You know, it was such a terrible thing to happen to my country. I’d always grown up with a memory of the Nazis coming in and killing part of my family and all that, and then we were so looking forward to a peaceful, democratic world after the War was going to be over and we weren’t going to have any…
Czech language Tag
She got beaten quite a bit in the camps, because you had all this quota that you had to fulfill. Since she was a professional seamstress she was really very good. And she worked very hard, and of course they were on starvation food – they got watered-down beet soup, watered-down oatmeal – that was kind of the food of the day.
We remember the Nazi occupation for sure. Even as kids, we know how the situation is, we understand it. Even if we were young kids, it didn’t bother us much, but we knew it was a really serious thing, especially after the Heydrich assassination and so on. ‘Keep your mouth shut and be careful.’
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.
The Germans started to collect any male they could at the very end – and I’m talking here about the end of March and beginning of April 1945; Bratislava was liberated on April 4 – and when my father heard that, and since my brothers were 17 and 18 at that time, in other words, in a very dangerous age group, he wanted to run with them to our summer house and hide there.
There was no need to learn the Czech language. Of course, growing up in Czechoslovakia, there is mutual understanding, so I could understand everything. I just kept speaking Slovak because I would rather speak normal Slovak than broken Czech if they can understand me, and there was no problem.
His colleagues were teasing him and said ‘What if you said this?’ When my dad sat before the microphone, he blurted that out, and of course, before he was finished, a couple of Gestapo officers were waiting for him and took him into this infamous Petschkuv Palac. My father wasn’t tortured, but he was interrogated for 24 hours
Talking about the politics, it was very tightly controlled by the government, by the Communist Party. You were told what plays you could produce and what you could not stage. You also had to produce a Soviet play, and a play that was so-called ‘progressive’ – that was a political propaganda play.
I was frustrated because the whole setup of life in Czechoslovakia was, in a way, humiliating to people’s minds, because you have to repeat or you have to participate or you opened the newspaper and there were these idiotic statements about harvest and about how we are fighting [Patrice] Lumumba and all that stuff. Not Lumumba – we were friends with Lumumba – but ‘We’re fighting the imperialists’ and stuff like that. And then you were waiting in line for one banana.
I remember the Revolution itself. I remember it sort of as a feeling. I know our parents, mostly because we were little, we watched it on TV. They did not go, because they had two little kids at home, they did not go zvonit klíči [jingling keys], as they call it, in the square, but we stayed at home and I just know that we felt that something essential was changing in our life.