I came back to Prague with a paper saying I can come back to America as an expert. They’re going to take me to work. I came like a big man with a smile – I know how naïve I was; I know it today and I knew it later – I took the paper, I took vacation the next two weeks, I spent my money because I was happy, happy, happy [thinking] I’m going to America, right?
I don’t think our family really assimilated very well, as a whole, because all our friends were Czech and a lot of times if I wanted to do something I wasn’t permitted to do it because it wasn’t something that we did. So that kept me separated from everybody else a little bit.
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.
My neighbor was lent a dream book, and then his daughter gave me this dream book – I have it at home. In it was written that Pisces, which is my sign, not being close to the sea, will go to the other side of the world in search of the sea later on in life. And already then I thought: America!
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?’
When I was a teacher I could not go to church in my town. So if I wanted to go to church I went to Prague because nobody knew me. If I would go into my town church, I would not be able to be a teacher because religion was something which was not favorable to the communists.
We arrived in Vienna and spent four days in Vienna, staying with a friend. But we didn’t feel safe there to ask for political asylum because Vienna was too close to home and we heard about Communist agents roaming the city. So we proceeded; we got on the road and we hitchhiked to Italy.
There were two reasons. One was they wouldn’t let me continue at school, and of course I knew that it was somewhere some farming cooperative that I would have to go to; and/or that I wouldn’t have a chance to grow intellectually and understand what was happening to my whole nation. To the literature, to the music, to the film. To the people, to their relationships.
What I remember about school is that the first day of schooling, my official first school experience, was that we had to Heil Hitler when we first started the school day. So these teachers who are all Czech patriots would always do it funny. They wouldn’t do it right.