I also remember that one time there was a big commotion outside on the street and the soldier – I don’t know who it was – were after somebody, and they shot him right in the street, several men. That was kind of scary for me. Then one time – I had to walk to school past a church, it was like a churchyard – and apparently there was a bombing or some shooting there, and they had a bunch of bodies laying on the church ground, covered with cloth, and I had to walk through there to get to school and it really scared the heck out of me.
They called it Action E, the Gestapo – E as in exulants [exile]– you know? They rounded up most of the families who had anybody fighting abroad, to hold us as political prisoners to prevent us from giving aid to Czechoslovak parachutists sent from Great Britain to attack and sabotage the German occupation. Somebody had to hide them and they wanted to prevent that. So they arrested us all and put us in the camp.
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.’
When my father died, we moved back to my grandmother and grandfather’s and my uncle was over there, and they had a farm. But in Czech Republic, it’s not like here. There’s a village, and the fields are someplace else. Over here you have a house and everything is around it, but over there, you have the village and everything was outside.
When I was a teacher I could not go to church in my town. So if I wanted to go to church I went to Prague because nobody knew me. If I would go into my town church, I would not be able to be a teacher because religion was something which was not favorable to the communists.
My best friend and schoolmate and his younger brother and older sister, father and mother perished in the concentration camp. I was about 12 or 13 years old. I came to school one morning and he didn’t come. They day before was the last time I saw him, and they never returned back.
Some people at that time of my age, we loved country music, and we had tramping. We’d go to forests, which belonged to everybody, nobody can shoot you – there was no private property. We had campfires and the boys played guitar and sing old kind of country songs, so that was kind of our weekend.
We experienced Chernobyl in 1985 and we didn’t know about it for I don’t know how many days after it happened; after the press was forced to admit that something happened. They were denying [it]. Of course, it was all over the world, everybody was talking about it. If you listened to Radio Free Europe or any other station from abroad, it was discussed or talked about it, and the official line was nothing happened.
First, people were unhappy. But I think later, I think later when I was a little bit older, they had relief. Some people had really relief. Like, we can’t even work, it’s so much work, and now they have tractors and they have equipment, machinery, and many people had relief, actually.
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.