Kveta Gregor-Schlosberg (born Květa Gregor), 1925
Kveta Gregor-Schlosberg was born in Jičín, northeastern Bohemia, in 1925. Her mother’s family owned the chateau, Čeřov Jicin, in which she was born, and Kveta describes her childhood there as a ‘fairy tale.’ Kveta began ballet lessons in Jičín when she was six years old, and says she made her debut at the National Theatre in Prague at the age of seven. When Kveta was ten, she moved to Prague with her family, as her father Josef, a military officer, was transferred from his regiment to the Ministry of Defense. In Prague, Kveta attended a language school where she studied English, French, and German, and continued dancing.
When Nazi forces occupied Prague, Kveta and her family were separated. Her father lost his job in the Ministry of Defense and moved to Plzeň for work. Kveta’s mother returned to Jičín, and Kveta remained in Prague. She says that she only saw her father a few times during WWII; later, she was told that her father had been active in underground resistance and did not want to jeopardize his family. Kveta recalls other changes the Nazi occupation brought to her life. Hitler mandated that all people born in 1925 would be sent to Germany to work unless they could prove they had employment. Kveta says that she immediately found an appointment as a dancer for a theatre company housed in the basement of her apartment. She says she was able to continue studying, but only German, as her other studies were banned.
Immediately following liberation, Kveta and her mother traveled to Plzeň to find her father; however, he was traveling to Prague to meet up with them. Kveta says that the few days she and her mother spent in Plzeň while waiting for things to get straightened out were fun, as they were able to celebrate liberation with the American soldiers. Once back in Prague, Kveta began working at another theatre and dating an American soldier her father knew. They married in September 1945 and for one year traveled around Germany to various military stations; Kveta says they spent time in Nuremberg during the war criminal trials. Kveta and her husband then moved to San Antonio, Texas, but in December 1947, she returned to Czechoslovakia to visit her parents. The Communist coup occurred while she was visiting in February 1948, and Kveta found herself unable to return to the United States, as her father was arrested and made to stand trial. She was offered a job processing visas at the American Embassy. In 1949, her father’s trial ended and Kveta’s boss arranged for her to receive a visa back to the United States. Divorced from her husband, Kveta settled in Washington, D.C. where she found employment as a receptionist in an apartment building. She later married her second husband, Bruce Schlosberg and had three children. Today, Kveta lives in Washington, D.C. with her former classmate from Jičín, Lubomir Hromadka.
Kveta employed her dancing skills when she was forced to find work quickly
“Hitler ordered [everyone] who was born in 1925 has to immediately stop all schooling and go work, and you have to have an Arbeitsbuch, (a working book). So, my gosh, I didn’t know what to do, because that year, everybody was sent to Dresden to work. So, my gosh, my father was in Plzeň, my mother in Jičín, and I didn’t know what to do. So where we lived for school, in the pensionat, downstairs was a theatre. And I decided to go down and ask for a job, and explain to them otherwise if I don’t have an Arbeitsbuch I’m going to be sent. So they said ‘What education do you have? What do you do?’ I said that I do ballet since I was 16 with Madame Nikolská. So they said, ‘Go to her and she will write everything, and go to the Arbeit office and they will give you a book. I ran to Madame Nikolská’s house, woke her up at 6:00, and she signed everything she had to do, and I went with it to the office and they gave me an Arbeitsbuch. And they gave me an engagement in the theatre. So I went to school – I kept on with German – and had school, and in the night I would go dance in the operetta, it was an operetta theatre.”
Kveta was in Plzeň immediately following the end of WWII
“When he wasn’t there, we had fun with the Americans. They were throwing cigarettes at us. Plzeň, the only place where the Americans came, and I would practice the little bit of English that I knew, and we would look out from the window; we smoked so much with my mother.”
After Kveta’s father was arrested, she and her mother were followed by the secret police
“My father went at 6:00 to the Ministerium, and we didn’t see him for a year. We called the office, ‘Where is he? He didn’t come home.’ ‘Oh, just look in all the hospitals.’ That was their answer; there were already Communists there. And Jake [her husband] calls and says ‘Get out of there. Get on the plane and get back.’ The next day, for us came two Czech communists. They interrogated us in our home.
“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 stayed in front of our door downstairs. And we would go listen on the balcony, with my mother and they would say ‘It’s 10:00, they’re not going to go anywhere. Let’s go.’ Can you imagine, to put two communists to watch us two? What were we going to do?”
While awaiting permission to return to the United States, Kveta was offered work at the American Embassy
“One day, the bell rings about 8:00. And I said ‘Mommy, don’t open, don’t open. It’s those idiots from downstairs.’ Mom says ‘They’re not there anymore. Let’s look who it is.’ So we looked, and we see a man; I never saw him in my life. It was the consul from the American Embassy to come check on me and to ask ‘Please come work for us. We need you.’ Boy, I got a job like you don’t dream. And the money! I could take my mother for dinner, and pay everything. So I was there at the American Embassy for two years.
Did you come under extra scrutiny for working at the Embassy? Did they watch you more closely? The secret police?
“No, they watched the Embassy. One time, they locked us all there, but they had to give up. It was a beautiful job. Of course, my mother was scared all the time that something would happen, but I felt good. I felt that the Embassy would know about me if something would happen.
“We were the permit office. We decided if [the applicant] was a little bit communist, and we would say ‘Oh, we don’t have a visa [to the free zone] for you yet.’ I knew, so we would hold them. ‘Oh, I want to go to Germany’ and so on. ‘Yeah, come next week. Come in two months.’ In the meantime, they would check him. Always, I was right.”
Category: Oral History