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.
Initially, when I came to Australia – I think partially under my mother’s influence; she literally was disgusted with Europe, with the Nazis and the communists, and I, reflecting that, my attitude was ‘I want to learn English, I want to assimilate and to hell with the background.’ Yes, my father was a famous guy, so what? And so in Australia, I had virtually no connection with anything Czech.
[They] judged and sentenced the farmer immediately for so-called ‘crime against the republic,’ meaning they were accused, for instance, of having for example just an extra goose more than they were supposed to have, or that they didn’t return the proper amount of grain which they were supposed to give to the state, to this supply office. It didn’t need to be true.
The city was so old, and the building stones, the buildings, they always sort of spoke to me and they were trying to tell me things about the city and it was so fascinating. I was just transported, in a way, and I wanted to know what it was trying to tell me. It was a great introduction to learning the history, which I proceeded to do by writing about it eventually.
Three weeks after the victory, I went to a bookshop and the owner said ‘You were talking German. I’m calling the police.’ I said ‘Yes, I was talking German to an anti-fascist German soldier.’ ‘No, no. You were talking German. I have to tell the police.’ Fortunately, I had my identity card at that time which said ‘Prisoner in so-and-so [labor camp]’ and so I showed it and he said ‘Well, I must have made a mistake.’
It wasn’t a difficult life economically, but it was really very much supervised by the totalitarian regime, so if you weren’t politically recognized as approving of the system, all kind of difficulties would arise. I remember when I was graduating from gymnázium, there was some case as two of my classmates were accused of stealing some money from the Pioneer organization but I knew they were not guilty, that somebody from the faculty was putting it on them.
One of my first remembrances is the middle of the night and we were awake because there was that very deep sound, and there was a pinkish or yellowish shine all over the sky and my father was standing close to the window and said ‘Has to be Leipzig or Dresden. This is where they are bombarding tonight, but it’s terrible; it’s very, very intense.’ So it was the night that Dresden got bombarded.