Initially, when I came to Australia – I think partially under my mother’s influence; she literally was disgusted with Europe, with the Nazis and the communists, and I, reflecting that, my attitude was ‘I want to learn English, I want to assimilate and to hell with the background.’ Yes, my father was a famous guy, so what? And so in Australia, I had virtually no connection with anything Czech.
My father believed in communism. He thought, after the War – it was the Soviet soldiers that liberated him, it was the Soviet soldiers that liberated Auschwitz, and so, my mother wasn’t involved at all, but my father was a member of the Party. And he believed that this is the right way to go. And now, bang, his brother gets arrested and he says, ‘No, this is not possible, this is wrong.’
That was the great time in my life. I was in Bratislava, I was like 17 or something and the revolution started in… or some kind of signs of the revolution were in 1988 – the year before the real revolution, there was the candle demonstration. I remember I was in school, and they told us ‘don’t go there,’ and that kind of made us wonder, and we went there.
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] judged and sentenced the farmer immediately for so-called ‘crime against the republic,’ meaning they were accused, for instance, of having for example just an extra goose more than they were supposed to have, or that they didn’t return the proper amount of grain which they were supposed to give to the state, to this supply office. It didn’t need to be true.
They were teaching us how to make a puppet; we had to design a puppet and make it. And everyone was oohing and aahing how similar style I had, that it was almost Jim Henson-like. All that I needed was to look at that Muppet inside out and I could figure out how to do it. That’s all I needed.
I have photographs of myself being a year and half sitting my dad’s lap and his hair is a big curly afro and drinking beer in pubs. I understand that at that time pub life was very much the center of social life where people were able to vent their opinions and be in maybe safer company.
And from my mother I received this knowledge of art and architecture and she was very passionate about it. So, the way how she taught us – I remember that she dragged me through all the museums and galleries and from when we could travel from 1967 throughout the whole of Europe. And I hated it because she was quite forceful in her ideas of what is good and what is bad.
When this plane landed, of course the airport in Prague was extremely primitive then, and we landed at what looked like a shack, a wooden building that actually a neon hammer and sickle over the top, and it was really a foggy day in October. It was creepy; I was scared as hell coming in there.