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!
American citizenship Tag
My best friend and schoolmate and his younger brother and older sister, father and mother perished in the concentration camp. I was about 12 or 13 years old. I came to school one morning and he didn’t come. They day before was the last time I saw him, and they never returned back.
Yes, we did have a chata, or summer home, or záhrada [garden] and we pretty much spend almost the entire summer there. There was always something to do. My dad was very much an avid gardener and we grew everything. I didn’t know such a thing as to go to a store and purchase potatoes or carrots or even things like jam or ketchup or anything.
I remember they were always teaching us about how great the Soviet system was, but it really did start changing in the mid-’60s and I remember when everybody was saying ‘Oh every guy from the Soviet Union is great,’ and then I remember one teacher – there was this picture with Stalin in it – and she said ‘Well, he is no longer on the good list because he had some of his own people shot.’
And then going to school was fascinating, because there was a lot of shrapnel on the road, and it was suggested that it would be helpful to collect the shrapnel, so we had bags or buckets or whatever, putting the pieces of shells in to collect so that they could melt it and shoot it back.
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.
Actually, it was scary, I tell you! That was one place I was sort of afraid because I hadn’t expected this, there were many people detained at Ellis Island, and we were separated – there were women in one section, men in another section, and they did have to take him to a hospital, I believe, or a doctor, and have a new X-ray done and have him proclaimed clear of any illness.
My mother told me the story that a good friend of his that he went to school with was on the police force in Pardubice – he turned into a communist – and the Communist Party, I believe it was on Good Friday of ’48, and they had a meeting and they were going to take over the country that Easter weekend.