This is not an isolated world anymore; even if people think that it is, it’s not. And what’s happening in Europe will be here really, really soon. So we are in one world. That’s why I feel more like a citizen of the world, and I can imagine that I can live in some other place and it’s still one world. And that’s what I am enjoying most. I learned how to pack.
English language Tag
After I graduated high school, I applied to Charles University to study languages, and I was probably the most nervous because I kind of had to lie in my resume. I could never be truthful about my father’s past. Of course I said he was from a family of 14 and that kind of thing, but I never really talked about his business success.
When the deportation of the Jewish population started in 1942, my parents, to protect me, put me in an orphanage that was run by Catholic nuns in Bratislava. So I was there for two years. Fortunately, my parents were not put into a concentration camp, mainly because my mother was a physician and they needed physicians even during the War.
There were a lot of Czechs, a lot of Slovaks, a lot of Romanians. The camp wasn’t too bad. We were one of the luckier ones – we had a small cottage. They even had hot showers there. A lot of other people weren’t as lucky. They slept in a tent and had to use public showers which they had there. The food was horrible, I mean horrible.
I remember when we were about 12, we were with my friends and classmates and suddenly the sound was wailing, preparing for bombardment, and we had to rush out to shelter, and one of us shouted ‘Vladimír, rush!’ and this 12 year old creature said ‘By now, everything in life has bypassed me. I have missed everything. Why should I run?’
Surprisingly, maybe you don’t know about it but, I went to the American Embassy first, but you had to commit to the draft – not at the Embassy, but once they gave you the entry paper to the United States, you would have to sign up for the draft here. I, as an 18 year old, got scared.
I said ‘I’m not going to leave. I’m going to fight for the freedom and I’m staying here.’ I did not want to leave. When we got occupied by the Russians, I was involved in it and [when] I went back, second day, to the hospital, we put posters there and we all wore black because we did that at midnight when the Russian tanks were all around the streets. So I was involved in it and I was hoping that the Prague Spring, nobody is going to kill it because we were going to win.
I remember the War. Where we lived, the Americans used to fly over and drop their bombs on Plzeň, the Škoda factories, and they were flying right over us. I remember one New Year’s Eve, my parents were somewhere and they were coming back, and I think he [a military pilot] was shot or something, so he unloaded his bombs right in the forest by us, there was a big bang.
You do because you need to survive. You need to be able to talk to people, and if you just speak Slovak all the time, they don’t speak Slovak in the store or Czech or Russian – now they speak Spanish – so you have to assimilate. You assimilate language-wise, but cultural-wise, that comes with the system. As you live there, you start doing what other people are doing.