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28 March 2011


Recollections - Excerpts from my life

by AVR

First trip to Czechoslovakia in 1966

When I was 15, I had the opportunity to go to Czechoslovakia and meet my extended immediate family for the first time. I fit right in speaking, reading and writing the language, knowing the folk songs and culture. I had been well prepared by my parents but, being an outspoken child used to the freedom of speaking my mind that so many of us in the United States take for granted, I’m afraid I may have caused my relatives some problems as they were continually telling me to be quiet as they would suffer the consequences of my outspokenness after I left.

I was called in to be interrogated by a senior police official (the one that was responsible for the continual harassment of my father’s family). I did well there with a combination of naïve wit and a knowledge and understanding of what to deny (any knowledge of my dad ever working for Radio Free Europe), what not to say (no overt anti-communist remarks) and when to pretend I didn’t fully understand the nuance of the language I was using.

My uncle had said he had to literally bite his tongue to keep from laughing as this innocent looking, underdeveloped 15 year old subtly put this arrogant official in his place. After spending a few days with me, he knew I understood the nuances of the language better than some of the native-born and that this official (from his informants) knew it too. This explained why his face was so red and he looked as if he would have a stroke by the end of his interrogation of me. My naiveté (I had no clue about the extent of the power this man had over my family, so therefore, I was not intimidated by him or his interrogation tactics) and my years of practice at witty and subtle put downs of my dad (the only form of back talk tolerated by him) were my (and my family’s) saving grace.

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