Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt
On this Day 13 of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 50k word challenge, I navigated through the two parts of the Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S.
Even though, I logged in only 1,044 words with chapter “Dad defects the second time,” I moved the project ahead by joining the most recent notes from mom and dad with the first storytelling part by storyteller Emma. Now, this was crucial, since until recently, I did not know what to do with the different points of view on the same immigration story.
Take a look at what the storyteller has to say about dad’s second escape in chapter “Dad defects the 2nd time.”
Excerpt: Dad defects the 2nd time
Years went by before I found out what had really happened. My parents plotted the second escape together. Mom even risked that she wouldn’t be able to leave the country to join dad.
“I knew about your dad’s plan,” she told me during an interview in Venice, Florida in March of 2013.
“You never said a thing back then,” I said.
“I couldn’t say anything that would jeopardize the entire plan,” mom said.
I thought that was really brave on both of their parts. Anything could have gone wrong. First of all, the country was under the hard- line communism rule of the 70s and 80s. The borders with Austria and Germany were guarded heavily. Then the situation was exacerbated by my parents’ first escape to Canada in April of 1970.
They had a record from the trial, and from the files of the Secret Police StB after returning to Czechoslovakia for the 1973 amnesty. I could have been thrown out of school, and they could have lost the apartment on the “Southern Slopes.” And my dad would end up in jail serving his sentence and more time for his second escape.
Dad left the second time on his 42nd birthday on August 23, 1976 from Zlin to Slovakia, Hungary and Rumania. He crossed the border between Rumania and Yugoslavia at Puerta Fiera, and from Yugoslavia to Austria where he switched plates for a German license plate.
“I just unscrewed it from another car at the border, when no one was looking,” he said.
He also had a black dingy just in case he needed to cross the Danube River into Austria. My parents painted it turquoise like the water. Dad trained how long he can stay under water at Lake Macha in Bohemia, Czech Republic. Dad has always been an excellent swimmer.
“I sold the boat for a can of Hungarian goulash,” he laughed in Venice, FL.
He waited in Germany at an auto camp for half a year before he got his green card. A friend from California helped out with the embassy dealings. Dad called Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas from Germany, and was offered a job with a smaller salary than before.
“I had to start all over again, right from the beginning,” he said. “I stayed at the Pettis Motel and in one half of a mobile home.”
The punishment for the second escape, because dad was considered a repeat offender, was 3.5 years in a third- degree correctional facility in Czech Republic.
Even today when I close my eyes, I have trouble imagining my gentle dad, a well-respected math professor, with gray blue eyes escaping across the borders at several check points with a painted dingy, unscrewing license plates and living in an auto camp, or at worse sitting in a correctional facility in a striped jumpsuit like any other jailbird.
My dad is a very balanced individual, infinitely patient, kind and he does not like taking risks, even though he is an adventurer.
But dad is also very motivated, accomplished and thorough. I can imagine all the nights, my parents sat with maps under a lamp, designing the second plan of escape; this time together.
One can never know a relative well enough, even if the relative is as close as a parent. What I find in the second escape inspiring, is the fact that dad followed through on the plan. He had two plans of escape as he described in his own words in the chapter titled: “How professor of math escaped Czechoslovakia.”
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