• We don’t change to the person we become. Life exposes who we always were from the beginning. As we get older some find ourselves segmenting their lives into chapters. Sometimes they are separated by tragic events. Maybe they’re events that significantly changed the direction of their lives. All our chapters formulate the book of our lives, and shape our destiny.
• Chapter I • 4,649 days
• Growing up I wasn’t the greatest brother. I was an angry kid, and didn’t have a strong bond with my sister. I could say that it was partially due to the example set by my friends. It seemed we all had a love-hate relationship with our younger siblings. Or maybe it was just my perception. Looking back I think my behavior was mainly influenced by the bullying I faced in elementary school. I was “that guy” no one liked. Possibly it was because I wasn’t from the same neighborhood. I went to a school close to my parent’s animal hospital, not where we lived. That way it was easy for me to walk there after school. Our house was far from school, meaning that on the weekends I never played with my classmates. When you’re bullied then your anger is so fixated on the aggressors that you’re oblivious to the fact that you are the bully to someone else. Many people told me I would regret my behavior, and that turned out to be true. My sister didn’t deserve it, and I try to make up for it to this day.
• I don’t even remember seeing my sister when she was a baby. I am six years older than her, and I often used that as an excuse why we didn’t bond. I realized that when she was born I had already starting my first year in elementary school. After school I would walk to the animal hospital and stay there until my father finished work. By the time I got home my sister was getting ready for bed. So there was little chance for us to get to know each other. For most of my adult life I have tried to be a good brother.
If you missed the other Gabičko posts, you can find them here:
• Introduction by Eva Dusil • Editing by Gabriel Dusil • 2014 November
• In my third year of veterinary studies, Prague Spring began. It was January of 1968 and Alexander Dubček was at the forefront of the reforms. Some of the leaders rallied behind him, wanting to give communism a human face. It felt like fresh air was blowing though the country. We began to lift our heads in hopes of a better future. The older generation was cautious but everyone else was optimistic. Eight months later the Soviets decided they had enough and sent 200,000 troops to clamp down on our aspirations. One month after that Warsaw Pact Invasion my son, Gabriel was born.
• Soon after the invasion, a mass exodus began. We decided to leave everything and everyone behind. In October 1969 I was supposed to begin my fifth year of veterinary studies. We fled the country instead. This was only possible because of the general chaos during those few months. There were relaxed procedures in the government agencies responsible for issuing travel visas. My parents were devastated by our plans, but still supported us. Vašek and I assured my mother that I would finish university, but we had no idea how we would fulfill that promise. First and foremost we had to focus on survival and take care of our baby. We believed that as long as we had two healthy hands we would survive.
• There was no looking back. Our flight took us through Paris, where we spent nine weeks waiting for approval to immigrate to Canada. Coming from an authoritarian regime, we thought we had to choose a province. With pressure from the immigration officer, we chose Saskatoon, Saskatchewan because they had a veterinary college. She encouraged us to choose an agricultural province. On the 9th of November 1969 we arrived in the beginning of a freezing cold winter. We met other Slovaks including my favorite professor from Košice, František Hrudka. He had also immigrated! By this time he was lecturing at the University of Saskatchewan. The people we met were supportive and ready to help us, but I felt lonely. Vašek was gone most of the day looking for a job and I was left alone with Gabriel, and nobody to talk to.
• On one occasion a local Slovak family invited us for dinner. I told them I wanted to continue with my veterinary studies. “Well, you’ll be the only female veterinarian in Canada” was their reply. Suddenly I felt that we came to some backward country. But I soon realized that they didn’t know much about veterinary medicine. It was true that there were few women in the profession, but I didn’t lose hope. Meanwhile, back home my mother listened to criticism that all her sacrifices had been wasted, and that I didn’t finish my studies. After ten long days in Saskatoon, we realized that we were in a free country, and could go wherever we wanted. The layers were shedding from the repressive regime we left. We were no longer prisoners of the state. We contacted Manpower and with their help we moved to Toronto, Ontario to join my brother-in-law, and his family. Within a few days we were happily reunited and I was surrounded by family. We lived together in a rented house, attended English language classes together. Vašek worked part time at a car wash with his brother. We took turns babysitting, while the other attended English lessons. Vašek was also studying for his provincial veterinary exams which he passed without difficulties.
• Postscript by Gabriel Dusil
Today commemorates the 46th anniversary of our arrival to Canada.
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• During the communist era very few citizens of the eastern bloc were allowed to travel to the west, except for politicians and sportsmen. Travelling amongst countries such as East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia were allowed. But even that was difficult, since the authorities only allowed travel to the eastern block once every two years. Travel to the west on a Czechoslovakian passport required both a “vyjazdna dolozka” (an “exit visa” granted by the passport police) and an entry visa granted by the western country. Only after receiving the “vyjazdna dolozka” (specific to the country of destination) could the traveler apply for an “entry visa”. In addition, the traveler’s employment manager needed to approve the application.
• Top sportsmen from Czechoslovakia would have a number of STB minders when competing in western countries. STB, or “Štátna tajna bezpečnosť”, is Slovak for “State Secret Security”. Essentially they were the Czechoslovakian equivalent to the Russian KGB. STB minders were present as members of the Czechoslovakian delegation at events such as the Olympics, European or World championships. Despite these minders, some successfully defected to the embarrassment of the communist party – Martina Navratilova (tennis), Václav Nedomanský and Richard Farda (hockey), and many others. In the early 1960’s travel rules and political repression was a bit relaxed. But these political changes were not enough and this led to changes in the communist party hierarchy. It also resulted in the attempted reforms of the new General Secretary, Alexander Dubček, referred today as the Prague Spring. On the 21st of August 1968 the Soviet Union and four other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia to halt Dubček’s reforms. This meant in a renewed orthodox communist grip on Czechoslovakia for the next twenty years.
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• In 1969 my uncle requested travel to Paris, His boss asked what would happen to his children. My uncle lied, saying that his children would stay with their relatives. Essentially he was reassuring his boss that my cousins would remain home as “collateral deposit”. This was sufficient to reassure the authorities that the traveler would not defect. On that basis his manager approved their travel request. My uncle subsequently forged his children into the application. They obtained exit visas from the passport police, and then entry visas into France. Ten days later they “forgot” to return. The rest is history…
• Digital Photo Restoration
• 4 minutes 40 seconds
• Postscript by Eva Dusil • 2014 October • Gabičko, this a very cute photo when you were about two months old. I still remember Nanika commenting how well you were able to hold your head up. Love you, Mom, with happy memories.
• Postscript from me • 2014 October • I think I could have won the award for the roundest head in Czechoslovakia.
• 8 minutes 00 seconds
• Postscript by Eva Dusil • 2014 September • This photo was taken at Slavo Sykorsky’s villa in Košice, where we lived until we left Czechoslovakia in August 1969 and emigrated to Canada. Prior to Slavo’s place we lived in Pepo Vosecky’s apartment for short time. You were about four months old.
• Postscript from me • 2014 September • Look at that little baby… Precious!
• 8 minutes 19 seconds
• Postscript from Eva Dusil • 2014 October • These were taken in Košice on the day before we emigrated. We are at the bus station on our way to Bratislava to catch our flight to Paris the following day. In Bratislava we slept over at a rental apartment with Slavo and Milica Sykorsky. We arrived at Orly Airport in Paris, late in the afternoon on the 5th of September – on Vašek’s birthday. As we landed in France we finally felt free. Our first night was in a university dormatory, since the fall semester had not yet begun. You took your first steps that night. During the trip you had a bad cold, runny nose and fever, but a couple days after arriving in Paris you were fine.■ My father-in-law didn’t know that we were leaving, and later told us he would have informed the authorities.
Alexander Dubček, dusil.com, Eva Dusil, Eva Kendeova, Erika Dusil, Gabičko, Gabriel Dusil, Igor Fridrich, Karol Dusil, Lokomotiva Košice, Martina Navratilova, Pepo Vosecky, Prague Spring, Richard Farda, Robert Dusil, Slavo Sykorsky, STB, Stefan Bartus, Truncheon Law, Vaclav Dusil, Vašek Dusil, Václav Nedomanský, Vlado Makovsky, vyjazdna dolozka, Warsaw Pact invasion, Štátna bezpečnosť, Štátna tajna bezpečnosť