I also remember that one time there was a big commotion outside on the street and the soldier – I don’t know who it was – were after somebody, and they shot him right in the street, several men. That was kind of scary for me. Then one time – I had to walk to school past a church, it was like a churchyard – and apparently there was a bombing or some shooting there, and they had a bunch of bodies laying on the church ground, covered with cloth, and I had to walk through there to get to school and it really scared the heck out of me.
Refugee camp Tag
She got beaten quite a bit in the camps, because you had all this quota that you had to fulfill. Since she was a professional seamstress she was really very good. And she worked very hard, and of course they were on starvation food – they got watered-down beet soup, watered-down oatmeal – that was kind of the food of the day.
Tramping to us was really special, of course you know I was thinking about that when I came to America because the name ‘tramp’ in Czech was somebody who was noble, it was a noble name; it was somebody who was good, a right person, a true patriot, a person who knows nature and loves nature.
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.
When my father died, we moved back to my grandmother and grandfather’s and my uncle was over there, and they had a farm. But in Czech Republic, it’s not like here. There’s a village, and the fields are someplace else. Over here you have a house and everything is around it, but over there, you have the village and everything was outside.
Just how the country was run, it was like you don’t have any ambition, you don’t have any drive to become a better person, a wiser, more mature individual. It’s so difficult out there to be able to make something of yourself, to be able to stand out and live your life, and she thought the freedom allowed in America would be a great, great asset for he and I to be a part of.
My dad was actually in the army during the War. Slovakia at the time was also a republic, by itself. When the army was disbanded, and was caught by the Germans, he was sent to Germany to work on the farms as forced labor. They needed it; all the German men were in the army, so there was a shortage. So he did work in Germany until the end of the war.
Everything in Czechoslovakia was kind of drab, gray and brown – we went to Austria and it was like a different world. The gas stations with the colorful flags and colors everywhere and new cars. I think that left a huge impression on me. [I thought] ‘I want to live here,’ you know? And Coca-Cola and fries! Eating fries was like ‘Wow.’ It was amazing.
When I was a kid I liked to cook. We had a garden and, on my own, I went, pulled out some vegetables, some fruit and I was making soup, and he [George’s father] said ‘My god, you cannot eat that. It’ll spoil your stomach!’ What can ten year old kids cook if you don’t have any experience? So then my mother said ‘Ok, I will take care of it.’ And she was dictating some recipes to me. I remember the first one – potato soup.
Well, it’s different because when we had an enemy; it was someone German speaking in a gray uniform. But with the communists, it could be anybody; your neighbor, your family. You did not have the sense of ‘us’ being in the right. I mean you may have felt it… I really thought it was destructive to the soul of the people.