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.
Warsaw Pact invasion Tag
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.
There were two reasons. One was they wouldn’t let me continue at school, and of course I knew that it was somewhere some farming cooperative that I would have to go to; and/or that I wouldn’t have a chance to grow intellectually and understand what was happening to my whole nation. To the literature, to the music, to the film. To the people, to their relationships.
I remember at one point in time, he wanted to import some Jewish cookies and things that were used for Sabbath and so on from Slovakia, and he did, and he got into trouble selling it, because it was not something on the government list. It was a constant struggle – him trying to improve the business and the government saying ‘These are the regulations and you can’t do that.’
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.
He had really good ideas, and those ideas which I heard, which he told me, I liked them, because I felt yeah, everybody should… there shouldn’t be hungry people, there shouldn’t be poor people, everybody should have a little piece of something, everybody should have free school, free health program. And that’s what communists promised. So that’s how he believed it.
At first I was frightened; I was overwhelmed because it was just too much. The skyscrapers, the people, the noise. At the same time, it was wonderful, but I was scared. I remember I was staying at some Czech’s apartment in the Upper West Side and I decided I had to go to the Metropolitan Museum [of Art]. I went to through the park [Central Park] and I got to the museum and I thought ‘I wasn’t killed, thank God.’
So my parents got on a motorcycle and they escaped across the border to Austria, like many other people were doing at the time, and I suppose this was quite a dangerous trip so they didn’t want to take a three year old on a motorcycle between them, so they left me with my grandmother. I wasn’t going to see them again, my mother for three years and my father for six years.