How was your spring and the beginning of summer 1968?
Personally I was busy planning the next difficult climbs in the High Tatras and preparing to return to study geology at Komensky University in Bratislava. There were loud political voices announcing new positive changes in the governing regime but to me it was just a political ploy.
Where were you and what were you doing when you found out about the Warsaw Pact invasion to the former Czechoslovakia?
I remember coming home late that night after spending time with my old friends in the Patronka Beer Garden. About 4AM I was rudely awakened by our family radio blaring in the living room, announcing the invasion.
What was your first reaction?
I felt like jumping on the streetcar and going downtown to see for myself if it was true. It all sounded so Orwellian.
Describe for yourself what you remember most from August 21 and the first hand
encounter with the invading army.
I foolishly jumped into a jeep with some protesters and headed for the old bridge by the river Danube. I distinctly remember the sound of bullets hitting the cobblestone around us. It sounded like heavy hail. We abandoned the jeep and and dove for the first narrow blind alley.
What were your personal experiences during the first week of occupation?
A day or two later, I recall walking with my girlfriend Dana (high school sweetheart who lived with her parents) on her street, Prokop the Great. The street was lined with up to 25 armored vehicles. The soldiers who looked like Siberians, forlornly chewed on their bricks of dark bread. I was determined not to show any fear but I never squeezed my girlfriend's hand so hard before.
How do you remember Alexander Dubcek?
I thought he was brave as I imagined he knew his days as a President were numbered, especially after his trip to Moscow on what seemed to be a Soviet military plane.
How did Aug 21, 1968 influence your life?
My father, at the time, was out of the country en route to Italy. My parents made a quick decision to meet in Austria, where they would decide what to do next. This left me a limited time to say good-bye to my friends, not realizing that I would never see them again. Mom and I left for Vienna about 5 days after the invasion.
We were united with my father in Vienna where we temporarily took refuge behind the thick walls of a monastery. We felt safe from the prying eyes of the K.G.B. agents which seemed to us to be everywhere.
How do you look at events in 1968 from today's perspective?
When I was a teenager of about 14 years of age, I had a vivid dream about being in a foreign city where I stood in front of two huge arches, that I had never seen before. When we landed in October of 1968 in Toronto, I leaned out the bedroom window that first morning and saw from the Ford Hotel the two arches of the Toronto city hall. I felt comforted that after all, God is still in control of our destiny.
Written by Bystrik Brazda, Edited by Charmaine Brazda
August 30, 2016