• 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:
I remember when Taci would drive me to school in the morning, and sometimes I’d be late because of the train tracks.
I remember when Taci walked up the stairs and his ankles would crack.
I remember when Taci shared his grapefruit with me, and when he peeled me a big piece he said it was a ‘horsie bite’. If it was bigger than that, it was an ‘elephant bite’, and the biggest one was a ‘buffalo bite’.
I remember going to the Canadian National Exhibition and a carnival game would chant ‘doggie doggie, buffalo buffalo”. Taci would say that for years later, when he was in a good mood.
I remember when Taci took me to my guitar lessons.
I remember when Taci would play the banjo at night.
I remember Taci teaching judo, and wrestling with his students.
I remember when Taci and I went to the 1976 Olympic Games, and I asking him why he wasn’t fighting in the Judo matches with the other men.
I remember when Taci watched NHL hockey. He would ask me to get him a beer from the fridge, and I’d secretly take a sip before bringing it to him.
I remember when Charlotte’s Web premiered on television but I cried because I wasn’t allowed to watch it, because of hockey.
I remember when Taci bought the Aldershot Animal Hospital and we slept there for six months till our house was built.
I remember when Taci was upset with me because I filed a client card incorrectly, and he couldn’t find it.
I remember when Taci was operating on a dog, and the air smelled bad.
I remember when Taci told Mamička about the clients that visited that day.
I remember our great dane respected and loved Taci a lot.
I remember when Taci built a pool for us in the back yard, and he played with us.
I remember when Taci chasing me and my cousins around the house, and how happy I was to have a dad that played with me.
I remember when Taci built a deck and I helped by holding the measuring tape. Taci kept saying 69″ with each board he measured and from that day forward we called the measuring tape ’69’.
I remember Taci telling me stories about his family, and how life was like in Czechoslovakia.
I remember asking Taci why we left, and I noticed how sad he was, telling me that communism will unlikely fall in our lifetime.
I remember how Taci talked to and respected everyone, even an elevator attendant.
I remember when I asked Taci about the birds and the bees and he told me that you should love someone if you make love.
I remember when Taci would stand by the window and look at the ravine for a long time, thinking about stuff.
I remember when Taci stood in the kitchen, looking depressed, and I wanting to tell him that everything would be OK.
I remember when Taci came out of the house when I was playing basketball. He looked at the house, as if for the last time. As he walked down the street I thought I would never see him again.
I remember Taci laughing,
I remember Taci crying,
I remember that Taci was strong and smart,
I remember that everyone respected Taci,
I remember how everyone loved Taci.
If you missed the other Taci posts, you can link to them here:
• Introduction by Eva Dusil • Editing by Gabriel Dusil • 2014 November
• According to communist propaganda, only rich people could attend university in the West. They told us many lies, trying to convince us that Socialism was superior to Capitalism. Constant propaganda brainwashed citizens in believing that the West was an evil imperialist empire. History has told a different story. Either way, the borders were essentially closed to the public, except for a select few who were allowed to travel and see the real picture with their own eyes. This included politicians and top athletes. Communist leaders told us that they were protecting our borders from the evil capitalists. But the ongoing joke was asking why border guns were facing their own citizens, and not the enemy.
• The younger generation believed much of what was told to them. When you grow up seeing, hearing, and reading propaganda, you believe it. Especially when you don’t know any different. Most citizens didn’t have any idea what the West was like. When we finally immigrated to Canada in 1969, our stories filtered back to family and friends in Czechoslovakia. The Canadian government offered us English language courses for free, and financial help get us on our own feet. We bought a cheap camera and took pictures among the fruit stands of a grocery store, to show our parents we weren’t starving. In those days our friends and family had to line up for toilet paper, potatoes, bread and other daily necessities. Store shelves in Eastern Europe were practically empty. Once in Canada, our eyes finally opened to the success of democracy and freedom. It was hard for the Communists to keep that a secret.
If you missed the previous Dusil posts, then click on these links:
• 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.
If you missed the previous Dusil posts, then click on these links:
• My father, Vaclav (Vašek) Dusil started training judo in 1958, when he was 16. His older brother started in 1959. The youngest of the three started in early 1960. My dad and his older brother were the stars of Košice men’s judo throughout the 60’s, although his younger brother won junior regional titles in both 1961 and 1962. My uncle admitted that he was never as good as his two older brothers, but was a reasonably good coach, and a good organizer. This is one of the reasons why my dad gave him the task of coaching the women’s team in late 1961, when the previous coach, Juraj Mazanek went off to complete his military service. My uncle was also the president of the club from 1962 to 1968, and therefore took care of most of the bureaucracy.
• In 1962, six months after my uncle took over the task of coaching the women’s team, one of the judoka, Julia Tothova won her first gold medal for Košice, at the Czechoslovakian Championships. The following year she also won gold at the the International judo tournament in Bratislava. This event was attended by Austrian, Italian, and Czechoslovak competitors. Julia beat the reigning Austrian champion in the finals, which became a mini-public relations sensation in their home town. Košice was an eastern Slovakian town that was considered a relative backwater compared to Prague or Bratislava. It was their women’s judo team who mostly made the headlines in Košice in the 60’s. From 1962 to 1969 they won no less than 12 individual Czechoslovakian titles plus an unofficial team title. Due to their success the club also received increased funding for the whole judo team, from the Lokomotiva Kosice “brass”. My dad won a bronze medal in the Czechoslovakian Junior Championships in 1960, which according to my uncle, should be considered at least an equivalent achievement to Julia’s gold, due to the higher level of competition on the men’s side.
• A Note to the Reader
• All photos in this blog can be downloaded by just clicking on them. The images will open in a new tab in your browser, where you can then save them to your computer. If you want an even higher quality version (if you want a high resolution print for example) then let me know, as I have the original uncompressed Tiffs.
• If you have anecdotal information related to any photos in this blog, then please send me the details, and I would be happy to add your postscript below the photos. Just send me an email or post your comments at the end of this blog.
• 1961 July • Janošikova Bašta, Slovakia • Judo Team Hike
• This photo was taken of the Kosice Judo team during a hike in Janosikova Basta, around 20km northwest of Košice.
• This photo was taken inside our the training facility. Juraj Bialko won the junior championship (under 18) Eastern Slovakian Regionals in 1961 together with my uncle, Ivan Spisak and Robert Pinter. • Sano (Alexander) Drabcak worked as a waiter when the Russians invaded on the 21st of August 1968 (just before you were born). Within hours the stores were stripped of all groceries. The only items available were spirits and wine. My uncle had nothing for his baby daughter except for sweet tea. Two days after invasion he went to Sano in desperation, and asked for liter of milk for his baby. Sano gave him one. A week later the food supply returned to normal. Some acts of compassion are never forgotten.
• Postscript from me • 2014 October • Of the judo photos that I have restored so far, this is my favorite. It’s my dad in action, so-to-speak. I love his expression, together with Vojtech’s reaction, just as my dad leaps over his back. The press photographer captured the moment perfectly.
• Top row – Juraj Mazanek, Miro Brozek • Standing – Vaclav Dusil, Dusan Halasz, Igor Fridrich, Csaba Kende, Jozef Arvay • Kneeling – Adolf Kostrian, Pepo Vosecky, Jozko Lemak, Jozef Grusecky
• This photo taken inside the judo training facility. Miro Brozek was the president of the men’s judo club for many years after we emigrated to Canada in 1969. Miro was also one of the many attendees to Csaba Kende’s 80th birthday. The men and women’s teams separated as part of Csaba Kende’s reorganisation of the club in the early 1970’s. Jozko frequently visited my dad frequently during our early years in Canada.
• Berco Allman won gold in heavy weight (80+ kg) and Joe Nalevanko won gold in light weight for Slavia Košice (-63kg). Robert Dusil won gold in middle weight (-80kg), Vašek Dusil won gold in welter weight (-70kg), for Lokomotíva Košice. This photo was taken in front of the building which housed a room with soft wrestling mats. This is where the judoka (Judo students) also trained. The building was torn down many years ago.
• Postscript from me • 2014 October • Growing up I saw my dad’s medals, displayed on the wall, on a purple velvet covered plaque. I remember asking him one day, what his medals were for – I must have been six or seven years old. He told me that he won them in judo competitions. But he didn’t say much more than that. Only 40 years later can I truly appreciate my dad’s accomplishments.
Adolf Kostrian, Andrej Collak, Anna Collakova, Berco Allman, Csaba Kende, Czechoslovakia, Darina Poprenakova, Digital Restoration, Dusan Halasz, dusil.com, Edo Novak, Gabriel Dusil, Igor Fridrich, Ivan Spisak, Janosik Bastam, Joe Nalevanko, Jozef Arvay, Jozef Grusecky, Jozko Lemak, Julia Tothova, Juraj Bialko, Juraj Mazanek, Karol Dusil, Košice, Ladislav Kende, Michal Korytko, Miro Brozek, Nyarjas, Orendas, Pepo Vosecky, Robert Dusil, Sano Drabcak, Slavo Sykorsky, Slovak Judo, Vaclav Dusil, Vašek Dusil, Vojtech Agyagos, Zuzka Dusil