I was so hungry at supper, because I didn’t have no money or nothing, that I went to a local orchard where there were cherry trees. And I stuffed myself with cherries one day. And I went the second night… and until the owner caught me. The owner was threatening me that he would go to the police. So I was kind of crying to him and said ‘I’m a refugee, I’m hungry, I have nothing, please don’t take me to the police, I will pay you for what I ate from my first pay check,’ which I did.
Military service Tag
I didn’t like the idea of immigration, not only for myself, but also for other people. I thought that it is not the thing to do, that one should stay here and put up with the bulls**t here. So I don’t know how all of a sudden it changed. There are two things in my life that I was refusing or that I was not likely to do – it was my belief not to do them – two things: one is immigration, and the second is a country house. And I did both.
Over there, with kids, we go out hiking or something, we find an anti-aircraft machine gun, we find piles of ammunition and rifles. I remember we found an abandoned Tiger tank and about 15 of us started carrying ammunition and just dumping it in the open hatch – this was deep in the woods – and then we emptied out big shell casings and made a long path of gunpowder that went about half mile away, and lit it. What a bang. That was the entertainment for after the war for kids.
There was propaganda night and day. Night and day. Communists have the same thing. Night and day propaganda. Propaganda, that’s all they can do, propaganda, because they have nothing else to give. Radio, movies, or news. Propaganda on a streetcar. They write ‘Victory.’ Stuff like that.
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.
Things seemed right; not entirely right, but somewhat right. Things were far worse in Poland, where a person who was a Polish politician who lived on our street in London by the name of Mikołajczyk – they settled accounts with him by machine gun. Assassinations and so on. Things in Prague seemed to be ok, but not exactly right. And the bottom dropped out of things completely in February 1948.
He was an avid mushroom picker. He had an eye that would see every mushroom everywhere in the forest, and while he was walking around picking the mushrooms, he started a new hobby. He started picking up pieces of branches of wood and carved them into shapes of animals, like snakes, birds, etc. And that became his sort of profession in his retirement.
We couldn’t visit parks, we couldn’t go to the movies, we couldn’t travel without a permit, and we had to wear the Star of David. So you had to be marked. And that was not a very pleasant thing, and not necessarily because of the fact that you had to deliver your sporting equipment.
So, I get home. I’m asking all these questions, but I’m just a kid, ‘Shut up, be quiet.’ Well, as my mother wrote in that letter, they came in, they parked in front with the trucks, with the militia. They brought the papers in the house. ‘Sign the papers, or you’re never going to see this house again.’ And this is how we lost everything.