And the camp, which was a mix between a labor camp and a concentration camp, was actually liberated by the Red Army. So my father had a very favorable view of the Soviets and the Russians because he was liberated by them, and he, quite frankly, escaped with his life. He was lucky to get home in 1945 and he saw me when I was three years old.
1968 emigrant/refugee Tag
I spent two very busy and very enjoyable years in America and then I came back. It was the Prague Spring; it was extremely interesting; however, from early March, I was 100 percent sure that I knew that it will not end well. I had exit permits for the members of my family – my oldest son and my wife and myself.
He had really good ideas, and those ideas which I heard, which he told me, I liked them, because I felt yeah, everybody should… there shouldn’t be hungry people, there shouldn’t be poor people, everybody should have a little piece of something, everybody should have free school, free health program. And that’s what communists promised. So that’s how he believed it.
At first I was frightened; I was overwhelmed because it was just too much. The skyscrapers, the people, the noise. At the same time, it was wonderful, but I was scared. I remember I was staying at some Czech’s apartment in the Upper West Side and I decided I had to go to the Metropolitan Museum [of Art]. I went to through the park [Central Park] and I got to the museum and I thought ‘I wasn’t killed, thank God.’
There was no rabbi or synagogue to really practice the religion. My parents were Holocaust survivors. They didn’t go to any concentration camp, but they survived in hiding and they were afraid to practice, but we always knew from people that we are Jews because kids in school made fun of us and even the teacher would not favor us, knowing that we were Jewish.
That was the so-called kádrovanie, you know the sort of political… x-ray, you know, who you really are. But the funny thing is, they didn’t find out who you really are. I was lucky that my father was dead. If my father was not dead, I am out of medical school. You know, that’s what your origins are – you know, your belief, your religion – this is what counts. If you were not on their side, on the left side then, that’s it.
In eighth grade we started a rock and roll band, of which I was the lead singer and guitarist. And of course we played The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. That was seen like not only blasphemy but an anti-communist gesture, you know. So… we always had a lot of troubles, because of the long hair and everything else… But somehow it all sort of worked out, we squeezed by, you know.
We went to the streets, we talked to them [the soldiers], and it essentially was pretty much hopeless. There were some guys who would throw the Molotov cocktails at the tanks, but it was pretty much useless. You cannot fight the tanks and an armed army with bare hands and with stones. And if you do, they will shoot you. So then I went home.