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
We were taught quite well. What it was is – I understand it now, I didn’t understand it then – the communist system said basically this: ‘We are paying for it; therefore, you will take the classes we tell you to take. You are not going to take any Mickey Mouse classes. There will be no Mickey Mouse classes.
Prague is fun; it’s great. There were a lot of young people where I lived and I became more involved with the art scene there, and I’m very creative so I was writing a blog for SME [a newspaper] and it was all good, and I attempted to sing with a jazz band for a little bit and I attempted to do some theatre, as an actress.
There was a misunderstanding, they believed only Communists were socially progressive, I thought that was retrograding, that was never really social progress. So I brought it to this man again by the side door, he gave me the stamp and the next day I was in Austria going to Switzerland.
We would hear bombing from whatever was the nearest German town, and all of a sudden one Sunday ‘Americans! They’re coming!’ you know, and so we went to the road, it was a state road which went between Vimperk and Strakonice, and we waved and there were kids, you know, that’s what you see in Afghanistan, that’s what the kids did.
I no longer fit in. It’s a very strange feeling, which cannot be unique among emigrants, that when I walk in Prague I feel like a tourist. It’s the town I was born in, I spent the first 28 years of my life, and still I don’t know really how it works now, having been out of there for 45 years.
At that time, it was very easy – the communist police were very smart. They would not nail you down on some anti-communist activities. If you worked somewhere they would set up a scheme, let’s say you misappropriated some money and they will nail on that, and there will be no way of getting out of that. So I knew all that and I said, ‘Well, I think I need to really work hard to get out of here as soon as possible.
It was great. There were no cars, as I remember, in 1960. There were no cars in the streets. We played ball games; we divided the street into two halves, and there were no cars coming. There was one car parked down the street. I remember postal wagons drawn by horses and the horse had the little package of hay in front of him and he was eating, and then they brought – Polska was a pub – so the horses brought the ice to the pub and hauled it down to the cellar to keep the beer nice and cold.
I was obsessed with history, it was clear. Everyone in my class knew that I was obsessed with history; I had the best knowledge of history in the classroom, always challenging the teacher and reading history books under the desk. I had a vast library because due to the fate which befell my relatives on my father’s side, my grandfather and uncle, when they were arrested, some of their books – if they were not confiscated – landed in our house.