• Today commemorates the 50th anniversary of our family’s emigration from former Czechoslovakia. It would also have been my dad’s 77th birthday. On this day in 1969, over a year had passed following the Soviet Union and members of the Warsaw Pact‘s illegal occupation of Czechoslovakia. Our departure would have been immediately after the invasion, but with my mother being eight months pregnant, my parents felt it would be safer to leave a year later.
• Our departure was shrouded in tremendous secrecy, with only the most trusted members of our family and friends knowing our plans. The local authorities could have found any minor excuse to prevent us from leaving the country. For this reason, I prefer to categorize our departure as an “escape”, even though we legally left the country with all the necessary paperwork.
• I want to thank my mother and father for their tremendous bravery and steadfast convictions in believing that we would have a better life in the West. Our departure may be the obvious choice in hindsight, but at the time, it could have been argued that there was no clear winner between the political doctrines of capitalism and communism. Two more decades were necessary to prove which was better. The collapse of the iron curtain and the end of the cold war at the end of the ’80s put a definitive stamp on that debate.
• When I was eight years old my father was driving me to our animal hospital where he worked as a veterinarian. During our drive, Taci decided to explain communism to me. I vividly remember him articulating the horrible regime from which we escaped, with a heavy heart. In these few minutes, he created a hypothetical analogy for my young mind to understand – “If Canada were to become a communist state, then our veterinary business and our house would be taken from us. In fact, every citizen in the country would not be allowed to own any business or property – the government would take ownership of everything. Even at eight years old this resonated with me. More importantly, I recall the sadness in his heart, while explaining this to me, because he had to leave behind many friends and family who continued under the repressive and totalitarian communist regime. As he took the final turn to the animal hospital he concluded by saying, “Unfortunately I will probably not live long enough to see the collapse of communism, but with any luck, maybe you will see it happen”. Both came to pass.
If you are interested in other posts of our emigration you can find their links here:
• Introduction by Eva Dusil • Editing by Gabriel Dusil • 2014 November
• When I was accepted at the University of Guelph to attend the Ontario Veterinary College, my mother had settled down with the assurance that I would finally finish my studies. It was my promise to her before we left Košice. Within a relatively short time I made friends in the dormitory. I was surprised how dedicated my classmates were to their studies. It was in stark contrast to the college in my home town, where few students would attend lectures. The atmosphere in Guelph was very collaborative, and everyone was ambitious. Students took their studies seriously. They knew that studying hard was for a better future. I realized how lucky I was that I was accepted into the program. My colleagues explained to me that the University of Guelph was one of the most sought after schools, and one of the hardest to get in.
• At the time, there were only two other universities offering veterinary degrees: Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and the Université de Montréal, Quebec. Candidates were admitted to the program based on their scholastic achievements – not based on knowing the right person in high ranking positions, as was the practice in Czechoslovakia. Competition into the college was fierce. Moreover, in those days less than 10% of the students were girls. Once I graduated I felt that a new phase in my life had begun. I was in a new country, speaking a new language, and part of a new economic and political ideology. I would finally become what I dreamed of since I was a child – to cure animals.
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“Ultimately the purpose of life boils down to one question: What do your children think of you? Our highest value is to live in the memory of our children.” Karol Dusil
• All three Dusil brothers were competitive and ambitious. This may have been due to genetics and partly because of their environment. All three brothers were denied many things growing up; They’re father wasn’t around during their formidable years so their mother carried the boys through their teenage years and into manhood. The repressive communist regime, was also a contributing factor, where a capitalist definition of ambitionwas prohibited. My uncle once told me they felt persecuted by the repressive communist regime. The best way for them to get back at them was to get the most out of iron curtain’s education system and use that to thrive in the West. All the Dusil brothers made a tremendously positive mark in this world, using their own resourcefulness, intelligence, and determination.
• One year after the Warsaw Pact Invasion, the two youngest brothers saw their opportunity to escape the regime. The oldest of the three had already settled in Sweden with no plans to return. After they emigrated a local journalist wrote about the Dusil brothers – In so many words he said that they took advantage of the communist education system and abandoned Košice Judo. It’s worth noting at this point that higher education in the communist regime was free. Often candidates were accepted into university, not based on their scholastic achievements, but based on the position their father held in the communist party. Of the 150 students that started in my uncle’s engineering class, only 50 finished. The journalist may have been politically pressured to write the article, although this has never been confirmed. In retrospect, the property their father owned, confiscated by the communists in 1948, would have covered the Harvard education tuition fee for all three boys.
• The brothers fought a lot, but stuck together when necessary. My dad’s temperament was closer to his mother’s, and the youngest brother was somewhere in between. The oldest brother was most similar in personality to their father. My father was the most sensitive of the three boys. My uncle once said to me, “You could easily hurt his soul”.
If you missed the previous posts on Dusil, then click on these links: