There were two reasons. One was they wouldn’t let me continue at school, and of course I knew that it was somewhere some farming cooperative that I would have to go to; and/or that I wouldn’t have a chance to grow intellectually and understand what was happening to my whole nation. To the literature, to the music, to the film. To the people, to their relationships.
Cultural traditions Tag
So my parents got on a motorcycle and they escaped across the border to Austria, like many other people were doing at the time, and I suppose this was quite a dangerous trip so they didn’t want to take a three year old on a motorcycle between them, so they left me with my grandmother. I wasn’t going to see them again, my mother for three years and my father for six years.
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
I have very fresh memories of walking by a grocery store or pharmacy and seeing empty shelves, or seeing a line of people waiting outside. The practice was that, if you saw a line in front of a pharmacy, you immediately went and stood in the line because something arrived that was never available, and it was the bizarre stuff you’d expect.
That was the so-called kádrovanie, you know the sort of political… x-ray, you know, who you really are. But the funny thing is, they didn’t find out who you really are. I was lucky that my father was dead. If my father was not dead, I am out of medical school. You know, that’s what your origins are – you know, your belief, your religion – this is what counts. If you were not on their side, on the left side then, that’s it.
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.
I remember this unique experience that people would actually go to the stores and buy socks. They were woolen socks and you would actually take the socks apart and you would recycle the yarn, and so they would knit or crochet a sweater, and then, when I would grow, they would take the sweater apart and add more yarn, but they were still using these socks.