We had threatening phone calls [saying] they’re going to shoot my mother – it was from the [Czechoslovak] Consulate from somewhere, from England; I would think it was the consulate – and ‘You’ll never see your parents again’ and all of the sudden I said ‘My god! What have I done?’ So my coach said ‘From now on, you’re not going out,’ so for ten days I was in the house.
After I graduated high school, I applied to Charles University to study languages, and I was probably the most nervous because I kind of had to lie in my resume. I could never be truthful about my father’s past. Of course I said he was from a family of 14 and that kind of thing, but I never really talked about his business success.
My dad was actually in the army during the War. Slovakia at the time was also a republic, by itself. When the army was disbanded, and was caught by the Germans, he was sent to Germany to work on the farms as forced labor. They needed it; all the German men were in the army, so there was a shortage. So he did work in Germany until the end of the war.
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.
Everything in Czechoslovakia was kind of drab, gray and brown – we went to Austria and it was like a different world. The gas stations with the colorful flags and colors everywhere and new cars. I think that left a huge impression on me. [I thought] ‘I want to live here,’ you know? And Coca-Cola and fries! Eating fries was like ‘Wow.’ It was amazing.
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.
One time they were bringing through the town soldiers which they had captured – and when I remember that, this was absolute horror. They needed water and they needed bread; they were asking. I ran home and brought all the bread and all the water and I was running to them, and the Nazi [said] ‘Halt! Halt, halt!’ and he had the revolver ready to shoot.
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.
And the camp, which was a mix between a labor camp and a concentration camp, was actually liberated by the Red Army. So my father had a very favorable view of the Soviets and the Russians because he was liberated by them, and he, quite frankly, escaped with his life. He was lucky to get home in 1945 and he saw me when I was three years old.
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.