I remember that after we came from midnight mass, my mom and my uncle and we stayed up and he was telling us about America, how great it is and this and that. As a kid you are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you have bananas every day? You can have oranges? You can have this?’ It was euphoria.
Cultural traditions Tag
There is only one time a year where I make Czech food, and it’s a fusion between Czech and American customs. On Thanksgiving, I don’t make turkey because I am not crazy about turkey – it’s dry. I do duck, and I bake the duck the Czech way because it’s one of the best dishes the Czechs are making.
When we went to Germany, we lived in Germany in the same town because the U.S. Army built the buildings for us, so we were in one area always together. We tried to keep our holidays, our football [soccer] games like at home. We tried to do the best we can because ‘Oh maybe we might go home soon, we might go home,’ but it never happened.
I remember that the Germans came to my house a few times looking for some revolvers or some guns, trying to catch something that could make problems. It worked out all those years pretty good, thank god. We had the pastry shop, so I never knew what it meant to be hungry after all.
I was terrified. Now it’s coming back to me exactly; it was August of 1969 which was exactly a year after the tanks rolled in after the Prague Spring, so there was great alarm that there might be some other military activity going on, or protests, on the anniversary. I remember having nightmares that I might get caught there, I might be arrested or…
Childhood in former Czechoslovakia was so pure. I was not touched by anything I learned later or read in newspapers about oppression during communism. I definitely felt very secure and safe and all those clichés about communism, that everybody is equal and there is no crime.
There was a misunderstanding, they believed only Communists were socially progressive, I thought that was retrograding, that was never really social progress. So I brought it to this man again by the side door, he gave me the stamp and the next day I was in Austria going to Switzerland.
Things seemed right; not entirely right, but somewhat right. Things were far worse in Poland, where a person who was a Polish politician who lived on our street in London by the name of Mikołajczyk – they settled accounts with him by machine gun. Assassinations and so on. Things in Prague seemed to be ok, but not exactly right. And the bottom dropped out of things completely in February 1948.
When you go to the Czech Republic or Slovak Republic, there is more hatred between each other. Prague people will say ‘Oh, we don’t like Slovaks,’ or Slovak people will say ‘I don’t like Czechs.’ But here I never hear anybody say that we don’t like each other. Here we are like one big community, and it’s like a brotherhood over here.
So, I get home. I’m asking all these questions, but I’m just a kid, ‘Shut up, be quiet.’ Well, as my mother wrote in that letter, they came in, they parked in front with the trucks, with the militia. They brought the papers in the house. ‘Sign the papers, or you’re never going to see this house again.’ And this is how we lost everything.