got good food too, but I think ours is healthier – Slovak, much healthier. I used to think that because we didn’t eat so much meat that we had poor food. On the contrary, that was the best food what we had. Cabbage, and your bean soups, all kinds of soup. Barley, or even your sauerkraut. I didn’t like sauerkraut until I grew up, then I really liked it – and mushrooms.
The whole town went down in the fire. I remember that very well. I was eight years old and some kids were playing with matches and making… and there was a haystack. The firefighters from the beginning refused to – they said ‘Let it burn to the ground.’ Okay, then a strong wind came and the haystack [blew] from one place to another place. In no time the whole town was on fire, many families were unable to rebuild.
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.
For instance, in the architecture field, I was supposed to already be very good in drawing. In order to get into architecture school, I would have to be excellent in drawing to compete with hundreds of applicants at the time. In addition, very good in mathematics and things like that. So I didn’t even try that. But then I wanted to be a journalist.