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.
I have to say that there are some things I look at today with hindsight and I think to myself that we had certain privileges that we didn’t understand. We were completely shielded from a media culture. We were taught to question almost every message that we received from the outside which, while exhausting to live like that, it can also be very rewarding and I think it breeds a greater curiosity about the world around you.
So anyhow, finally he got sent to military prison, and we could not visit, we could do nothing, and for us, come two gentlemen. So they locked my mother in the kitchen and they locked me in the living room. So one interrogates my mother, another one hits me over my mouth. Horrible, horrible. And from then on, they watched us.
They were teaching us how to make a puppet; we had to design a puppet and make it. And everyone was oohing and aahing how similar style I had, that it was almost Jim Henson-like. All that I needed was to look at that Muppet inside out and I could figure out how to do it. That’s all I needed.
They did want to take the whole house, and they would come every so often, I remember, when I was a little kid, people would come to our house and they would measure the whole house, because they had some rule, if your property exceeded some whatever square feet, or meters in our case, they had a right to take it.
So we went to a garden restaurant. They’d been celebrating, dancing, and I sat down and I think he ordered some wine or whatever. And then he said ‘Come and dance,’ and I said ‘What are you, crazy?’ He said ‘Come and dance,’ so we’re dancing, then I looked around and the Russians came there. And they come with their machine guns and they looked at the people. He [my guide] said ‘Now be nice, smile at me.’
The favorite dish was the pork tenderloin. Roast pork, dumplings and sauerkraut, as well as breaded pork tenderloin as well as potato salad and stuff. Obviously roast duck, no one can go wrong with roast duck, and goulash. So the typical Czechoslovakian dishes. But out of all, the roast pork and pork tenderloin were the biggest seller.
Actually, I had two aunts, so one was working and the other was supposed to take care of me. But she was partially deaf, so when there was an air raid announced, all children were sent home, and parents came – we were in the first grade, so all the parents came to pick them up – but because my aunt couldn’t hear, nobody picked me up.
When I was in the dorm I believe they knew everything I was talking about. Because those speakers… Every room had a speaker – like a radio – and the speakers were built two-way. And there was a secret room right at the front of that dorm where nobody was allowed to go, only some students who were Communist Party members. Besides that they had also guns with them. So there was something special going on in that room.
It remains always the same, and that reminds me very much of my childhood, of my happiest days. Perhaps they have internet nowadays but I doubt it, and people are still genuine and the same, and there is a road there and people probably have cars but there is still only the one shop, one pub. Nobody ever moves and the traditions remain, and I love that. There are very few places in the world that you can come and still find the same after many, many years away.