They had to stay with us, in our home, and never move out, never even open the window when mother and I were gone to the office in the morning. They knew they cannot move because you can hear on the lower floor that somebody is walking up there. My first thing here in America, anywhere I went, I would always listen – can I hear the people from above?
English language Tag
For instance, in the architecture field, I was supposed to already be very good in drawing. In order to get into architecture school, I would have to be excellent in drawing to compete with hundreds of applicants at the time. In addition, very good in mathematics and things like that. So I didn’t even try that. But then I wanted to be a journalist.
The free education, the free medical care. There were a lot of good things and if you could have political freedom and travel and exchange, then I think the system would have been very good. I didn’t understand why anybody would say no to it, because we didn’t want to declare war on Russia or some stupid thing like that.
My son was in kindergarten, no actually, he was in nursery school and we went along the street for a walk and there was a big poster of Lenin and my [son] said ‘Look mommy, Comrade Lenin!’ And she said ‘This is enough. I don’t want this anymore. I had enough. They put it into the children. We have to go. We have to leave.’
I love my mom and I have no complaints about my upbringing, but I think we were just, like, running wild. I remember running around the city when I was really young. Getting on the tram unattended. Going downtown, running around. It’s not like here where you’re worried about what’s going to happen to your children.
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.
At that time, it was very easy – the communist police were very smart. They would not nail you down on some anti-communist activities. If you worked somewhere they would set up a scheme, let’s say you misappropriated some money and they will nail on that, and there will be no way of getting out of that. So I knew all that and I said, ‘Well, I think I need to really work hard to get out of here as soon as possible.
Growing up in Montreal, there was an enormous Czech community and it was extremely vibrant. Interestingly enough, it was a homogenous group in the way that they interacted with one another, but they were anything but homogenous in terms of where they came from, because there were Czechs, there were Slovaks and there were people from every part of Czechoslovakia.
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.’
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.