“I think I was mostly inconvenienced, being a teenager, by the restrictions on our lives – social lives – and curfews at night. I tried to go to ballet school and I couldn’t go because you had to be home before dark. Everything was all closed up without lights, because they worried about the Allied planes going over and bombing.”
It was more a matter of integrity I think. When they came to the United States, they were looking for different spiritual venues, but in Czechoslovakia nothing else existed and remaining Catholic meant that they would be adhering to their values, which they considered superior to the communist ones. So it was partly political. It was kind of a silent protest.
I was singing all songs and, because my parents were actually masters of ballroom dancing, they were teachers. Very known in the whole area where we lived. In all the villages and the towns around my parents were teaching hundreds of young people ballroom dancing. And that was my inspiration, because I listened to the music my parents listened to on the gramophone.
I saw horrible things here when the Russians came, and I was totally shocked. It was horrible, horrible how the Czechs behaved badly to the last Germans here. It was something unbelievable; it’s starting to come out now slowly. I didn’t want to live here, and I went to Vienna. I spent several years in Vienna, and from Vienna – the Gestapo were looking for me – I went to Switzerland.
Yes, yes. The American planes were coming through that area, going most often to bomb Austria, mainly Wiener Neustadt, where there were some factories which they considered important, and we many times had an alarm and we were so pleased because they had to chase us out of the buildings.
The Communists then arrested her in the summer of 1949. They took her into prison, they kept her in prison. They didn’t torture her, but they threatened torture. They kept her awake for three nights and three days, they would use sleep deprivation, they would use threats against her children, they would touch her skin with razor blades and say ‘You have to tell us this information.’
I have very fresh memories of walking by a grocery store or pharmacy and seeing empty shelves, or seeing a line of people waiting outside. The practice was that, if you saw a line in front of a pharmacy, you immediately went and stood in the line because something arrived that was never available, and it was the bizarre stuff you’d expect.
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.
“I played guitar. When I was about 14, I went to work for a summer in a cinderblock factory. It was hard work, but I made some money and bought my guitar. That’s also a time when I met a lot of people. You look, it’s a cinderblock factory, but everybody was an ex-professor, ex-teacher, ex-accountant, because they lost their job and the only thing they could do was doing manual labor. So that was another thought, ‘Now hold on just a minute, this is not right.”