You know, it was such a terrible thing to happen to my country. I’d always grown up with a memory of the Nazis coming in and killing part of my family and all that, and then we were so looking forward to a peaceful, democratic world after the War was going to be over and we weren’t going to have any…
Military service Tag
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.
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 remember the War. Where we lived, the Americans used to fly over and drop their bombs on Plzeň, the Škoda factories, and they were flying right over us. I remember one New Year’s Eve, my parents were somewhere and they were coming back, and I think he [a military pilot] was shot or something, so he unloaded his bombs right in the forest by us, there was a big bang.
I was kind of oblivious to what was going on in politics. I think I started paying attention to it when I was 14, 15, 16. I remember sitting in a pub in Domaša, drinking beer and having a discussion with friends. My older friends, three years older were saying ‘Communism is going to fall. I am telling you guys, it will end.’
You do because you need to survive. You need to be able to talk to people, and if you just speak Slovak all the time, they don’t speak Slovak in the store or Czech or Russian – now they speak Spanish – so you have to assimilate. You assimilate language-wise, but cultural-wise, that comes with the system. As you live there, you start doing what other people are doing.
If I want to be honest, I had a bad education because those three or four years when I was in high school, we were learning about the Germans, and what was actually produced in Germany and history in Germany, every city in Germany, and we were actually neglecting quite of bit of education that we should have. Except maybe mathematics, but the rest of them – it was really poor education at that time.
Mother actually pressed charges, and the trail went all the way to court, to the High Court in Vienna, and the man was found guilty. And I believe he was sent to the eastern front. I think it was a very brave thing of mom to do and I was very proud of her because, had she lost, the consequences would have been very dire.
My mother told me the story that a good friend of his that he went to school with was on the police force in Pardubice – he turned into a communist – and the Communist Party, I believe it was on Good Friday of ’48, and they had a meeting and they were going to take over the country that Easter weekend.
At night we went on duty. And there was a little hill, and down at the bottom there was a creek and a flour mill. And so I says ‘You know, you guys, I want to go down and see if there is somebody, if I can catch somebody, down by the mill.’ So I went back there, nobody followed me, nobody looked where I was going.