When the deportation of the Jewish population started in 1942, my parents, to protect me, put me in an orphanage that was run by Catholic nuns in Bratislava. So I was there for two years. Fortunately, my parents were not put into a concentration camp, mainly because my mother was a physician and they needed physicians even during the War.
Healthcare professionals Tag
So I come to the gate and the soldier is closing the gate and I start crying – I’m 14, I look like I’m 11, and I said ‘My mother will kill me if I don’t see my father!’ He says ‘Well stay right here.’ Actually, it was the commandant of the labor camp that came out and he said ‘Okay, here is a piece of paper, and you will go to the place where your father is and show them this paper.’
I said ‘I’m not going to leave. I’m going to fight for the freedom and I’m staying here.’ I did not want to leave. When we got occupied by the Russians, I was involved in it and [when] I went back, second day, to the hospital, we put posters there and we all wore black because we did that at midnight when the Russian tanks were all around the streets. So I was involved in it and I was hoping that the Prague Spring, nobody is going to kill it because we were going to win.
There was this reform movement and people wanted to help the reform movement. With me, I also had several of my colleagues who did the same thing. As soon as the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia, in August ’68, I simply cancelled that thing, and that was also a very bad mark on my profile. This was one of the reasons why I started to do everything possible to get out of the country.
We talked about communism, even during communism. You know, in groups you talked, sometimes alcohol was involved, and then you started to talk, you know. People did talk. Sometimes you were unlucky and somebody maybe turned you in, you know? But this did not happen too much, it did not happen too much.
They not only killed the people who assisted directly, but also the family members. Often people ask me how come I survived and my brothers, and the only reason why we survived was because my parents were divorced. So even though it was a painful thing, it really saved our lives.
There was no rabbi or synagogue to really practice the religion. My parents were Holocaust survivors. They didn’t go to any concentration camp, but they survived in hiding and they were afraid to practice, but we always knew from people that we are Jews because kids in school made fun of us and even the teacher would not favor us, knowing that we were Jewish.
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.
So, thanks to the communists, when I came out of the country, I knew more than my colleagues because they were sitting in one place whereas I was all over – internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, infectious diseases. So I got the best training you can wish to survive. Thanks to the regime, and my belief not to sign ever to become a communist.