Yes, we did have a chata, or summer home, or záhrada [garden] and we pretty much spend almost the entire summer there. There was always something to do. My dad was very much an avid gardener and we grew everything. I didn’t know such a thing as to go to a store and purchase potatoes or carrots or even things like jam or ketchup or anything.
Some people at that time of my age, we loved country music, and we had tramping. We’d go to forests, which belonged to everybody, nobody can shoot you – there was no private property. We had campfires and the boys played guitar and sing old kind of country songs, so that was kind of our weekend.
I was kind of oblivious to what was going on in politics. I think I started paying attention to it when I was 14, 15, 16. I remember sitting in a pub in Domaša, drinking beer and having a discussion with friends. My older friends, three years older were saying ‘Communism is going to fall. I am telling you guys, it will end.’
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.
Well, it’s different because when we had an enemy; it was someone German speaking in a gray uniform. But with the communists, it could be anybody; your neighbor, your family. You did not have the sense of ‘us’ being in the right. I mean you may have felt it… I really thought it was destructive to the soul of the people.
Maybe a year before leaving the country – so when I was 20, 21 – I got baptized at home, at my friend’s home, where we were meeting regularly, reading evangelical, but, you know, very modern guys, like Bonhoeffer and these freedom evangelists – you know, people who were rather avant-garde in terms of their theological thinking.
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.
I don’t think it’s really where you grew up, I think it’s more your attitude. I’m sure I could have kept up the Slovak culture and felt more Slovak than American myself. I think it’s more of a personal decision – what you want to be, that’s what you’ll be. If you feel like being more Slovak, you’ll be more Slovak, if you feel like being more American, you can go that way.
There was this reform movement and people wanted to help the reform movement. With me, I also had several of my colleagues who did the same thing. As soon as the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia, in August ’68, I simply cancelled that thing, and that was also a very bad mark on my profile. This was one of the reasons why I started to do everything possible to get out of the country.