For the rest of us like me, [the war] was the most beautiful time because we had a beautiful friendship. All the time I was going to the gymnázium and our class was going together and we had a very, very close friendship. The reason for that was, you see, there was nothing else to do
Sokol was outlawed, but he [my father] was teaching a little gymnastics class that I and about a dozen boys, we would go into the old Sokol Hall and he made arrangements, he would teach us the stuff, you know, gymnastics: parallel bars, high bar, rings, floor exercises, the sort of typical stuff that the Sokols do – for several years. And I think he always believed in exercise and the whole notion of ‘in a healthy body is a healthy spirit.’
We had some political frictions, the Slovaks, but the biggest friction was between the Czechoslovaks and Slovaks. Fights erupted on a weekly basis, and the MPs marched in with big sticks and beat anybody who was outside regardless of what it was, who it was, whether they were fighting or not. Then finally the Germans took over the camp. Rocks were being thrown and even I had to sleep with a pipe in my bed, for my own protection.
There weren’t many veterinary school and they really didn’t want women either, and I said ‘I want to go to that university in Brno that you went to.’ And he said ‘What do you think you are? Look at yourself, you’re too [small].’ I was littler then. And he said, ‘You don’t have the strength to be a veterinarian. Come with me.’
One morning I walked out, as a little kid – I should have been in second grade, but the second grade was suspended because of the War – and I looked down the Laborec, which is our river, down towards the east, and I saw a formation of nine something. At first I thought they were geese, but no, as they came nearer and nearer the earth started shaking, and then somebody across the river in the Count’s grove, shot a couple cannons, so that was the beginning of a long day of being bombed.
I stayed in Prague, but I had to go to psychiatry. Children’s psychiatry [hospital], it’s a big place in Prague; it’s called Bohnice. A lot of people know it; it’s slang, like ‘You will end up in Bohnice’ if you get a little crazy. It was a really interesting experience, very, very interesting experience with the children. The children did like me a lot, because they had these old-fashioned nurses who were cruel and nasty to them.
You were getting closer to the border so the woods were there, but they were everywhere. So you could see them and that was a very scary thing. Probably not very much conversation going on in the car, not that I remember. I remember holding a doll and just sitting there, not knowing what was happening.
I remember my grandpa returning from the concentration camp, which was very lucky because his good friend learned of his imprisonment and intervened with the Allies and put him on a list to be exchanged. So my grandpa and the other leaders of Sokol – he was one of the five leaders – were on transport to Auschwitz, all the others died there, but they took him out of a railroad car, cattle car in Terezín and gave him a ticket to Prague.
We had some history books in the school always, and on the front of the history books was a tank, a Russian tank, with a flower and it said ‘we liberated you’. And I found out in 1968, which was the Prague Spring, I bought every week a Slovakian magazine called Expres, and they started to put a lot of stuff in, and I found out the southwest of our country was liberated by General Patton!