Petr Jandacek

Family History Written by Petr Vojtech Josef Jandacek

Note for kin: With Marie’s Imprimatur: This is the Jandacek Family History from Petr’s point of view and consequent emphasis on his memories. Marie’s input is in italic type in the second quarter of this text. In October 2009 my sister, Marie, was kind enough to supply me (Petr) with a dateline of events and locations in the DP Camps of the American Zone in 1948, 1949 and 1950. Other family members may use this framework and hang their personal histories upon this text.

Petr, the New Mexico Czechano

Delayed Pilgrims’ Progress

DP were the initials for a DISPLACED PERSON, but those of us who had the status feigned that it stood for DELAYED PILGRIM. Written by Petr Vojtech Josef Jandacek (Peter Albert Jandacek on American citizenship documents), born in Prague on March 30, 1941.

Why Delayed Pilgrims’ Progress? The “original” Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Harbor, on the western side of Cape Cod Bay on December 21, 1620. The Jandaceks landed at New York Harbor on December 21, 1950, exactly to the day 330 years later!



I am not going to tell you the truth – but, only my understanding of the truth.


I am not a victim! I have contempt for self designated victims and for a society which celebrates victims. The fact that we are alive is proof positive that we in fact are survivors and winners. We have survived attacks by microbes and larger predators and we continue to deal with adversity. “Conquering Hero” self image is psychologically much healthier than “Suffering Hero”.


When conditions change, an organism has only three ways to deal with the situation: a) extinction, b) migration, and c) adaptation. When tidal pools dry up – some fish die out, some migrate to deeper waters, some may have the option to breathe air. When jungles shrink – apes who live on the edges of woods may die out, may migrate towards the centers of forests where they may remain as swingers in trees, or they may walk the walk on the savannah. When the Communists usurped power in Czechoslovakia they exterminated some of their enemies. Some Czechs and Slovaks went into exile, and some adapted by pretending to be commies (sincerity is easy, just fake it). Those who survived the two score plus years of Communist regime in Czechoslovakia by adaptation resent the emigrants and the refugees have contempt for the turncoats. Those who suffered imprisonment now feel superior to the other survivors. May Providence celebrate those who gave the last full measure…


I have relatives among those who were exterminated and among those who adapted and those who migrated. Adversity is our common bond. My parents, my siblings and I belong to the migratory group.


I was born in what I think of as Czechoslovakia at the end of March, 1941, BUT, in fact, Czechoslovakia did not exist at that moment in history. Hitler, with the blessings of Neville Chamberlain annexed the Sudettenland, created a Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia from the circumcised remnants and set up diminished Slovakia as a puppet state. Ruthenia, a Trust Territory of Czechoslovakia was largely ingested by Hungary.

Physical Geography of Czechoslovakia

I’d like to share some insights into the physical geography of former Czechoslovakia that is not perceived by vast majority of people, but which explains much prehistory and history of the area. Bohemia is shaped like an enormous crater about 150 miles in diameter. If it is an impact crater it is probably older than life on Earth. Silver, gold, uranium, iron and other deposits along the periphery support this hypothesis. All the rivers of Bohemia flow from the walls of the crater towards the bottom of the caldera in the center where we find the capital, Prague. Thus, the terrain resembles a wheel with the rivers representing spokes and the mountain ranges forming the rim. From the large Prague-Usti Nad Labem hub of the water system the river Elbe acts as a axle and delivers the Bohemian watershed to the North Sea and the North Atlantic. In the past, Slavic populations (similar to Czechs and Poles) lived along the Elbe all the way to the Sea including Schleswig, Holstein and Denmark. German speakers and culture have largely displaced the indigenous Slavs along the northern Elbe. As culture traveled by river systems German influence was profound in Bohemia. The German impact is evident in the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque art styles and in the modes of thinking spawned by Reformation and Enlightenment, and by the Industrial Revolution. While the Czechs of Bohemia speak a Slavic language, one could argue that culturally they are “closet Krauts”. Some Hyperczechs are likely to take issue with my assertion. To counter, I point out that Prager Deutsch for centuries had been the Standard for the German Language. This is as counterintuitive as expecting Belfast English to be a standard for the Queen’s speech. Knaanic was a Judeo-Czech (Slavic trade language) spoken in the Late Middle Ages throughout the Czech Lands and Poland, Western Ukraine, and in the lands of the Lusatian Sorbs. Some argue that Knaanic was in fact ancestral to the later (Germanized ) Yiddish and that the many Slavic elements in Yiddish are vestiges of the archaic Czech. Thus, several languages find Prague as the epicenter of their standard language usage. Judeo-Czech might be a slight misnomer insofar that “Czech” was not profoundly differentiated from other Slavic languages in the middle ages.

Most of the rivers of Moravia drain south into the Danube of Austria. A small part of Northern Moravia drains into the Oder River of Poland. Some people still refer to this northern watershed of Moravia as “Ceske Slezko” (Czech Silesia). Thus, Moravian Czechs have a sense of continuum with Bohemia, Austria and Poland. Linguistically, the Moravians are transitional between Bohemia and Slovakia.

While the single river system of Bohemia fostered an integration of the population and a focus on Prague, the Slovak water systems promoted a disintegration and fragmentation along three river systems. The unification of the water and cultural system for the Slovaks is on the territory of Hungary with a more Danubian – Balkan legacy. Bratislava, the capital of the country is peripheral to the Slovak experience in that it is in the far west of the State and nearly contiguous to the “Czech” population of Moravia.. The physical geography of the Czech and Slovak drainage and mountains is comparable to the historical divide imposed by the Pyrenees mountains. Until a couple of centuries ago the Slovaks called themselves “Slovenci” just as the Slovenians do to this day. Both Slovenes and Slovaks refer to their homeland as Slovenska Republika at the beginning of the 21st century. Evidently, The Slovenes and the Slovaks were the same contiguous people until the Hungarians and Austrians settled between these two populations of Slovenci. “SlovAK” is in fact a Czech name for the people – coined in the 19th Century and subsequently embraced by the SlovAKS.

Thus Czechoslovakia was situated on the Continental Divide and was drawn and quartered by the drainage and cultural pull of the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.


Hitler exploited the cultural tugs of the Czechoslovak identity to the benefit of the Third Reich and Chamberlain was pleased to secure “peace in our time”.


Such were the times when I was born in Prague. (March 30, 1941)


My father came from N.E. Bohemia – Hronov of the Krkonose Mountains region and my mother from the Brdy Mountains near Beroun. Both were avid mushroom hunters. Mushrooms figured profoundly into the histories of both sides of the family and foreshadowed yet more profound involvement with the edible fungi in generations to come. Mushrooms were to become for us the feast of deliverance, when we did our Exodus from the Land, much like the Pascal Lamb.


My earliest recollections are of war.

World War II
  1. I recall that the British were bombing Prague (because the Czechs had to produce war materiel for the Third Reich.)
  2. The British bombed the Emauzy Monastery near our house. They mistook it for a munitions factory and wiped out several high caliber monks.
  3. For three or four years after that I had an irrational fear of fire (pyrophobia). After the bombing of the monastery my father put me on his shoulders and took me to see the burning building at the bottom of a slope near our house. The sight of the blaze had a very traumatic effect upon me as a preschooler.
  4. I remember sirens and all the people in our apartment building going down to the cellar with flash lights and candles to wait out the air raid.
  5. Prop planes were common, but I remember that jet fighters were a novel sight. The older kids could all identify the planes by their shapes and would speak with authority as to their origins… British, German or American. All the planes looked the same to me. =(
  6. I remember my parents taking my older brother, Tony, my older sister, Marie, and me to Grandma’s house in the country in the village of Zelezna u Berouna to get away from the military targets of the city. There, at the far end of Grandma’s yard was a bomb crater, about 4 meters wide and 1 meter deep. I do not think it was on Grandma’s property, but it was close (so much for the safety of the countryside). I seem to recall that the bomb crater was formed by some village kids who found an unexploded projectile and it maimed or killed some kids when they mishandled it. Tony (Antonin) is seven years older than I am and Marie is five years older than I. After we came to America, our youngest sister, Vera was born 11 years after me and 18 years after Tony.
  7. Grandma had a root cellar about 30 meters from her house. During the war I had often seen “people” going in and out of the cellar. Grandma always tried to divert my attention when I spotted the people. She would point to a birdie or give me chicken feed for the hens… anything to get my mind away from the “cellar folk”. I have no idea who were the three or four people hiding in the small excavation (about 2 x 2 meters). In retrospect, I speculate that they were political dissidents, Gypsies, Jews or partizans.
  8. Grandma had an inn, but in her retirement (she was in her 70s) she seldom had more than one or two customers a day (somewhat like a bed and breakfast of today). The local priest frequented her inn for breakfast.
  9. Once there was a German soldier who ordered beet soup. He put me on his lap and shared his soup with me. He also let me put on his helmet and let me play with his (presumably) safe rifle. I thought this was really cool! This, my one and only personal encounter with a German soldier, was very positive and memorable. In retrospect, I suspect that he was returning from the Eastern Front and I reminded him of his little kid back in Germany. By this time the romance of war had faded for all involved and he just wanted to get home in one piece.
  10. My father’s experiences with the military administration of the Third Reich were less positive. Two times he was arrested and interrogated at the Petschek Palace. Significantly, Count Albert Petschek lived about four lots away from our house in the rural part of White Rock (Los Alamos, NM. USA). The Petscheks are an old banking family of Prague. Being Jewish, the Petschek Palace (in fact a bank) was confiscated by the Nazis and turned into the Gestapo Headquarters (colloquially referred to as “Petschkarna”). Our neighbor, Albert Petschek was trying to recover his property in 2003. Count Petschek died about 2005. The main estate of the Pec`eks was at Pec`ky u Benes`ova. In Los Alamos I used to go mushroom picking with Count Petschek.
Surviving the War

During the war years people survived by barter. Father (being a journalist ) had more than one typewriter. In order to come visit us at our maternal grandmother’s house (Veronika Polak) in (Zelezna u Berouna) he traded a typewriter for a bicycle. He would take the train from Prague to Beroun. At least one time the train was so full of German soldiers that he stood the whole distance on the steps outside of the train and held the bicycle outside of the train! He would then ride the bicycle from Beroun to Zelezna. The kids were there to avoid the bombing of Prague. After some time dad traded the bicycle for a pregnant nanny goat. He then traded two goat kids for a piglet. The freshened nanny goat provided milk for the children. Alas, the piglet died. A government official came to investigate and to entitle the family to a piggy replacement. He was bribed to write in a zero after the 3 kilos so the family was entitled to a 30 kilogram PIG. The pork fed the Jandacek family for a long time. As a kid, my brother Tony, quipped that he was looking ahead and drooling over the anticipation of nibbling on the typewriter keys. This was an often repeated table. Later on, Grandma had yet another pig which we called Vocasek (Little Tail) because it followed Grandma all over the village of Zelezna – like a puppy. The pig formed a close friendship & symbiotic relationship with an old hen. Whenever Vocasek saw the old hen, Vocasek would flip over on his back and the chicken would come and peck off insects on the porker’s belly. Vocasek would snort a “thank you” for every bug removed. It was emotionally VERY DIFFICULT to have the critter slaughtered and to swallow its flesh. We all felt like cannibals!


We know from history that the Nazis were defeated and that Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin divided the post war world into spheres of influence for the Brits, the Yanks and the Soviets. Actually, the American forces entered Czechoslovakia and got all the way to Pilsen. Among the young girls in the Czech national costumes who welcomed the American soldiers to Pilsen were Madeline Albright (later US Secretary of State) and my sister Marie. Among the US soldiers was Steve Stoddard, future State Senator of New Mexico. The Americans withdrew on orders from Washington so that Czechoslovakia could be “liberated” by the Soviets two weeks later. (Madeline Albright’s maiden name was KÖRBEL, the same as Grandma Polak’s maiden name. Albright’s ancestors had an umlaut over the O in Korbel.) Our other Korbel relatives were deft in grafting grapes and trees. That branch of the family makes Korbel Brandy now in California. (We need to explore also – if our ancestors the HAVELs are related to the last Prezident of Czechoslovakia and the first Prezident of The Czech Republic.)


It was Czechoslovakia’s great misfortune that it was placed under the Neo-Tzars of Soviet Communism.


As implied earlier, Czechoslovakia had three states (Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia) and it had one trust territory – Ruthenia (sandwiched between Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, and Slovakia). Some people called Northern Moravia “Czech Silesia”.


Immediately after WWII the Soviets annexed Ruthenia and heavy-handedly orchestrated Czechoslovak policy through proxies.


By 1948 the Soviets no longer pretended to be subtle, but audaciously placed Czechoslovak Communists into all critical government posts. They occupied polling places with armed party members who turned away all “unreliable” voters. The Communist Coup de Tat was accomplished. Czechoslovakia was now a Soviet Protectorate (satellite).


My father was an editor in chief of a very pro-American newspaper, AMERICKE’ LISTY (American Pages). He was also the secretary of the LIDOVA STRANA, a center-right Catholic Party. He had many influential friends in the noncommunist sectors of the government and in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.


Among Father’s influential friends were Archbishop Josef Beran (later elevated to Cardinal) and the Prezident of the Country, Eduard Benes. These two friends warned him that the Communists would indulge in a vendetta and that he (Dad) should get out of the country. Beran and Benes’ were watched too closely to contemplate an escape. The Czechoslovak Primate, Beran was imprisoned both by the Nazis and by the Communists.


As the editor of Americke Listy, my father wrote many articles critical of Stalin as the Bolsheviks were exterminating Ukrainians, Chechens, Poles and others by the millions. The Stalinists exterminated as many as 65 million Soviet subjects.


World events in the in the 1940s were orchestrated by world leaders with very strong personalities and the common people largely did not have the option of being neutral. The Nazis claimed that anyone who was not on their side was a Bolshevik enemy. The Stalinists claimed that all who were not Communists were Fascists or Nazis and the bourgeois enemies of the state.


A policy employed by the Soviets was to execute all officers who conducted the war on German soil so that these officers would not go back to the Soviet Union or Poland and tell the local people that the Germans had a sophisticated society and some redeeming qualities. Also it was a given that the same people who opposed the excesses of the Nazis were likely to oppose the excesses of the Bolsheviks. It was best to kill the likely trouble makers. As mentioned earlier, the Stalinists killed 65 million Soviet subjects.

If a man had a shoe repair shop he was considered a bourgeois or at least a petty bourgeois and an enemy of the Communist cause. The dictatorship of the proletariat meant that only those who in the past had “labored” in the capitalist sweatshops had a just cause. If one worked for himself as a farmer, gardener, grocer, tailor, etc. he was politically unreliable. His children faced obstacles in education and employment. These events effected the lives of all behind the iron curtain, even mine as a seven year old kid. Had Tony and I stayed behind in Czechoslovakia (as sons of a political dissident) our fate would have been-to be sent to mine uranium in Jachymovi Doli. After five or six years (IF we were still alive) we would be “living dead” with radioactive toxic dust permanently destroying all tissues.

Family Escapes From Communist Utopia

Facing the reality that he was now an enemy of the state, Dad escaped, and received a Death Sentence In Absentia. One man was very upset when he found out that Dad had escaped without taking him. His name was Mr. Holas. He came to our house and insisted that he knew that my mother was going to follow her husband and that when we escaped he wanted to go with us!


As human beings, we all have our infirmities and deformities which our friends and strangers overlook. Mr. Holas’ infirmity was a conspicuous hunch back. While I wish not to add insult to injury we must recognize the fact that looking inconspicuous while illegally crossing the border was going to be as challenging as inconspicuously smuggling Gulliver among the Lilliputians.


It is important to realize that for weeks I was about to be cut off from reality and nothing would make any sense to me. As a seven year old blabbermouth I was not told that we were planning an escape. I would have told everybody!


Mr. Holas, the assistant editor with the conspicuous physique, visited our home nearly every day for weeks. I got to know him very well!


The Communist self appointed “people’s police” would also come to our home frequently to search the place. When my mother would ask for a search warrant they would answer that as party members they did not need a warrant. On some occasions they would search our home twice a day.


In order to avoid persecution by the Communists, my mother started divorce proceedings accusing my absentee father of plotting against the state! It certainly would have been easier if the whole family had escaped together. When Dad escaped, however, my brother Tony was at a winter camp skiing at Spindleruv Mlyn. When he returned home I (Petr) had a burst appendix and barely survived the associated peritonitis. A few months earlier (before penicillin) there would have been no hope for me.


Spring and summer passed and school was about to begin. If all three of us kids would have been absent from our schools on the same day, the commies would have quickly deduced that we were in the process of escaping. Very few people knew about the Jandacek family escape plans. And I WAS NOT ONE OF THEM! Even then I was treated as a MUSHROOM… they kept me in the dark and were feeding me horse poop. The Surgeon General for the city of Prague was in on the plan, and he declared a polio epidemic for a few weeks until the Jandaceks could escape in September or October.


My brother went to the gymnazium at St. Ignac and was an alter-boy to one of the Jesuits. The priest had a relative who was a member of the Border Patrol Corps in the town of Zelezna Ruda (in German called EISENSTADT). (Many towns in the Czech lands have both Czech and German names.) It is really very admirable that my 14 year old brother could assume the role of the head of the family and orchestrate the complex maneuvers to get the family out of the country.


What my mother told me was – that we were going to visit Grandma Polak (my mom’s mom) and then go mushroom picking to a new secret place. We had gone mushroom picking many, many times in the past, but Mom and Grandma never had so much hugging and tearful goodbyes. It did not make any sense to me and NOR WOULD THE NEXT 24 hours!


We dressed in grubby clothes as mushroom pickers wear, but my mother said that it was going to be cold in the mountains where the mushrooms grow, so she put my Sunday clothes on me underneath my play clothes. It was a hot autumn day and I could not understand why I had to be dressed so warmly.


We got on a train and Mr. Holas, the man with the unusual physical features, joined us. Naturally, I said hello to him, but he did not acknowledge me. My mother too corrected me for talking to strangers. “But, Mom, that’s Mr. Holas!” I protested. “No it is NOT!” said my mom, “it only looks like him”. This man was 4 feet tall, had a face like a full moon and dressed in a three piece suit and a hat like a diplomat. How many individuals like that could there be in my world?


I would keep pointing to him and trying to convince my mother of the veracity of my observation. When my mother corrected me I would ask her to look at the posters above his head or to examine the luggage – forcing my mother’s glance towards the strange man, and hoping my mother would come to her senses.

What I did not I know was that we were escaping and that the plan was that we were to disassociate ourselves from each other. In that way, if only some of us were discovered the others could proceed with impunity, or reevaluate the situation and devise a “plan B”.


When we got off the train in Zelezna Ruda, I noticed that the man who looked like Mr. Holas also got off the train and was walking about 50 feet behind us. My mother explained that we were going to a forest ranger’s house and that he would show us where the mushrooms grow. We found the house and rang the doorbell. A tall man in a uniform answered the door.


I played with Mr. Ranger’s children while Tony, Mom and Marie were talking in a very quiet voice. I could not make out what they were saying, but I presumed that the ranger was showing on the map to my mom, sister and brother where the mushrooms grow. At one point Mom gave the “forest ranger” a big bundle of money for “showing us where the mushrooms grow”.


All of a sudden “the forest ranger” jumped up from the table and started to scream words that my mother never let me use. He was shouting something like “What is that #%*+ ing idiot doing parading in front of my house “inconspicuously“. If you people get caught all the neighbors will know that I helped you. Don’t you know that we are all being watched? ” My brother went out to tell the man with the unusual physique that he should do his “inconspicuous” strolling somewhere else, and to stay away from us.


The “forest ranger” left his house with a rifle on his back. The Jandacek family walked about 50 feet behind him. When I turned around I saw the man that looked like Mr. Holas walking about 50 feet behind us. He was still dressed in a three piece suit but now, like the rest of us he also was carrying a basket for mushrooms and a pail for blueberries.


As we were walking towards the forest my mother finally acknowledged that the man behind us was indeed Mr. Holas! She explained that we had to keep this mushrooming place a secret and so we needed to keep the competition guessing. It would have been unwise to let other people know that Mr. Holas and we were conspiring to find a new mushroom trove. Now, this made perfect sense to a seven year old kid saturated with Czech culture which passed secrets of mushrooming from generation to generation. It is like gold prospectors would invest a great effort to hide their favorite panning spot.


The “forest ranger” lead us into the woods and then pointed to the direction of the fungi fields. He explained some of the landmarks that we should look for and said goodbye. We started out on our own now with Tony leading the way.


“Mr. Ranger” did not lie to us. It was a bumper crop of mushrooms. In less than a half hour I had my basket full and wanted to go back. My mother tried to convince me that I should dump out my mushrooms to make more room for better mushrooms up ahead. This was certainly the weirdest day of my life! It was as if someone was telling a prospector to dump out his gold nuggets because better gold nuggets were to be found further up the stream.


After all of that walking I was favoring my right side since I was still convalescing from my appendix operation which nearly took my life. In retrospect we must have looked surreal… a mother with a 14 year old son, a 12 year old daughter and a postoperative seven year old boy overdressed with multiple layers of clothes on a very hot day and a man with a profound physical deformity dressed like a defendant at a trial, all dumping out baskets of beautiful mushrooms into shallow graves and covering the evidence so that others could not find this fungus heaven. Long before I studied any psychology I knew this was NUTS! We refilled our mushroom baskets several times before we came to a steep downward slope. We had to scoot on our butts or go backwards to descend the hill.


At the bottom of the hill was a barbed wire fence. In retrospect I do not know if it was for livestock or to stop people. I know it was taller than I was. My mother lifted me up over the fence and all of the others climbed carefully over the barbed wire. There was a shallow stream about 15 feet wide and about 18 inches deep on the other side of the fence. All of a sudden we saw and heard a red lumber truck come around a clump of trees and everybody lowered themselves into the shallow water. My mother pushed me down into a pushup position and was pushing my head down towards the water. After living through the most confusing day of my life… I was not TOO surprised that NOW my mother was trying to drown me! =)


It was in fact too late. The men in the red lumber truck saw us. My brother got up and went to talk to them in his broken German. He was going to pretend that we were German nationals who got lost in the woods. I suspect that my brother’s German was nowhere good enough to pull it off.



Retrospective: Kindergarten & First Grade

There are a few details I would like to add as my memories about Czechoslovakia before I focus on chapters devoted to life in the refugee camps and subsequent life in America. A few days before we escaped – my mother was talking for hours to a nun who was my first grade teacher. (In retrospect I speculate that they were discussing our escape plans.) I had to use the toilet but my mother and the nun kept me locked up in the classroom (with predictable results). Prior to this I had been “house broken” for a long time, so this “accident” was memorable to me.

I remember also an incident in Kindergarten when we had a masquerade party. I was dancing with a girl dressed like a butterfly and a boy dressed like a firefly wanted to dance with my diva. I ripped off his stupid wings ! =) I was dressed as a flying ace with a leather helmet, goggles, and a silk scarf. I think this was my one and only fight over a girl. =) I used to fear my grandmother’s geese and billy goat. Those monsters would chase me around Grandma’s barnyard. Once I threw Grandma’s favorite cast iron pot at the mean goat. It shattered into pieces! (The POT, not the GOAT). Grandma was very mad at me! I got even – using the logic of chasing Grandma’s chickens until they lost eggs without shells. I’d like to think that I am more logical as a grown up. Grandma solved the problem of her chicken chasing grandson by giving me a miniature variety of chickens all to myself. They were about the size of pigeons, and I loved my new pets. (I always wanted to be outstanding in my field! Yup, I wanted to be a Farmer!)

The only time I remember visiting HRONOV as a little kid was for Aunt Milka’s wedding. Auntie Milka (Emilie) was the youngest of Dad’s siblings. She was actually the eighth kid in the family and she was born some months after her father died. I remember the wedding because there were several horse drawn coaches for the wedding party. I got to pet one of the horses. I recall that as a little kid in Prague I once burst into the living room and announced to the guests which my parents were entertaining “UZH TOH BUBLAH”“IT IS ALREADY BUBBLING”. Subsequently I went on explaining in great detail the glass tubing with the twists and turns which sat on top of our kitchen gas stove. My parents sent me back into the kitchen before I could finish my lecture on the workings of a still. In a war torn economy – alcohol was the money of exchange, my parents explained this to me many years later. We kept a barrel with water and we put all apple cores and potato peelings and fruit and vegetable refuse into it for fermentation.

When our mother was a young married woman she worked as an accountant for Ruckl cut glass works (crystal). It was at Ruckl’s glass factory that the still parts were blown. The old Mr. Ruckl was the godfather for my brother Tony. Ruckl was the Papal Envoy to Czechoslovakia and his duties included the safekeeping of the Papal Seal (Bull Design).

Under the kitchen stove we had a ceramic tile missing in the floor. The missing tile was our target when we played marbles. Our apartment had a balcony. On the balcony my brother, Tony, kept his various pets like turtles and hedgehogs, and snails. I remember that one time I collected pockets full of snails while we were on a walk along the Vltava River. Later on we were in church and the snails crawled out of my pocket and were crawling all over the pews. They caused quite a commotion and some old grandmas around me were trying to outrun the mollusks.

For Christmas Eve dinner we always had a CARP. Carp are raised under very sanitary conditions for the Czech table. They are not the denizens of polluted waterways, not fit for human consumption, as in America. Dad would purchase a carp a few days before the holidays. He would put a ball of bread soaked with rum into the fish’s mouth. The common wisdom was that a carp out of water would stay alive and contend with this “pacifier”. The carp was wrapped in newspapers and transported home in Dad’s briefcase which he used to cary his editorial work as a journalist. For a week or two the carp would live in our bathtub. When one needed a bath, the carp was placed on the floor next to the tub where it flopped around while the tub was occupied. After the bath – the tub was refilled with fresh water and the large fish was returned. Some of my most fond memories from my childhood were when my mom allowed the carp to stay with me in the tub while I bathed. I stayed in the tub until the tips of my fingers were deeply corrugated.

Besides the big fish in our bathtub, a still in the kitchen and snails in my pocket, we also often had a goose in our closet. Mom would make “shishky” which were like little dumplings the size of a hotdog, and force-feed the poor critter. The force-feeding distended the liver (like sclerosis) and provided the much valued resource for “pashtika”, goose liver pâté. Contrary to the prevailing belief – not only the French, but virtually all Europeans place a high premium on goose liver pâté.

I too was force-fed as a child. My “sainted mother” actually administered to me many spankings because I frustrated her so much with my vomiting after every meal. I remember hearing thousands of times “Yen natahuy” – “Just (you) dare to heave”. To have a kid that threw up after every meal must have been very frustrating to a loving mother. Mealtime was punitive for me. My chronic vomiting stopped after my appendectomy. In retrospect I speculate that I had a chronic case of appendicitis, which was not diagnosed until it turned acute and surgery was indicated.

Americans who live in obscenely large houses will find it counterintuitive when I tell them that when I was little my small bed was in the kitchen. Our maid’s bed was also in the kitchen. In Europe in the 1940s rooms other than bedrooms were used for sleeping.

When I got a little older I slept between my brother and sister on a hide-a-bed couch in the living room. Above the couch was a hand painted oil portrait of Saint Sr. Thomas More (Britain’s Chancellor under Henry VIII). It was a copy of the famous portrait by Holbein the Younger and was painted by some reputable Czech painter. Thomas More is the Patron Saint of Journalists and Lawyers. My father commissioned it (the painting) for some convention of journalists. The convention did not want to pay for it, so my father had to foot the bill… and that is how it wound up in our home. St. Thomas More did NOT look like a SAINT to me. He had a very severe look on his face, he scared me! I used to walk under the portrait with my eyes fixed on the floor so I would not have to look at the “mean guy”. It was a valuable painting, and later I learned that before my mother and the kids escaped from Czechoslovakia – she cut the painting out from the frame with a razor blade, rolled it up and gave it for safe keeping to some friends. The empty frame was left for the commies on the wall. Many years later my mother visited Czechoslovakia and brought the picture to America. Our sister Vera (the lawyer) has it now. It is funny to reflect on what refugees opt to save when they are forced to leave their home and most possessions. My parents believed (like the Cubans who escaped from Castro) that they would be returning to their home within months. Forty plus years of exile was more than their stressed bodies could survive. And while my mother did visit Czechoslovakia before Communism fell. It was in the 1970s when people there saw the system very flawed and the commies were not up to persecuting visiting “ex-pats” with tourist money. By that time commies liked capitalist money once again! (Stressed by exile – Father died at 58 and mother at 60.)

You could always tell the refugees by the fact that their luggage was full of photographs and very little else. All else can be replaced…

Two and a Half Years in Refugee Camps

September 14, 1948 to December 1950

Life in the refugee camps effected my mother, my brother and my sister and me (Petr) in different ways. My brother, Tony, had to grow up very fast and had to function as the male head of the family while still in his early teens. While we were in the refugee camps, our father, who was in America struggled with English as a second language. While in Czechoslovakia he had a prestigious position as an Editor In Chief of a photojournalistic magazine, in Chicago his employment was less prestigious. As a wordsmith at heart he loved to write articles for the Czech newspapers. Father came to America with some honors and testified before the United Nations about the Communist takeover of the Country. The Communists declared him “an enemy of the state” with a pending death sentence. While in America, Dad continued to live in fear of being “Trocky-ed”. That is to say, Like Trocky in Mexico City to be assassinated. Even in the early years of the 21st century enemies of the communists were being assassinated – note Litvinenko and Politkovskaya! I remember Dad telling friends (like Mr., Zemla) that once the Jandacek family was safe, he sent ten feet of rope to Klement Gottwald, the communist President of Czechoslovakia. Dad was sentenced to death by hanging (in absentia) as an enemy of the state. As it turned out Gottwald died under mysterious circumstances when he returned from Stalin’s funeral in 1953.

As the need for witnesses withered, Father, with marginal knowledge of English tried to support us (in the DP Camps) as best he could. He would send the Czech newspapers NAROD and KATOLIK to my mother, and usually he wrapped a five dollar bill between the pages. It was my 14 or 15 year old brother’s responsibility to go to the seedy part of town and to trade the dollars on the black market for Deutsh Marks. Actually, by virtue of the fact that our father was in America, the Jandaceks in the DP camps were well off by refugee standards. Thus our family had five or ten dollars a month that the other refugees did not have. Dad also organized clothing donations from Czech-American-Catholics and sent boxes to my mother. Mom would hand out little slips of paper to attendants at Sunday Mass and these people could redeem their attendance slips for used clothes and shoes and occasional school supplies and toys. I remember that one of the things that was sent was an American football. The kids tried to play soccer with it, but found the trajectories too unpredictable to be useful for a real game of “our football” – soccer. We laughed a lot about the strange “football” of America.

Incomplete chess sets were sometimes included in the packages from America. Pieces from other incomplete sets or bottle corks carved into pieces solved the problem. At a very early age I became a rather good chess player. I was not unique. Prisoners, inmates at work camps in the Gulag, and refugee camp detainees are categorically excellent chess players. Our access to society outside of the camps was
curtailed by American military police and German population outside the camps. The Germans were not happy with millions of people from Soviet Union and its satellite countries “crashing” into their postwar economy. We were the despised “Auslander”. I remember one time I made the mistake of speaking Czech to my mother on the street outside the camp. A German boy overheard our conversation and came up behind my mother and shot her with his slingshot in the thigh at point blank range. Stream of blood poured from my mother’s leg for several minutes. From that time we would walk in silence or whispered to each other. The German economy was devastated and the people from “the east” were considered “the enemy” and Bolsheviks. It did not matter that the refugees were victimized by the Communist regimes.
“School” for the kids was very “iffy”. From time to time some politician, or other professional with no pedagogical training (but some political axe to grind) would decide to run a school. After a few frustrating weeks he would give up and the kids were let loose again. So while my brother was the serious “head of the family” in his early teens, I was the “Huckleberry Finn” enjoying the freedom that poverty bestows. Like every other kid in the camps I became a “dead eye” with a slingshot. For lack of a real school my writing skills were not honed, but I could draw remarkably well, and whenever I obtained a piece of paper I practiced. Quite likely this had a positive influence on me as an artist. My sister, Marie, was effected yet another way. Her “people skills” were honed to a remarkable degree. She could take care of her self and scores of other people at the same time. She learned to decide what was best for other people and imposed an agenda on them to achieve their goals. I compare her to “Scarlett O’Hara” in “Gone with the Wind” who took on the management of “Tara” and everybody there. As God is her witness, she would never be poor again. Here, I am not telling the “truth”, only “my understanding of the truth”. I trust that I do not offend my siblings with my observations. My attitude towards my brother and sister is one of admiration, not of criticism. I reflect on the fact that the adversity of the refugee camps was ultimately good for all of us in three different ways.

“Was mich nicht umbringt – macht mich starker”
(That which does not kill me – makes me stronger) ~ Nietzche

Every last person that I know who went through the refugee camps is a positive tester for tuberculosis as determined by the skin test. Nobody that I know has an active form of the infection, but we have all been exposed!. Perhaps I can blame the appendix bout and non eating and poor nutrition and exposure to tuberculosis for my short stature – 5 ft 6” at best.

(My parents never let me have a sandbox. They were afraid the cats would bury me.) . I suspect that my mother did not expect me to survive the refugee camp experience. I was a scrawny kid convalescing from a burst appendix and associated peritonitis. I had a history of vomiting even desirable foods. The diet in the refugee camps consisted (to a remarkable degree) of oatmeal and lentils. I had avoided those two “food groups” for most of my life in America – since. Only in my 50s and 60s have I learned to tolerate them.

Every night after we were in beds (actually army cots) a group of important officials would come into each of the communal sleeping rooms and stick the nozzle of a big spray pump under the covers and force a big puff of DDT onto each “inmate”. This was for lice control. In the morning we were covered from head to toe with this flour-like white powder. The green wool army blankets soon became sort of white. The crevices of my body collected a paste of sweat and DDT… YUCK!

As mentioned earlier I was a scrawny, little kid. I was not destined to be a basketball star… but I shined in the sport non-the-less! I was the only kid who fit through a broken window about nine by twelve inches. I was often sent through the window to open (from the inside) a locked door to a warehouse which was used as a basketball court by the (much bigger) kids. I had a terrible history of breaking my glasses. Many of the $5 bills that Dad smuggled to us in the KATOLIK or NAROD newspapers were spent on my vision. We ate our meals out of tin cans that we salvaged from trash heaps. Once I brought my mother to tears when I asked, “When we get to America will we again have a plate with a soup dish on top of it and a couple of other little plates and cups and saucers next to them for each one of us?” Soon after that – my mother “splurged” and bought herself a “real cup and saucer”. Of course, within a week I managed to break the cup. My mother brought the broken cup to America! Mr. Holas felt very sorry for my mom… for having such a nasty kid, and bought her a beautiful Bavarian cobalt and gold porcelain cup and saucer. Mr. Holas actually had a job as one of the camp leaders. He was fluent in German and English and French and the Slavic languages. So, he was one of the camp leaders in charge of welfare for those who were worse off than the majority. For me, (recovering from the appendectomy) he was able to secure an occasional half pint of milk.

While I admit to being a terrible kid, I was also very pious. I was thoroughly prepared for my First Holy Communion and fasted from the night before. While in the line to receive the Host I panicked! I realized that I had been swallowing my saliva all night and all morning. I knew I was going to go to hell. My ultimate destination is still probably the same, but since the age of seven I had sinned substantially more… =)

One time our dad in America sent us a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. We had no idea what they were or how to “prepare the stuff”, nor did we have the knowledge of English to read all about it. So, my mother boiled them! After eating it we were not sure if we wanted to go to “AmeriKa.”… =)

One of the young men that stayed in the same room with our family was extremely deft at catching trout with his bare (bear?) (ha ha) hands – from the River Neckar. He always had sores on the insides of his forearms from rubbing on rocks as he grabbed the fish. My mother fried the fish for him on the hot plate we had in the room. Often he shared this delicacy with us. The game and fish officers never caught him! People who had no hot plate used an up-side-down iron secured by two bricks.

One time we shared the large room with a Latvian family – the Dzurdzias. Their daughter, Mirtza, taught us a Latvian lullaby: A YA ZHU ZHU LA KA BE LI A YA ZHU ZHU IN FO RO IN KAJ NE ZHU ZHU ZHU. I have no idea what it means.

Those who needed postage stamps would steam off canceled stamps from letters – received – and cut off the canceled part from one stamp and replace it with an uncancelled part from another. It was considered in bad taste to make a new stamp from THREE pieces ! I had the idea of catching sparrows and painting them yellow to sell them as canaries. My mother talked me out of it and told me it was unethical.

At one point I had a jay bird as a pet for a couple of weeks before I had to let it go.

Some of the refugee camps were recycled German army barracks. The walls were painted with huge “inspirational” murals depicting victorious campaigns with lots of blood and guts and gore and tanks and motorcycles and artillery and warplanes… my friends and I loved to look at the “art masterpieces” of the “Kriegkunst” from the German side. One of the rooms that we were moved to in the refugee camp used to have light switch next to the door as we walked into the room. Alas! the switch was missing. Evidently someone had disconnected the light switch and probably sold it to some local German who was trying to fix his bombed-out home. One of the clever refugees made a loop in one of the wires and a hook in a corresponding wire, and to turn on the light someone had to thread the exposed copper wire hook into the exposed wire loop – holding on to the insulation and hopefully not getting electrocuted. My other and I were forbidden to turn the lights on or off and would ask someone from the next barracks room to risk their lives… =)

While I lacked formal education in the refugee camps, I obtained a great store of knowledge from an erudite community of scientists, artists, politicians and experts in the field of world events. All of my friends and I knew the melodies of national anthems of Germany, Soviet Union, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Lands, United Kingdom, France, Yugoslavia and other countries, and we could mouth most of the words as well. We did not (for the most part) know what the words meant. When I came to United States I was surprised that many kids did not know the words of their own national anthem. On some trash heap I found a magnet with a coil of copper wire wrapped around it. It was my favorite toy. I think that I even took it to America with me.

Marxism Inflicts Brain-Drain on Countries

There was a tremendous amount of expertise in the refugee camps. I remember attending lectures on nuclear energy and the construction of atomic bombs. I suspect that not many seven and eight year old kids in America attended such lessons. (I knew the difference between atom bombs and hydrogen bombs and fusion and fission.) I am sure that I did not give away any nuclear secrets, but after the lecture I went around telling everybody about the differences between Atomova Bomba (Atomic Bomb) and Vodikova Bomba (Hydrogen Bomb). People used to mock me as “the little professor”. =) Others presented lectures on the life of Czech composers like Smetana, Dvorak and Janacek and obtained a gramophone and played their music. Some experts presented historical or geopolitical insights. I remember Mr. Zemla, (a professor of engineering at a Moravian polytechnic university) giving a presentation sometime in 1948 or 1949 about how someday in the distant future we were going to cook our meals much faster with sound waves (microwaves) instead of with heat! Some presented lectures on Architecture both from style and technical viewpoints … His name was Chomutovsky. At my age (seven, eight, nine, and almost ten) these were very formative and inFormative experiences.

The refugee camps largely contained impoverished, but very erudite people. However, Castro was not original in expelling criminal elements along with the refugees. The criminals made up a miniscule fraction of the population. They were easily identified. Screening by authorities usually identified them and precluded their immigration into USA or other selective countries. Some of the men with criminal records would join the French Foreign Legion.

The selection process was not only stacked against the criminal elements, but also against the people with physical impairments. Mr. Holas with his condition chose to emigrate to Morocco where the French administration welcomed multi-lingual, highly competent Europeans without concerns about somatic conditions. “European agenda” countries like South Africa and Rhodesia also were very open to Central Europeans. Australia became a new home to many Czechs and other Central Europeans. And so did Canada. United States was the prize that we coveted. With Dad already established in the U.S.A. we did not seriously consider other destinations.

Everyone in the camps had a story about his or her escape. One story that comes to my mind is how one man believed that he had already crossed the border into Germany. In fact, he was still in Czechoslovakia at a FAKE interrogation center near the border staffed with fake U.S.A. military officers in fake uniforms. After he told the story of his escape and all of his accomplices the interrogators revealed their true identity and beat him with rifle butts to force more information out of him. Other refugees told stories of legs being left near the border as if though they were blown off by land mines. Then there was the speculation whether they were genuine dismembered limbs or stuffed trouser and shoe parts left there to dissuade people from leaving the Communist Utopia.

Sometimes the story telling was about conditions in Germany. One of the meager sources of income was collecting cigarette butts and recycling the tobacco and selling it to the nicotine dependent. Tales about a black U.S.A. GI lighting one cigarette after another and flipping it to the ground for German tobacco addicts to retrieve… went far to create anti- American and anti-black bias. By contrast, there were stories of the “good” American GI s who shared their cigarettes and Coca Colas and Hershey chocolate bars with the Germans and the refugees.

Once there were reports that some American Christian organization was going to hire a plane and a pilot and drop tiny parachutes with chocolate bars for the refugee kids. We made it a field trip to the nearby designated hill side. We were really disappointed when the airplane never came. Somehow misinformation prevailed and the plane dropped the yummy parachutes on some other hilltop.

Some camps contained many nationalities. There were Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Albanians, Romanians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Germans, Russians, Belorussians, Gypsies, Czechs and others. There were Orthodox Christians, Jews, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Moslems and atheists. A large number were clergy. I suppose that much of anti-Communist resistance was through religious groups and therefore a disproportionate fraction of the camp population consisted of religious leaders.

I remember one Czech-Jewish man named ZINFALD (looked very much like Winston Churchill) bragging how he and his wife outsmarted the Czech commies: So as not to be persecuted by the communist regime after her husband escaped – she (his wife) divorced him on the grounds that he did not support her during the war years. Well, he spent the war years in concentration camps! He used to say that the refugee camps were not as bad as the concentration camps, and that we were lucky! (Better in the frying pan than in the fire… I guess.)

I became very much aware that some languages like Polish, and Slovak were quite close to Czech. Others, like Croatian and Serbian were a little bit less related. Some, like Lithuanian, Latvian and Hungarian – I could not understand at all. A common language began to be formed by the young people. We called it “IROSPRACHE”. The “IRO” stood for International Relief Organization. “Sprache” is the German word for “language”. I became very interested in Comparative Linguistics and how it figured into Slavic Forms at this very early age. In my advanced years I published many papers on Slavic languages.

When looking through our postage stamp “Albums” I would try to accommodate speakers of other languages. I would say (in perfect Slovak) “C`o to bolo?“. (What was that?) My brother and sister mocked me for foolishly trying to speak the languages of others. That was one of the defining differences between my siblings and me. The refugee experiences heightened THEIR awareness of being “CZECH”. Ostensibly, the SAME experiences heightened MY awareness of being “a SLAV”. I have pondered that bias for many years – yet I do NOT know why! There was a similar situation in perceiving oneself as EITHER a SCOUT OR a SOKOL (an athletic club). I was mocked for wanting to be included in BOTH! Many years later my nephews and nieces in America were encouraged to join the SOKOLS. Again, I do NOT know why I was tolerant of such dual membership four or five decades before my siblings. Since the 1970s I also feel that it is “Kosher” to feel comfortable in the Roman-Catholic AND the Anglo-Catholic- Episcopalian Communities / Communions at the same time. I was the FIRST Jandacek to marry a NON-Czech!

Perhaps there is a Xenophobic gene in the family… =) I suspect that the SOKOLS were LESS in conflict with the Communists than were the SCOUTS in Czechoslovakia. Nonetheless – soon after the Scouts were banned in Czechoslovakia, the Sokols were ALSO dissolved. So… I think the Scouts had “a superiority complex” when they chanted: “Sokolove jsou volove vyrezany z prkynka, Kdyz k nim prijdes ze Skautingu hned volaji tatinka.” or “Jsme Junacka noblesa…”

Later, when I came to America, by the time I was about 13 I realized the intellectual gravity of Darwin and Evolution. I became a staunch evolutionist while most of my native family remained rather in the creationist camp. Even many years later in the 1970s – my brother-in-law, Stanislav (Marie’s husband) was appalled when we named our baby son Andrew Charles TEILHARD Jandacek.

For three years I had lived in Czechoslovakia and Germany in a home with an absentee father. Sociologists would postulate that living in poverty, speaking the non-prestigious language of a minority, surrounded by criminal elements, in a country hostile to Auslander, …would predispose me and my siblings to a life of crime. None of us turned out to be criminals! Because we CHOSE NOT TO COMMIT CRIMES. I will admit that in Germany I did steal a garbage can lid and decorated it with insignia and played knights with other boys who stole garbage can lids for their “shields”. We had a lot of fun with our stick swords and garbage can lid shields. Perhaps I should give credit to three male role models and mentors. My brother Tony, Mr. Frantisek Holas, and Mr. Jan Zemla. Mr. Zemla was a professor of engineering at a Moravian technological institute. Mr. Zemla helped me to construct a crossbow. It only had about a 4 lb. pull, but with this invention I was a “knight to be viewed with awe!”. Mr. Zemla was a very gentle man. Somehow, some of his students at the polytechnic assassinated some Communist scumbag who was responsible for several rapes and deaths in the community, and yet he (the commie scum-bag) was protected by the Party. To protect his students from prosecution, Mr. Zemla escaped and subsequently confessed to the assassination. Thus, I am adding an explanation after I had mentioned “the criminal elements” …there are criminals, and then, there are criminals….

Czech Scouts in Exile – Bavaria

The greatest single experience for kids in the refugee camps was SCOUTING! In Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in the Soviet Block countries Scouts were the most conspicuous youth organization in conflict with the regimes. Even as a Cub Scout when I was about six years old in Czechoslovakia I remember a teen age boy throwing a rock through a window of our clubhouse while we were conducting a Scout meeting. No doubt he was a member of the Komzomolci, Young Pioneers, Svaz Komunisticke Mladeze or some other Communist Youth organization which were set up as an alternative to the dissolved Scout phenomenon. Scouts, with their American origins, were perceived as anti-Communist… and in fact they were. They stressed MERIT as opposed to COLLECTIVISM. Scout agenda was very pro-American. Czech and Slovak youth in the refugee camps quickly reorganized as The Czechoslovak Scouts in Exile. We dyed our shirts green and obtained other articles of clothing (ex German Military) which we considered uniforms. Since they did not match – they were more “multiforms” than “uniforms”. Old tin cans and bits and pieces of military field mess kits served for our preparation of food on hikes and while camping. Unwritten rules demanded that we be as creative as possible in obtaining and modifying “found objects”. “Form follows function” was a rule of life as well as rule of design.

Perhaps the “economy of scarcity” and the Scout peer group contributed to my later career as a teacher of art and design. I find it a personal challenge to modify found objects (junk) into useful or aesthetic items. Improving nature, and improving ON nature also are my passions. Camping at Walchensee (an Alpine lake – for people living in North America – it looks very much like Lake Louise in Canada) was certainly the most memorable experience I had as a child in Germany. Cooking over an open fire, hiking, plant identification, mushroom identification, wild life study, raft construction, singing by a camp fire, story telling, skits, rope tying, tent construction, totem pole making were a few of the activities that I learned about. I was one of the youngest of the kids but several older scouts in their late teens and early 20s were my mentors. Kada Kalous and Franta S`ulc were among them.

At Walchensee we had a camp for the Girl Scouts about 400 feet away from our Boy Scout camp. I was on night watch duty with Franta S`lc once, who was about 10 or 12 years older than I was. We made the rounds around the boys’ camp at regular intervals and would meet about every 10 or 15 minutes and report to each other what we observed. When we met I reported to “Frank” that I found a bunch of glow worms and showed him where they were. Also I stopped an intruder to the Boy Scout camp. But I assured S`lc that it was OK because it was not a stranger but one of the leaders of the Girl Scout camp who wanted to spend the night with one of the leaders of the Boy Scout camp. Frank congratulated me on my vigilance. In retrospect I laugh at my naiveté. =) My brother’s Scout nickname was HRIBEK (bolette mushroom), my sister’s was ZUBAC (toothy smile) or DUDLA (pacifier). Mine was VRCE (growling – cub). Tony was the bugler for our Scout camps.

Some of the older scouts did what was called THREE EAGLE FEATHERS. For that, they had to be totally speechless for one day, they had to go without food for one day, and they had to spend 24 hours without contact with another human being – in the wilderness. Others would try to invalidate their determination by tempting them into conversation, eating, or trying to discover their whereabouts in the forest.

I know that there were other nationalities that had scout groups in the refugee camps, but somehow, I believe that the Czechoslovak Scouts were more successful in their organization. We have developed life long bonds and profound friendships which totally erased the obvious economic depravation from our memories. We were the richest scouts in the world because we had found such wonderful friends. My brother, Tony, and my sister, Marie, can better provide a chronological order for the locations or names of the refugee camps where we lived. As a senile old man reflecting back on my experiences as a seven, eight, and nine year old kid I am likely to get the sequence wrong.

I therefore defer to a letter I received from my sister Marie in August of 2001.

Dear Pete:

I actually started our family history several times – but right now I just found a copy of what I sent you in Aug. 01.

I was no angel in the camp – as a matter of fact I was a (busy body) and that’s why I was asked to be always present at the “Master Day” where everyone had to report. I knew who lived with who – and I enjoyed telling on them.

The episodes when I would cut bottoms from fur coats at church in Ludwigsburg and than 2 weeks later later would produce them to the ladies from whose coats I cut them and demanded money.

At the Masters Day I would get a carton of cigarettes which I would hide until about a week before next Masters Day, and then sell them to the miserable smokers who paid high price not for a carton or pack, but for individual ones. It made me RICH!

I was determined not to be ever poor again!

As far as your memories – you did a splendid job .

Little comments:

…..a dug out “cave” – where where I am sure – in earlier days Grandma kept potatoes. coal. etc. It was part of Grandma’s estate, under the fruit trees in the rear of the inn. It was a cellar and people were hidden there. She would boil potatoes and carry them in a huge pot to them. I loved to play there outside with the neighbor’s girls, Miluska and Jirinka Bartos where we would create mud pies. Sometimes we heard voices from the cellar, but Grandma laughed at us. I do believe that they were Jews.

Talking about Dad getting some provisions from Cibulka’s family – where he would help with the harvest… I recall him once bringing a huge loaf of cottage cheese – we must have eaten it in every form for months.

Folks often sent me on a train to various cities – always carrying a doll whose head was removable and some sort of smuggled information was thus carried by me. When I reached the destination, someone would meet me, remove whatever message and help me get on the train running back to Prague. I was about 7 or 8.

At the bottom of the page where you talk about a piggy – I think we called him “Pasik” – an a poem:

Kdyz byl Pasik male sele, ne mel v svete nepritele.
Kdyz pak stloustl na dva centy – delali mu komplimenty
Kdyz pak stloustl jeste vice – delali z nej jitrnice.

But maybe we had more than one piglet.

Petr’s aside – Yes, we had TWO piggies. Pasik and later Vocasek.

In family escape section – in #27 the Surgeon General was pan Somuner,a nephew of Sister Damascena. (Petr’s insert – Sister Damascena was our favorite nun). #28 St. Ignac did not have a school – he (Tony) went to be an alter boy there called Legio Angelica and went to school at the Bishop Gymnasium near by.

I truly enjoyed and laughed at your description of Mr. Holas while escaping.

Mom kept a diary which she gave me when she was very ill. It’s hand written and some parts are hard to make out. Since you are putting so much time into this, you should utilize it fully.

I made copies of all the pages you so diligently printed – this is just some extra material. I’ll keep that.

PS: We arrived to Chicago with Bradkas. Dellins and Rabases came earlier. On the ship we traveled with Mr. Zink, and Houdeceks – most of the people were Polish. I have some pictures from the ship, and would be happy to share them.

When talking about me – you should know that when Mr. Voller offered our folks to buy 2230 S. Austin for $16,000 I didn’t know I could negotiate the price. I had a nice savings – but was $500.00 short. I went to Central Fed Savings where I had the account and asked Mr. Kryda for a $500 mortgage. They would not make a mortgage so low – and he did not offer any other loan. I was working at Ames Supplies and so I approached my supervisor. He said he would give me an advance on my wages – but wanted to know why I needed it. Was i pregnant or in trouble? No!

I was earning $65 a week, so I just signed a piece of paper and he gave me a check for $500 and for the next 7 1/2 months I worked free.

Actually I worked till 9-30-59 and Jana was born 10-2-59.

According to the calendar – it’s 50 years today that I finished at Ames!


We did live a full life – not a dull moment. eh?

Keep at the family history!

Love, Back aching Marie

Another letter from Marie dated August 8, 2001

Dear Pete,

As you asked, here are few dates from the past: We crossed the border on September 14, 1948 (“To kalne rano, to si pamatuj me dite”) –Quote from a poem written when president Masaryk died (not our favorite, by the way, as our folks always felt that he was not quite a saint he has been painted, but so what else is new.. look at Clinton..)

Anyway, so we crossed to West Germany, and after a short stop at Zwiezel, where they searched us and to Mom’s dismay took our few US dollars that Mom had with her.

Pete’s aside: Some of these were GOLD $20 Dollar coins. When we finally emigrated to USA only paper bills were in our envelope.

We were sent to Regensburg, Durchganz Lager, meaning – the first camp where refugees were collected.. There we were to be for about one week maximum, but a polio epidemic broke out there and we remained there for about 3 weeks. Since Mom had no money, not even few marks to contact Dad, it was very miserable, but we endured. Vlado Balejka, the Hrachs, Karaseks, and many others were in the same predicament, and some lifelong friendships were formed there. The place we were was actually a school, Gothe Schulle, old, stone building, without heat, and the classrooms were huge, accommodating on an average 20 people all sleeping on army cots, with old woolen blankets. I remember they itched like crazy no bed sheets, pillows, and when blankets ran out, people slept under their coats. Mind you, by then it was October, rainy and just plain cold! All kinds of “activities” went on during the night (do you get my drift?) and so we teenagers learned the facts of life rather fast in detail!

From Regensburg they shipped us to Schwabische Gmund, an old army “Casarne” = Barracks and here again the rooms were huge, with bunk beds and quite bare. Cots were our beds, you know, the kind where it’s a canvas and the ends are criss- cross wooden frames, I hated them fiercely! Some families were given rooms to share, and typically, you would just hang a blanket to separate the rooms for a touch of privacy. To bathe, you used public washrooms, with faucets in a long row, cold water only, no soap, no towels.. The kitchen both at Regensburg as well as Schwabish Gmund were the army kitchens, and we used empty cans to receive the food into. If you found an empty can, you just cleaned it with rubbing sand on the inside as well as you could.. The food was bad, in the morning it would be brown water and some bread, sometimes porridge, without sugar or milk, just plain, cooked in water. It tasted like glue/paste. Noon meal was usually soup with some vegetables floating in it (if you got lucky).. usually just barely luke warm, potatoes almost daily, served in skins (I never imagined that some day people would be buying potato skins – of course, nowadays they are filled with all sorts of yummy fillings, evening was often a repeat of lunch meal. You went to bed hungry and cold and MAD. But somehow we survived.. I am sure it had to do with the fact that we were free. How much worse it had to be in concentration camp, where they beat you besides! The schools was a big joke, few teachers now living in the refugee camp tried tried their best but we had little intention of learning, everything was an adventure to us, and our ages differed from 5/6 to upper teens.. We did pick up plenty German, because the team below the camp was not about to start learning different languages. It was not only Czechs in the camp, but various nationalities, middle Europeans, each with their own customs, language and problems. Here and there a big fight took place, if you did not physically sit on your possessions, chances were great that somebody stole them from you. We started a Scout group, the older scouts (Boy Scouts) formed groups and it kept us occupied, gave us a chance behave and get away on hikes, meetings, games, etc. We were given a club room, and that was great, much more fun than the school. The make-up of the refugee camp changed constantly, because people arrived and were leaving, some emigrating, some being transferred to other locations. Every day was a new day, we would come to the gate and see who arrived.. how exciting, sometimes people met someone from their home town, etc.

You might remember Mr. Holas? He escaped with us, he was a nice man, a hunchback, and quite insecure, but I suppose he felt like a knight guarding and protecting a woman whose husband was far away and she was there with 3 kids, so he was gallant and helpful. He always shared a room or even our “section” with us, and I think people took him for a relative of Mom. Remember, in 1948 Mom was only 36, gosh it must have been hard! We spent the first Christmas in exile in Schwabische Gmund and it rather sad without Dad, but at least by then Mom was in touch with him, and he was sending us a little money and some food. For us it was a God-sent, we were always hungry. He would pack up Lipton soups in packages, Hershey chocolate bars, some can goods. Once he sent us bananas and when they arrived two weeks later, they looked like you know what.. brown, long, oh well.. the customs official rushed us through, telling us to take our s..t and go. Once we got some corn flakes, and never seen them before, Mom cooked them, needles to say we refused to eat that glue! For Christmas we practiced daily the carols, and then at Midnight Mass to everyone’s delight, we sang with Vlado Balejka leading the choir. Most people started to cry, and we stopped short, thinking we were that bad!

After Christmas, in 1949 we were directed to Ludwigsburg, to Jagerhoff Kaserne, that was more/less for families. The rooms were smaller, and some families were lucky enough to have their own room. We were good friends with Ruzickas, Dellins, Rabases, Flossmans, Sevciks. Junas, Kyselkas, Safuses, etc. I know, you were only 7 or so and cannot remember it all. I was a busy body.. I knew everybody, and since there was a “Master Day”.. a particular day each month that everybody living in the camp had to come to sign-in. Mr. Holas was a camp leader, and he used to take me with him, and as people came in line and were signing in, God help them if they lied! I would be a little spy, telling them in their face, .. oh no, you are not “Mr. B” you are “Mr. So-and-so”, and you live with the woman called “So-and-so” in such and such a room…

Petr’s input: If we were in a concentration camp – Marie would have been known as a “CAPO”- a very young CAPO.

At the end of the day I would be rewarded by a carton of cigarettes. I did not smoke, but I knew many smokers. They too got that ration of cigarettes, and smoked it in a big hurry. Not me, I would guard till at least the 3rd week of the month, and then sell the cigarettes not even by a pack, but one by one! Sometimes I talked Mr. Holas into taking me to the railroad station in Stuttgart and there I would sell them. Also, if Mom had received some US Dollars from Dad, I knew just the right people to sell them to too, and boy, did I know the exchange rates, and bargained till I got the most possible in Marks.!

We stayed in Jagerhoff the months from January through fall of 49. In the summer we all went to a boy/girl scout camp in the Alps on Lake Walchensee. It was simply beautiful, and since the older Scouts truly wanted us kids to enjoy, there was no stealing, the food was more appropriate for kids, so on the whole, we lucked out. There were days when we still felt hunger, but somehow bread filled us, and we went mushroom picking, berry picking, and yes, here and there we milked a cow in the meadow, or we stole potatoes in the field. I never considered these mischiefs a sin, it was a question of survival!

In the late fall, after the summer camp in the Alps we were shipped to Pforzheim, a town at one time very rich, full of jewelry stores, and it was bombed unmercifully during the 2nd World War and therefore, all in ruins.

Petr’s note: Ostensibly the skills of the local watchmakers were employed by the German war effort for timing mechanisms in bombs. It was therefore a target for destruction.

If you as much as stopped by a heap of bricks scattered on the bombarded street, police would be there and search you.. there was still lots of gold and gemstones in the rubble. We stayed there the whole year, and let me tell you, it was in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) – beautiful! We went berry picking and mushroom hunting every day. I can still smell the hot dried meadows of those woods. Tony and his buddies used to go at night to watch the wild pigs and other forest animals, but Mother would never let me come along.. In the very 1950 we finally got the news of being accepted for immigration and so we were sent back to Ludwigsburg this time to Flack Kaserne, which was the camp where last documentation was done and we left for Bremen beginning of December 1950. Waiting for the ship, we were again with people whom we met as far back as Regensburg. Mr. Zemla, Houdeceks, Bradkas, Junas, Franta (Frank) S`lc,… We all left about 6th of December and headed across the Atlantic.

Petr’s note: I remember that we were on the ship for 11 days. THAT would mean that we left Bremenhoven more like Dec.. 10th or 11th 1950.

We were on ship called General Blatchford and arrived in New York on December 22nd.

Petr’s note: We indeed disembarked the ship on December 22, 1950. But we we actually arrived in New York Harbor (like the Pilgrims 330 years earlier) on December 21st!

In New York we were met by Mrs. Hejl (Czech spelling of Hale) (a long time friend of Dad, since the days he visited the States in 1939) and she helped us to get on the right train for Chicago, where we arrived on the 23rd, the day before Christmas Eve. It was very dramatic meeting with Dad again, you hardly knew him the hair short of 3 years, and Tony and I felt shy and uncertain.!

The time time lapsed was long.. the experiences – different, but we had to get to know each other again.. such is life.

Even though everybody in the refugee camps was very impoverished, somehow many had valuable cameras. I presume that most brought the cameras from the countries of their origins. Many such cameras were the prestigious German Leicas – brought back to Germany from Czechoslovakia. Photographs from the refugee camps are common among the refugees who are now (in 2009) geriatric and dead. I plan to augment my writing with many photographs.

Shortly before we embarked for America – dad (living in Chicagoland) was diagnosed with late onset diabetes. Perhaps, as he believed, he had some health issues when we joined him in our new homeland.

Transatlantic Voyage

Exactly to the Day 300 Years After the Pilgrims

In December of 1950 we left from Bremenhoven, Germany, for New York. Since we arrived in New York on December 21 (winter solstice) 1950 and since to the best of my recollection we spent eleven days on board of the army transport ship named GENERAL BLATCHFORD I calculate that we left Bremenhoven on about the tenth of December 1950. I realize that some of these details may be “flawed memory” so I consider it prudent to verify such recollections by comparing them to the memories of (sister) Marie or (brother) Tony. On board were quite a few other Czech and Slovak families and single young men. Fewer young women escaped from Czechoslovakia (without families) than young men in their late teens and early twenties. I speculate that this gender gap was founded in the likelihood that testosterone promotes a more focused “aggressive” reaction to abuse of power. Thus almost all violent crimes are committed by juvenile males. There was also a disproportionate number of clergymen, most were Roman Catholic (among the Czechs and Slovaks), but I speculate that in other national groups there may have been many more Orthodox “Pops” (priests). Faith communities in all the countries of Central or Eastern Europe represented the greatest opposition to the atheist communist neotzars.

As noted above – we crossed the North Atlantic in the middle of December 1950 and we encountered some heavy seas. General Blatchford was one of the many Army transport ships used in the early 1940s to bring American soldiers to Great Britain and DDay beaches of France. They were relatively small and spartan vessels. Below the decks there were large sleeping mega-rooms. Bunk-beds were installed about 6 or 8 high. I had one of the bottom bunks and my brother Tony had the one above me. Getting in and out of the bunks required to ask if anyone above you was likely to vomit at the very moment you were entering or leaving your cot. Asking in Czech did not mean that a seasick Latvian was going to understand you. So we tried hard to dive into or out of our beds between heavings. Not all passengers escaped a vomit-shower! Swaying violently caused many to throw up. I succumbed once to the sights and smells of vomitus all around me on steps and handrails below the decks. Thus I blamed my own upchucking on the sounds and smells and sights rather than on motion sickness itself… but, who cares? huh? Bring it up again… and we will vote on it!

Less sickening environment was on the deck. But outside, on the deck, there were other hazards. Chunks of icebergs were sliding across the deck. Chunks the sizes of soccer balls were in fact used for playing impromptu soccer. Blocks the size of barrels acted like the proverbial “loose cannon” and could break a leg on an adult or kill a little kid like me. Seawater and sea-ice were brought to the deck with every dip below the high waves. Over the rails – in the ocean we would see chunks of icebergs the sizes of trucks. Little kids like me were told tales of the Titanic and the sounds of blocks of ice scraping the hull of the ship were not calming. Also the bitter cold wind of the North Atlantic on clothes soaked with salt water drove us back below decks in very few minutes.

By 1950 the Ellis Island facility was long closed, but we did see the Statue of Liberty at some distance. For “the Huddled Masses” on the deck of General Blatchford it was definitely a portend of a better life! Certainly it was a moment when America was celebrated as “the land I love”. There were very few dry eyes…

In New York we boarded a train for Chicago. As I recall, there were several other families of Czechs who were on the train from New York to Chicago. Among them were the Houdeceks, Bradkas, Junas, Frank S`ulc and Mr. Zemla.. Our dad was waiting at the Chicago train station with Mr. John Voller, his new employer and the sponsor of the Jandacek family. We arrived in Chicago at night, (Much more about Mr.Voller later).

Sponsorship For the Jandaceks

Revoked by the Czech abbot

In 1948, 1949 and 1950 Father worked as an editor for the Czech Benedictine Press (Czech Abbey in Chicagoland). The Monastery, which was in Lisle Illinois (a far suburb of Chicago) was the spiritual / administrative center of the religious community. The printing plant was in Chicago-proper. The Czech Benedictine Monks and their (lay) editors published TWO DAILY Newspapers for the Czech language and Faith community in Chicagoland and, by mail-order, throughout North America. Dad was not paid much by the Benedictine Press as he was employed by the abbot Lev (Leo) Ondrak. But the position of an editor represented some prestige in the Czech-American Community.

American Czechs & European Czechs
It is important to realize that the American-Czech Community enjoyed much more cultural autonomy in United States at the end of the 19th Century and the first part of the 20th Century than the Czech / Moravian population of Austria-Hungary did. Live theaters, movie theathers, concert halls, Czech cemeteries, Czech and Slovak churches, publishers, virtuosos, and other aspects of Czech and Slovak culture PROSPERED in America while they were oppressed by the Habsburgs and their Slavo-phobic administrations.

The prestigious position of an editor was coveted by a couple of immigrant Czechs. Their names were Petrik and Stranecky. These two (Petrik and Stranecky) conspired and convinced the good abbot that they could do a better job at expanding the publication of the two newspapers published by the Benedictine Press NAROD and KATOLIK. Their tactics were humorous, but effective. They would keep a rosary wrapped in their handkerchieves. They would sneeze and as they pulled out the handkerchief the rosary would drop to the ground in front of the good but naive abbot. they would then pick up the rosary and “piously” kiss it before placing it back into the pocket After they replayed the act several times for the abbot, people began to anticipate “the rosary game”… the abbot was both an employer of dad and also the sponsor of the Jandacek mother and three children who were still in the refugee camps.

In the middle of the 20th Century it was NOT customary to cross the border into United States – illegally. It was a long and arduous process of selection. Stranecky and Petrik somehow convinced the abbot to WITHDRAW THE SPONSORSHIP for the Jandacek family and to terminate Dad as the editor. This is where Mr. John Voller (mentioned above) stepped in. He gave Dad employment at his printing outfit: – Physicians’ Records Company. Mr. Voller also picked up the sponsorship of the Jandacek mother and children so they could come to America.

Mr. Voller

So, on December 23, 1950 Mr. Voller picked up the Jandacek family at the train station in Chicago and delivered them to 2230 South Austin Boulevard. in Cicero, Illinois. This was a house which Mr. Voller owned and rented to Dad for his family. Thus Mr. Voller was a benefactor to the Jandacek family by:

  1. renting one of his houses to us at an advantageous rate,
  2. by employing my father,
  3. by sponsoring the family to come to America and later on …
  4. by employing my brother, Tony, at the Physicians’ Record Company for two or three summers.

Books & Printing
The experience in the print shop predisposed the Jandacek family to expand their propensity to “write” books and newspaper articles to ALSO the technical side of the publishing world. Even back in the 1930s or early 1940s my father wrote a book about the Czech pioneers in America. To gather material for his book Dad made a couple of trips to America and interviewed many of the children and grandchildren of the Czech settlers. The title of the book was DROBNI VELIKANI (Miniature Giants). It was in the style of “MY ANTONIA” by Willa Cather (but in Czech). Dad wrote in a factual style and when it came to writing some love scenes he always asked Mom to write some “sweet lemonade”. Thus Antonin and Marie Jandacek actually collaborated on writing books. I (Petr) too took printing classes at J. Sterling Morton HS and was a printers devil at Washburn Press (owned by the Solfronk brothers (fellow Czech refugees and new Americans).

We had the MOST WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS – and REUNION of FAMILY on December 24 and 25 of 1950 after a separation of more than three years!

While we were in the refugee camps in The American Zone of Germany at Christmas TIMES of 1948 and 1949 – mother painted for each of her children WOODEN PLATES WITH CZECH (more properly “MORAVIAN”) NATIONAL ORNAMENTS. To this day (in 2009) we (now old) children treasure those unique WORKS OF ART!

Greenhorns In Amerika

Mr. Holas was fluent in German, French, English and probably several other languages besides his native Czech. (He eventually emigrated to Rabat, French North Africa). Mr. Holas wrote out phonetically a greeting in English which I practiced to say to my father. It was written:

HAU DU’ JU’ DU’ DE’ DY, AJ EM SOU GLE’ D TU SI’ JU’ EGEN! Alas, when I recited this line to my father – he, living nearly exclusively in a Czech speaking environment, (in a Czech ghetto in America) – did NOT understand me! Dad also bought a 1940 Buick Special (straight eight) – though he did not drive yet.

After Christmas of 1950 and New Year of 1951 I was enrolled at a Czech Catholic Parochial School of “Our Lady Of Holy Mount” (Svata Maria Svatohorska). By the year 1950–51 I would guess that only half of the students at Our Lady Of Holy Mount School were of Czech ancestry. Some of them were in fact – half-Czech. My best friend, Michael Albanese, was Sicilian on his father’s side and Czech on his mother’s side. The mother’s maiden name was Milada (Mildred) Prohazka (more accurately in Czech Prochazka). I missed a lot of standard education in the refugee camps for nearly three years. I was placed into third grade even though by chronological age I should have been in fourth. (prior to that – in reality – I only had kindergarten and first grade in Czechoslovakia.). The nun in the third grade (Sister Milada) spoke Czech – well, and the one in fourth grade did not. Also, in the third grade was Ladislav (Laddie) Hynko, a Slovak who understood Czech. Laddie’s father was the Czechoslovak Ambassador either to the USA or Canada before the Communist Putsch. Some years later Laddie Hynko’s young sister died and I, then about 15 years old, was one of her pallbearers. That was my first experience of someone younger than I was – dead.

Even though Our Lady Of Holy Mount was a Czech parish it NO LONGER TAUGHT CZECH. So, every Saturday I got on the bus and on the elevated train and rode to and from CZECH SCHOOL at the Czech Parish of BLAHOSLAVENA ANEZKA CESKA (the Blessed Agnes of Bohemia.). It was a “civic” duty of every Czech family to send their kids to Czech school every Saturday. (like Greek kids to Greek school in My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

In the fifth grade at Holy Mount in 1951 there was a pretty blond girl by the name of Carmela Janda… Carme also spoke Czech and from time to time she was asked to come to the third grade and interpret for me some things which I could not understand in English. In the early 1960s my brother, Tony JANDAcek married Carmela JANDA!

Sister Milada, my third grade teacher, allowed me to fulfill my assignments with DRAWINGS rather than with the written English word for a few months until my new language skills improved. I believe that honing my skills in art in third grade was very consequential in my profession as an ART TEACHER throughout my adult life.

From time to time we did encounter some hostilities. Sometimes we were called “God dammed DPs” and told to go back to where we came from… I believe that Marie was confronted by such bias more than the others. Because she was so bright she rose above other girls in school and at her jobs to lower management positions. The other teen girls were jealous when she dated young men from Czechoslovakia. They would tell Marie that those young men were invited to come to America because there were insufficient number of good young men in America for all the girls. Largely we just let such criticisms roll off our “God-damned DP” backs! Ha ha =)

Some Things About “Big” Sister (Marie)

My 15 year old sister, Marie, was the most gung-ho American capitalist. Unlike in a communist society where people pretend to work and the State pretends to pay them… here, in America, one could hold down two or three jobs and bank most of the money! Yes, she would hold down multiple jobs while being a straight A high school student. Marie was a very “quick study” and even as a teenager, rose to lower management position within weeks on any job … Marie was infamous for running with her pay check to the savings and loan and depositing it into a high yielding savings account. If she needed money the next day she had to borrow it from the meager reserves in the pockets of her brothers. She would always repay us from her next pay check! She, and the rest of the immigrant Jandacek family gave frugality a bad name. One of the most embarrassing moments of my life was –being SENT TO OUR NEIGHBORS, the NERONS, (next door) TO BORROW ONE DIME – (10 cents – so my father could take the bus to work, cash his paycheck near his place of employment to have the bus fare home.) That evening I was sent to the Nerons to return the TEN CENTS. I realize that it sounds like something from Charles Dickens, but I swear it IS the truth. After high school Marie got her Associate of Arts Degree from Morton Jr. College. Marie was a much more “a quick study” than her brothers, Tony and I, were. Our parents valued education very much, but, alas they valued it MORE in their male progeny than in the distaff heirs. Thus Tony and I ended our education with a Masters Degrees plus some spares. Hark, by the time our baby sister, Vera, was born (in America) she went on to become a LAWYER! Marie’s gifts were much more in the business world than in the “Halls of Academia.”.

One of the more amusing stories about my sister happened soon after we came to America. After nearly three years of separation our parents were catching up on conjugal visits. Marie got “busted” when she snuck out of her bed to investigate what was happening in the bed of our parents. When our baby sister, Vera, was born few months later some wondered if the conception was witnessed by Marie… Ha ha =)

Ultimately, Marie has to write her own extensive life history her self.

Spare the Rod…

I must admit that as an elementary school pupil and high school student I was “unremarkable”. I always hoped to be UN-markable about my scholasticism. On such occasions when I did not get very good grades I did receive beatings from my father and these were administered with his belt. The leather end hurt less than the buckle end. At such times there were “bad” marks on my report card there were also “bad” marks on my back. Such were the “educational standards” of the time (1950s) and place (the Czech ghetto in Chicagoland). In a later time, and in more “American environment”, my father would have been serving time for child abuse. The floggings were to continue until morale improved. =)

Corporal Punishment in Czech Tradition
Well into the 20th Century – more often in Moravia than in Bohemia, one would find “DUTKY” (cat of nine tails) mounted above the door – reminding children that the father of the household still had the (theoretical) option of corporal punishment. I sense that the option is SELDOM invoked in 21st century.

Easter Beatings Tradition
Americans will have found it “counterintuitive” to learn that there is a tradition among the Czechs and Slovaks – for boys to cut long, supple, thin branches from willow trees, to braid these long willow shoots into WHIPS, to decorate the whips with colorful (sometimes embroidered) ribbons and on Easter to whip the girls in the village until the maidens give the boys decorated Easter eggs. The “beatings” are perfunctory only!
St. Nicholas Day Beatings Tradition

On the Feast Day of St. Nicholas – the prototypical “Santa Claus” a male relative or a friend of the family dresses as an aged bishop with a white beard, in robes, and with a miter on the head, and holding a ceremonial shepherd’s crook (called Crosier) comes visiting homes of children. St. Nicholas (Mikulas`) has with him a big book with all the children’s names, an angel with wings (who gives toys and candy to good children), a devil in chains is permitted by St. Nicholas to administer beatings to children who had been bad. So, Czech children live in fear of feast day beatings and some impromptu and spontaneous beatings throughout the year – as needed…

Much Improved Scholasticism

While “unremarkable” student in childhood and as an adolescent, later, at Morton Jr. College (AA), at Illinois State University (BS), and at Illinois Institute of Technology (MS), I can say that I prospered as a scholar. Often I was on the Dean’s List for my good grades. In the long run – the less successful (Ph.D.) program at Southern Illinois University was also serendipitous for life in LOS ALAMOS – the MOST EDUCATED TOWN IN THE WORLD.

For now I want to concentrate on the early years in Cicero, Illinois. The house we were renting from Mr.Voller at 2230 South Austin Boulevard in Cicero, Illinois was very near (across the street) – from Austin Arms (reputedly one of the homes of Alfonse Capone – Scar-face, Al Capone). It was still largely a Czech neighborhood. Our home was one block away from C`ERMAK Road – so named after the famous Czech-American Mayor of Chicago. Our Lady of Holy Mount was still a Czech Parish church. Every day Monsignor Toney said the Latin mass with Czech preaching. The butchers, the bakers (there were no candlestick makers) spoke Czech. All the banks and savings & loan institutions had Czech tellers. Czech physicians, dentists, lawyers and barbers advertised their services in Czech. There were Czech-speaking baseball teams and soccer groups. There were Czech-singing chorales. Within four or six blocks there were two movie theaters which showed Czech films. Some people lived to ripe-old-age without ever functioning in English. Our parents were among those who functioned in English only so-so.

Critters In The City

We did try to have a dog – named Bobik – like Grandma Polak’s dog in Zelezna. But with Austin Boulevard fast moving bumper to bumper traffic – It only took a single time for Bobik to be loose before he got hit by a car. I had several box turtles which survived for a long time. They never RAN out into the traffic. I guess I always wanted to be a “gentleman farmer”. One day I found an injured charcoal gray pigeon under the Holy Mount Church tower. It was a bit injured and I nursed it back to wellness. I named her – Cleopatra. She would sit on my shoulder while I rode my bike up and down the driveway (my parents did not want me to leave the lot). Indeed Austin Boulevard was dangerous with all the traffic, but the driveway was only about 80 feet long. Cleopatra and I put on a lot of miles on the bicycle in the driveway. When I was a parent on my own terms I probably erred on the other side. If my parents never allowed me to learn to swim – I encouraged my children to join the swim team even as little kids. If my parents did not let me ride a horse – I made sure that my kids had ponies. I provided my children with a dogsled and four sled dogs. Perhaps I would always ask myself “What would Dad do?” and, then do the opposite with my kids. =) As a teacher I found that many immigrant parents are xenophobic. My parents assumed that most American children were NOT good and that I should not pick up their “rotten apple” traits. I do not believe that I had inculcated their fearful value system. If anything I gravitate to people who are dissimilar to me. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica (which as first europeans had Sephardic Jews from Ferdinand & Isabela’s Spain & Inquisition) and subsequently most of the population was of sub-Saharan slaves). The rest of Jamaican population is largely made up of Chinese and East Indians.

Back to Cleopatra the Pigeon… We were very good friends! She would eat out of my hand, perch on my shoulder or fly along where I walked. I was able to “hypnotize” her by placing her upside down in the palm of my hand and gently covering her head with the other hand. After about 10 seconds she would go into a trance… I would then place her upside down with her head hanging backwards over the edge of a stair, she would remain motionless in that position for up to about a half hour.

I had so much success with Cleopatra that I decided to raise more pigeons for squab. We had a milkman who delivered fresh milk and milk products everyday to our house. He raised show pigeons. He gave me an EXTREMELY LARGE WHITE KING variety male as a mate for my tiny Cleopatra. The size difference made their mating ritual a very comical affair. I habituated ALL of my pigeons to the “Hypnotic Procedure”. I enjoyed placing a half dozen stuporred pigeons on their backs on the steps of our front porch. When the neighbors had come to watch, I would clap my hands and the pigeons would flip over and fly away. Soon I had about 6 pigeons living in a hutch inside of a little opened window in the attic of Mr. Voller’s house that we rented. A couple of times a month I would harvest the squab when they had grown pin feathers about half to 3/4 inch long (before they could fly).

Most people in America have never tasted pigeon. It is very similar to Rock Cornish game hens. Very tasty and easily digestible for hospital patients! Alas! some neighbors (about two houses to the north) found pigeon poops on their roof offensive and complained to Mr. Voller – our landlord. All of the pigeons including my favorite Cleopatra had to go to death row. I have learned that for a “gentleman farmer” a columbarium is an easy and profitable enterprise. I recommend it for times of an economy of sacristy!

The Death of Stalin & Petr’s Rebellion

In 1953 I was in the fifth grade at Our Lady of Holy Mount Church School. (It is so named after a Pilgrimage Place in Bohemia “Svata Hora” – because it started out as a Czech settlement near Chicago, Illinois.)

Joseph STALIN died in March 1953 and the nun who taught my class asked the kids to PRAY for the repose of the soul of the Soviet Dictator. I LEAD A REVOLT against the idea. I knew that this horrible man killed 65 million OF HIS OWN PEOPLE! Many of his victims were in Ukraine and Chechnya. The good sister (nun) scolded me for not having a better Christian attitude, but I would not yield! I told the class that Stalin deserved to go to hell for killing all those millions and trying to kill my father as well…

Evil People
My parents always told me to stay away from Marxists, atheists and homosexuals! I had led a virtuous life avoiding such people since my mother considered such people to be ALL infected by syphilis and she would go into gory details of how your brain and other features of you anatomy rot off and you experience a horrible death. This was long before the world experienced AIDS and HIV. The only bogeyman that we had in the 1950s and 1960s were venereal infections.

The nun and I did battle over the soul of Stalin, and the hearts and minds of my classmates to the point that she made a visit to our home to complain about me to my parents! My parents listened politely to the nun, and after she left – they told me that I did not have to pray for Stalin. That time I did not receive a beating for my “schoolwork”.

I will never know how many of my classmates prayed for the soul of Dzhugashvili-Stalin, but my challenge to the nun was long remembered by the students at Holy Mount. Klement Gottwald, the communist President of Czechoslovakia, went to Moscow for Stalin’s funeral. On the way back home to Prague, Gottwald turned extremely ill. A few hours later he expired. It was widely speculated that a post-Stalinist purge called for Gottwald’s “demotion” from alive to dead. My brother, Tony, suggests that Gottwald died at that (opportune moment) of syphilis. Neither cause of death was anything to clap about… Ha ha.

House Of Our Own – The American Dream

Not only Marie, but ALL of the Jandaceks, gave frugality a bad name. In very few years we were able to pool our moneys and buy the house on Austin Boulevard from Mr. Voller. Marie certainly would know if we took out a mortgage – most of the money almost certainly was the $ SHE earned… knowing our family, it would not surprise me if we bought it cash or with a minimally small loan. Every Czech I had ever known was a homeowner within four or five years after he/she arrived in America. Standard jokes about Czech (Bohemian) frugality were that a “Bohak” buys a TWO story Berwyn Bungalow. He moves into the basement (because the basement apartment rents for less than first and second floor). He uses the rent from first and second floor to create a FOURTH apartment in the attic. He purchases the houses on either side of his original basement home… until he owns the whole block. He does not worry about the stock market crashing because he STILL lives in the original basement apartment and jumping out of the basement window wont hurt! =)

Or, how about this one? The GRAND CANYON? A Bohak dropped a nickel and it rolled into a gopher hole. The Bohak got a shovel and is still digging for it somewhere at the bottom! =)
How does a Bohak sing “Home on the Range”? – “Oh give me a home at the savings and loan….”

Once my parents owned the house, my father began very extensive gardening on the very large lot (by neighborhood standards) – (it was a lot and one half!). He planted a CESKA LIPA (Czech Linden Tree) sometimes called a Lime, several lilacs, many flowers and vegetables. My box turtles loved to eat the big green “tomato worms” and I loved to eat the vine ripened tomatoes. I loved walking through Dad’s tomato plot with a salt shaker in one hand and a big red tomato in the other. We had a very large catalpa tree in the back yard. Dad learned to drive the 1940 Buick he bought shortly before his family arrived in America. From one of our neighbors I inherited a BB gun and a 24 inch bicycle. I was not ready for a 26 inch bike. I was a small kid. NO sandbox for me – so the cats would not bury me! =)

Mushroom picking was a family tradition long before it being the pretext for the escape from the Communist regime. The family liked to go ‘shroom picking by Oregon, Illinois – which was near Geneva, Illinois. Oftentimes Dad would find many mushrooms including the giant (in Czech called KOTRC` / Latin – Sparassis crispa / English – Cauliflower mushroom – essentially, it was a yearly ritual that Dad’s picture appeared in the local newspaper with an edible fungus the size of two water melons. We would dry the mushrooms on window screens and use them year-round for condiments. The little ones – usually VACLAVKY (Latin – Armilaria mellea) were put aside and Mom would pickle them in a sweet-sour sauce. Yummmm! See – Continued – House of Our Own (after mushroom litany)

A Litany of Mushroom Lore in the Jandacek Clan


Mushrooms have figured very profoundly into the history of the Jandacek family. The Hronov area in northeastern region of Bohemia (very near the Polish border) is the homeland of the Jandacek clan. Mushrooms there have always been an important food source. Fresh mushrooms are well over 90% water, but when dehydrated they are nearly all protein. Consider that Fungi are close relatives of the yeasts, and that yeast protein (Vegemite etc) is a popular spread in Britain and Australia The most common breakfast for the Jandacek kids in Hronov used to be KISELO. Kyselo is produced by taking the bowl in which the mother made bread dough the evening before, and NOT washing it add water and let it sit overnight. The yeast and the dough ferment in the water and produce a froth. To this you add fresh or dried mushrooms and serve to the children as porridge. Such breakfast was reserved for very poor people.


Mother (Marie Polak) came from Zelezna u Berouna in the Brdy Mountains between Prague and Pilsen. These hills also are well known for good “shrooming”. Mom knew her mushrooms very well, and considered herself every bit as competent mycologist as dad. (A mycologist is a fungi -or in mother’s case a fun gal at heart ! Ha ha)


All Jandacek children would go mushrooming as soon as they could walk.


Instead of being told that we get children from a cabbage patch – before children are born – they are said to be “na houbach” (mushrooming) in the Czech context.


As narrated earlier, the Jandacek family escaped from communist Czechoslovakia under the pretext of mushrooming in the boarder region. Mushrooms are our Passover meal.


A tacit rule was that no festive meal of the family would be without fresh, dried or pickled mushrooms. My favorite were the pickled kind!


For many years dad would have a picture of him with a new GIGANTIC ‘shroom in the local newspaper.


The Cicero / Berwyn area of Chicagoland has always had many, many Czechs. The Czech community was always notorious for their obsession with mushrooms. Thus in the late 1960s the Cicero / Berwyn Community & Merchants established a HOUBY FESTIVAL. (HOUBY being the Czech word for MUSHROOMS). My sister, VERA JANDACEK was the FIRST HOUBY (MUSHROOM) QUEEN.


For many years, my brother Tony Jandacek taught classes in mushroom identification and mushroom “hunting”.


Living in Los Alamos I too have some notoriety as a mushroom hunter. As an art teacher and a jokester I have fabricated hundreds of CERAMIC ‘SHROOMS (‘shroom decoys as duck hunters have duck decoys). I had placed these, partially hidden around the Jemez Mountains. Inside the ceramic mushroom decoys I hid notes which said.

Be of good cheer fellow ‘shroomer, and transplant this ‘shroom decoy to another forest where your competitors can find and get a laugh as a fun-guy. ~ Petr Jandacek

A man named JARMIE was a famous local mycologist and he founded the New Mexico Mycological Society. My brother Tony attended their convention in Anger Fire, New Mexico. Tony was shocked when Jarmie addressed the convention and holding a ceramic decoy – described it as Boletus jandaceki – a newly found species of a boleti – very firm and resistant to decay. A great time was had by all at the convention, Tony was happy to be introduced to the Jandacek boletus and the humor of the event.


Father DIED after he found and carried one gigantic mushroom to the car. He started the car and was bragging to his ‘shrooming buddy that again he was going to be in the newspaper with a humongous-fungus when he slumped over the steering wheel and died.


Dad would have been “highly urinated” if his prize mushroom spoiled. So, we fried it up and served it to people attending his wake and funeral!


Within a couple of weeks MUSHROOMS WERE GROWING FROM DAD’S GRAVE! Deep down dad was a FUN-GI – (Fun Guy) !


Scripture presents that Jesus of Nazareth’s first miracle was changing water into wine. And, He was still sucking on a wine-soaked sponge on the cross. Jandaceks do SHROOMS where He did wine.


VERY FUNNY! The lexical domain of the Czech isogloss “HOUBA” includes both the English word “SPONGE” and the English word “MUSHROOM”, When sister Marie was a girl she always understood that the Roman soldier soaked a MUSHROOM (NOT a SPONGE) in wine, and on a spear lifted it to the mouth of the dying Christ. (Example of lexical domain in English: BOW in the hair, BOW and arrow, or, BOW of a ship and, take a BOW – lesson in linguistics.)


Before Czechs are born they are in the mushroom patch (rather than in the cabbage patch) and when the Jandaceks die (I suspect) they are hunting mushrooms, and pushing up mushrooms in stead of daisies! =) We are sure they go to happy (mushroom) hunting grounds).


In about 1984 Al Arko and his family moved to Los Alamos. He and his wife were refugees from Slovenia. Arko and I were very good ‘shrooming buddies. We had a friendly battle going on whether the Slovene-Americans or the Czech-Americans were better mushroomers? or better anti-commies? Al and I had very similar personal histories.


When we were the Scouts in Germany, my brother Tony’s Scout nickname was HRIBEK, which in Czech means “a little bolette mushroom“.

Continued ~ A House of Our Own

We would also collect hazel nuts and raspberries and make raspberry syrup which we added to water and made our own drinks (berryade, like lemonade). It is called SHTYAVA. Such drinks lasted us until the next wild raspberry harvest. We learned that a SINGLE tea bag made a whole gallon (or more) of ice tea if boiled in the water. We thought it was very wasteful to use a whole tea bag for a single cup of tea! We also made linden blossom tea from our Lipa tree. This tea was especially good if you had a cold.

Marie would be invited by other teen girls to go shopping with them. She was horrified by their shopping practices when they said; “OK, I have $3.43 left, what ELSE can I buy? We would approach shopping from the “NEED point of view”. What do we absolutely NEED to buy? and what is the most money we can bring back home? This difference in approach to shopping was a culture shock!

As we came to America we learned about second hand clothes shops. Soon we had more pairs of gloves than we had hands. We had more clothes than we could possibly put on all at the same time. We each had several pairs of shoes. We EACH had our OWN TOWEL! These were luxuries and surpluses which we had not experienced for over three years. America was indeed where even poor immigrants had surplus of some things.

In Prague we always had one or two maids, but we did not have a refrigerator. In Prague we had a vacuum cleaner. It took us a couple of years before we could buy a vacuum cleaner in America. Mom would go on her hands and knees with a dust pan and a bench brush to clean the carpets.

For the first few months when we came to America, Mom was unemployed, but when she found her self pregnant, Mom and Marie did a “cottage industry” – making small boxes for pills and small ointment tubes for the pharmaceutical industry. It was this cottage industry which paid for the doctor bills associated with child birth. Mom and Marie set up the little box factory in the basement. While they were operating the little box making rig, I had to recite my multiplication tables. After Vera was born, I was actually allowed to leave the house and yard… but only if I was pushing my baby sister in a stroller. When I complained that I always had to baby sit – Mom answered – “that’s NOT true – not when you are in school!” I don’t think that – THAT is what she wanted to say – but THAT IS what she said! I was not a “happy camper” as 11 and 12 and 13, year old boy always having to baby sit a little sister. I used to chant : “Den co den,kazdej den, musim ven, s mrnetem”.

The newspapers loyalties of my parents shifted from the Czech Catholic (Benedictine Press) [KATOLIK & NAROD] (and the new “editors” of Petrik and Stranecky) to the more secular Czech newspapers of SVORNOST and HLASATEL. Both parents wrote many columns and articles for these newspapers over many, many years. Dad’s articles were largely of political nature. Mom wrote short stories and cooking recipes. Eventually, in stead of printing these in the format of newspaper columns (two inches wide) – the newspaper started to print them in 6 x 9 format – with an eye to binding them in books to be published later. In time they were published in four volumes of POVIDKY ZE ZEME MILOVANE (Tales From The Land Beloved). Also a CESKA NARODNI KUCHARKA (Czech National Cookbook) was published first in Czech and subsequently in the English language. The English version sold especially well and was in at least two – perhaps three printings! The cookbooks had certain imbecilities… don’t forget that the recipes were FIRST published in newspapers. Proofreading missed a couple of cases where it said something like… “Remember how yesterday you were asked to save some of your stock? now get the stock from the refrigerator and add it to…” Because, you see, it was first written as a serial day by day in a newspaper!

Some Words About Brother Tony

When in high school, Tony was in the orchestra and played the French horn, (the cello of brasses). The orchestra teacher / conductor was a Czech-American, Louis M. Blaha, a close friend of the world famous KUBELIK (Rafael Jeroným KUBELIK – June 28, 1914 to August 11, 1996 – was a Czech conductor and composer) and, often the orchestra played The Largo from the New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak. It sort of became the “theme melody” for Morton High School and its plaudible orchestra. The Largo from the New World Symphony called for Tony’s French horn. Tony would work every summer at Mr. Voller’s Physicians’ Record Company (the printing outfit). The company prospered and built a new plant in the suburbs of Chicago. Mr. Voller and his employees had a festivity in which he and subsequently the workers had “golden” spades and ceremoniously turned over the shovelfuls of dirt for the foundation. We had great admiration for Mr. Voller and rejoiced in his successes. Mr. Voller smoked big, fat cigars – which eventually killed him. But, before he died he went to Rome and was Knighted by the Pope into the Order of Knights of St. Gregory. Tony joined the Air Force. He had spent most of his service years in Thule, Greenland and Pensacola, Florida. He got a good deal with the GI bill which paid for most of his college education. He did most of his studies at De Paul University. The Jandaceks had a reputation in the Czech community that they valued education even more than the other immigrants.

Ultimately, Tony has to write an extensive personal history for himself.

Some Words About Sister Vera

Vera Jandacek was BORN IN USA in 1952. As a child and a teen she too had a remarkable career in the Czech-American society in America. I will ask her to write her own life’s story. For now I will touch upon the facts that she was the HOUBY QUEEN for the Cicero / Berwyn community in 1970. In 1972 she was the Queen for the CSA Czechoslovak Society of America, In 1973 my sister, Marie, my brother, Tony, and I were good adult children to our widowed mother (and good adult siblings to Vera) and we older kids financed a trip for Mom and Vera to Czechoslovakia. It was an opportunity for Vera to learn first hand about the lands which she represented as the CSA Queen.

Relatives Visit Jamaica & Czechoslovakia
In 1970 and 1971 Louise and I were Peace Corps Volunteers in Jamaica. Louise and I financed totally the visits to Jamaica by my in-laws, John and Jean Evanich, and Mary and Vera Jandacek, (my mom and sister). We were VERY FRUGAL and we did this by saving much of the $3 a day that Louise got and $3 a day that I (Petr) got, and the $1.50 a day that Anna (Tatianna) got each day.
Many years later Vera was the president of CSA (Czechoslovak Society of America) NOT the Confederacy (an umbrella entity for many insurance companies). Vera also worked in the healing arts with Dr. George Podzamsky (a Slovak Physician), Vera did get Doctor of Law Degree, but worked more in the banking sector than in law. Ultimately, Vera has to write an extensive personal history for herself.

Petr’s Adolescent Years

While at J. Sterling Morton High School, arguably, my best friends were the Dobias (identical) twins (Nadya and Millie) They were also Czech. Czech was one of the foreign languages taught at J S Morton H S. The Dobias twins and I were enrolled in that class… not so much that we were likely to learn all that much, but rather to demonstrate to school administration that THERE WAS A DEMAND FOR TEACHING THE LANGUAGE! The Czech classes were taught by Bohumil Mikula. (Many years later my brother, Tony, was the teacher of the Czech language at Morton HS. He also taught English.) Most of my good buddies from Holy Mount went to Quiggly Jr. Seminary. My seminarian friends, especially MIKE Albanese, used to make fun of my mother’s Holy relics. Mike would call them Mrs. Jandacek’s “stuffed Saints“. He would ask her if she could get him a… reliquary of his Patron Saint, St. Michael the Archangel… perhaps a FEATHER … ?!? The seminarians’ favorite expletive was (while slapping the table) “OH MARITAL ACT”. From a seminarian’s mouth it was very “poignant”! I had toyed with the idea of becoming a priest and to join my good buddies in the seminary… but I was really big into “impure thoughts” and the idea of celibacy for the rest of my life – was REALLY FRIGHTENING! I was always convinced that the original scripture said “Celebrate” and subsequently some stupid monk transcribed it as “Celibate”. =)

The Jandacek family had friends in Michigan (the Martans). They had a large apple orchard. Their property was right on Lake Michigan and had a beautiful beach. Petr’s good buddies and he were allowed to camp in the orchard above the Martan Beach. Around a camp fire we would sing and I would play my harmonica Those were good times with my friends. “Gaudeamus Igitur” was one of our favorite hit songs! =)

My seminarian friends and I were like the boys in the movie DEAD POETS’ SOCIETY. We would smoke our pipes and discuss philosophers and theologians like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Kierkegaard, Paul Tillich and Dostoevsky. One of the more amusing ideas we used to discuss was the proposition by St. Augustine of Hippo – where he states that “The only reason for marriage was to produce more virgins for nunneries!” I had absorbed a lot of what they learned in the seminary. They used to call it “semen hairy”. Not a single one of them actually stayed in the priesthood. Only ONE (John Lillig) was consecrated a priest, but he too left when he realized that the Roman Catholic priesthood was the biggest cartel of child molesters. John married and had a family of well adjusted children. Thus ALL of my seminarian buddies lost their “priestly vocation” and most lost their faith in the “Papal Bulls” as well. (This is NOT an irreverent statement!) The Papal Seal has a “BULL” depicted on it and when the Pope promulgates “an article of faith” “Ex Cathedra” (From the Chair {of Peter}) it is referred to as a “Papal Bull”. You may recall that Tony’s godfather was the Papal Envoy to Czechoslovakia and the Guardian of The Papal Bull (Seal). (Reputably my Godfather was the Fire Chief of Prague)

Besides my seminarian friends I also spent a lot of time in the Czech Youth Organization. We had classes in ballroom dancing and I learned to dance (well) such choreographic delights as the tango, fox trot, waltz and especially the Viennese Waltz and the polka. (The POLKA, incidentally is a Czech {Moravian} dance NOT Polish, but we also learned the Polish Mazurka.)

I was always very curious about how things work. I did not need to have a tattoo, but I needed to know that I COULD DO IT. (You don’t have to eat the whole apple to know that it’s rotten!) So I wrapped a thread around a needle, dipped it into some India Ink and wrote very tiny initials PJ on my left wrist (under my watch). It is only about 1/4 x 1/4 of an inch. In a like manner I needed to know IF I could make wine. I found some wild grapes in a Forest Preserve and squeezed out a gallon of juice. I only used regular bread yeast (NOT Vintners’ Yeast). Yes, it WAS wine… not very good. I gave a pint bottle to a kid. The word got out and the police investigated me as a bootlegger. It was a little disquieting because by that time Dad had the liquor store and the authorities wanted to make sure we did not make our own alcohol hooch for the store.

More About Printing

I enjoyed setting type by hand (like Ben Franklin used to do – in a composing stick). At the Solfronks’ Print Shop I was one of the last of the printer’s devils in the traditional sense of the word. The printing technology changed tremendously between 1950s and the coming of the 21st century! Everybody can be a publisher after AD 2000! Reflecting back on what I had written earlier about Jandaceks branching out from the “writing” into “printing” it seems that we had printer’s ink running in our veins. In Los Alamos I was first hired (in 1972) to teach GRAPHIC ARTS which included the printing of school programs on offset presses. We also did much of the yearbook work. Thus, arguably, I did more printing at Los Alamos than my dad and brother did at Physicians’ Records Company of the Vollers’. I toyed with the idea of being a printer in Alaska. There they paid very well and in three years one could return to the 48 contiguous States as a millionaire. Nothing came of that pipe dream.

The Delicatessen Years

In the late 1950s my parents were approached by a strange little Czech man by the name of Vaclav Reznicek. Reznicek wanted to be a famous author like my parents were… but he could not write… so he hired my parents as “ghost writers”. He did not have much to write about, but he DID have asthma, and he wanted to WRITE the great novel about his hypochondriac LOVE of Asthma. My parents and he struck a deal after they came up with the clever title of “JEDNODUS`E PROTI ZADUS`E”. (Simply Against Asthma). Reznicek already had a pen name picked out! “Vincent Von Prag”. Later on, Jednodus`e Proti Zadus`e was translated into English as “My Life With Asthma”. Reznicek was not a very nice man. He used to brag that he left his would-be (pregnant) bride in Czechoslovakia waiting on the church steps – on the day he left for America. He thought it was really funny. Likely, he was the foulest man I ever knew!

When we met him he was married with two daughters little younger than I was. Many times he had suggested that I would have “relations” with his preteen daughters. Sometimes they were in his car at the same time as I was We, the KIDS, were embarrassed by the “dirty old man’s” improper suggestions. Certainly we never acted on such coaching! Eventually he divorced his very nice wife and married the woman he employed in his store. The store which they had was called Dairyland Delicatessen. It was in a town called Lyons, Illinois. It was at Joliet and Ogden streets. On Sunday mornings Reznicek would pick me up at home very early and we would go to a Czech baking factory where he purchased several big trays of Kolacky and Danish and other bakery goods. Large loaves of Czech rye bread filled the car. While I was loading the car, Reznicek would wander around the bakery shoplifting rolls here, and buns there, for breakfast for everybody at his store. He paid me (in theory) to load up the station wagon and to unload it at his store. In reality, he paid me for pretending to be his friend and to listen to his stupid jokes and bawdy, foul-mouth songs. His role in my life was very inconsistent with my highly sophisticated seminarian – philosopher peer group. His store was a very profitable enterprise. over the years he made a lot of money in the store – even though his wife and his mistress (like busy bees) did all the work and he sort of acted like a drone. As Reznicek was dumping one wife and hitching with a new one, he decided to sell the store. He offered it to my parents. I was in a position to evaluate the sales more than other members of the family because I saw every Sunday the throngs of people waiting for the fresh bakery and other delicacies. With Reznicek I went all over to the wholesalers of meats, sausages, vegetables and fruits and of canned goods. Only the very BEST brands were sold at the Delicatessen !

Reznicek & Jandacek Cinematography

Reznicek considered me as the “son he never had”. He was a strange guy who liked to take me to PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING EVENTS. I could tell that these “events” were staged but he believed in professional wrestling like a nun believes in God. He also had dreams of being a film director. At that time (in Chicago’s history) the Czech element was still very strong. There was a borough of Chicago named “Czech PILSEN” largely anchored in the YUSAY PILSEN BREWERY and “Pilsen Park” which was owned by the Czech brewery. As Budweiser had the promotional Clydesdales, so Yusay Pilsen beer promoted Czech events. Reznicek made enough money in his deli to be one of the wealthier crooks in the Czech-American community. The NEW TOYS on the market were HOME MOVIE CAMERAS. Reznicek bought one of the best models of these cameras and had a wooden platform on top of his station wagon (car). My brother, Tony, would ride on top of the slow moving vehicle while Reznicek drove. They would film MORAVSKY DEN (the Moravian Day parade and festivities), Czech and Moravian dances, polka bands, speeches by state politicians, mounted horsemen in Moravian costumes would go for several blocks to the Czech Pilsen Park. The movies were of good COLOR quality, but they were NOT TALKIES. Not having great color for Czech / Moravian colorful costumes would have been like a black and white rainbow.

Dad decided that the Czech communities in Texas should see the films of Reznicek and Jandacek as depicting the dances and (silent) bands on MORAVIAN DAYS for several years in a row. Dad learned to drive to take the family on “vacations” to Texas. I would sit in the back sandwiched between my siblings going through Texas on the hot summer days WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING! Dad would not let us open the windows of the car because he said that the draft of air would give him a stiff neck. There were times when I thought that I was going to die… truly! We did that for three or four years – it was not a vacation to look forward to. It was hell! Unbelievably hot. In the 21st century – if a person has a dog in a car THAT HOT – he is arrested! For a souvenir I wanted to bring back to Illinois a cowboy hat like all the kids in Texas had, but I never got one. All of these trips happened BEFORE we had the Deli years. Once we owned the store ALL vacations went away. We then had to be in the store for 16 hours EVERY DAY.

Who’s Minding The Store?

On Sundays the store made almost as much money as the rest of the days put together. This was at a time in history when big stores were not opened on Sundays or after 6 o’clock in the evening. I reported to my parents that business was indeed good. Once again, we pooled of of our moneys (with Marie having the LIONess’ share) and we bought the deli!

Like Korean families set up stores in the 1990s in high crimes neighborhoods, we too had a food store in a neighborhood which was changing from “old money” to less money. Like the Koreans who throw away the first generation of immigrants – so that their children can become professionals, so also our family had a tacit understanding of such facts.

We had five advantages over other food stores:

  1. We stocked only the HIGHEST QUALITY foods.
  2. We had a (family) workforce which was “forgiving” if “payroll” needed to be delayed.
  3. We carried ethnic foods which were unavailable elsewhere in the area.
  4. We were opened from early in the morning to midnight every day of the year (except Christmas Eve – we closed at 6 PM).
  5. There were no nearby other food stores.

We had a relatively large work force in the family and could take turns watching the store. Dad did the bulk of the driving from wholesaler to wholesaler getting ethnic food specialties all over the greater Chicagoland area. We had a large Czech and Slovak clientele and so we had a lot of ethnic foods. We had blood sausage, and prasky (Prazsky) and sulc and headcheese, and debrecinky and Hungarian hard salami, kolace, and kolacky. Business was indeed very good. We made so much money that we were advised by our accountant to buy MORE CARS for the business so that taxes would not gobble up the profits. Thus we lived in an economy of substantial surplus.

We bought the business NEXT DOOR – a LIQUOR STORE and a TAVERN. We named it NEW PRAGUE and as with the DAIRYLAND DELICATESSEN, so also carried a wide range of goods for the Central European appetites. We had over 50 different imported beers. We had slivovica(s) from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Jelinek’s Slivovice from Czechoslovakia. We had the Czech Becherovka and many other Central European liquors. We had THREE imported beers on tap. We had Pilsner Urquell (Prazdroj), We had Dortmunder Union, and Munchner Hoffbrau DARK beer. We also had an American beer on tap. We had a very large painting of Prague (about 6 x 10 feet) near the bar. Business was very good at BOTH the Deli and the ADJACENT Liquor Store & Tavern.

Once a “customer” came to the delicatessen and when I asked him if I can help him – he jumped around the counter behind me and put a silver plated revolver against my right temple. I thought it was a JOKE. I whacked my right elbow backwards and hit him just below the sternum. I knocked the breath out of him. He doubled over trying to catch his breath. At the very moment a customer opened the door behind him (coming from our tavern to get a deli sandwich.) The holdup man decided that he did not want to be outnumbered and (still doubled over) hobbled out through the back door. Only then I realized that IT WAS NOT A JOKE. (The fool was trying to get money from a Bohak! He did not get any!)

More recently, I compare our situation to the Korean stores in high crime neighborhoods. These poor immigrants often deal with bandits. After me, mother got held up a couple of times. Life in America paid better, but it was still hard and full of dangers and risks.

Our good fortune lasted while we had the only store of that type for about a square mile. The market forces were on our side since we were OPENED TILL MIDNIGHT EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR – BUT ON CHRISTMAS EVE WHEN WE CLOSED THE STORE AT 6:OO PM.

Alas, some years later a big Kroger Store opened across the street from us. Dealing in large volume, their prices were much lower than ours. Our business declined. A couple of years later our business declined once more when the Kroger Store began to be opened on Sundays. So, the delicatessen business declined significantly, but the liquor store business continued to thrive. We took our turns behind the counter of the deli and as I reached the age of 21, I too tended the bar. The FAMILY business gave us a flexibility in that when business was bad we could wait a week longer sometime s to get our little pay.

Dad never stopped being an editor wannabe. He had a Czech typewriter on the tavern bar. Often he would let thirsty patrons wait while he typed an article for one of the Czech newspapers.

My College Years

After graduating from J. Sterling Morton High School in 1960, I enrolled at the college in the same building (Morton Jr. College) and majored in Education. From Morton Jr., College I graduated in 1962 with an Associate in Arts Degree in Education. I enrolled at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. I thrived at ISU and was on the Dean’s List all of the semesters. The credits which I earned at Morton College did not exactly mesh with the requirements at ISU so it took me five semesters, rather than four to finish my Bachelors Degree in Art and Art Education.

Since I received my degree in January of 1965, I enrolled immediately in a Master’s Program at ILLINOIS INSTITUTE of TECHNOLOGY and its INSTITUTE OF DESIGN (also named the American NEW BAUHAUS). This was a very prestigious school of design founded by Walter Gropius and Maholy-Nagy and at one time Buckminster Fuller was a prominent faculty member there. I received my Master of Science in Design and Art Education there in 1969. In 1971 I at Southern Illinois University. I was accepted into a Ph.D. Program. Buckminster Fuller ALSO functioned at SIU as a Professor Emeritus (just as at IIT. My education in design was greatly influenced by Bucky Fuller. It almost seems that wherever he went I followed. I did not do it intentionally. He and I have met and he had sent me letters and his autographed definitive work. SYNERGETICS. The last time I saw Bucky was in Albuquerque – University of New Mexico in the 1970s.

I Had a Life While Doing College

Including Courtship and Marriage

(Note on personal philosophy and psychology) As stated at the onset of this Family and Personal History: DELAYED PILGRIMS’ PROGRESS, I have a contempt for people who prefer to view themselves as victims rather than beings with FREE WILL. We do not have to be successful in our goals – we only have to be faithful! Said Thomas Merton I am NOT a “quick study”, but as I had matured I became more “faithful” to my studies and learned much.

One of the most conspicuous “failures” of American education is the fact that more than 98% of all university professors describe themselves as “liberal” or “EXTREMELY liberal”… yet merely about one half of their graduates describe their political orientation as similar. In 2009, when I am writing this “history”, USA is still a center-right country. I sincerely believe that my professors would have championed my cause enthusiastically if I had feigned agreement with their political and economic agenda. Our family’s involvement with small business, dealings with NAZIonal SOZIALISTS (NAZIs) and with communists have taught us that ALL such revolutions are spawned on the LEFT of the political spectrum and very rapidly develop a FAR RIGHT ELITE while continuing to feign to champion the proletariat. Take the case of the NAZIS! They started out as the GERMAN WORKERS’ PARTY, a LEFTist political movement. It was renamed The NAZIonal (NATIonal) SOCIALIST Party and quickly established an elite of wealthy industrialists and military junta (war profiteers) at the expense of working class people – on skimpy rations. The Bolsheviks were even worse – differentiating between Party Members and the rest of the population. The advocates of a classless society created stratification of society unequaled since the feudal system.

Perhaps because Victor Frankl’s mother was born in Prague and his father was born in southern Moravia is the reason that I have always had an identical “Weltamschauung” (world view) to his, and so his psychological and introspective model works so well for me as I filter the understanding of my world. I highly recommend that one reads the works of VICTOR FRANKL (MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING) to understand my a priori approach to this writing.

Petr J.


As a child at Our Lady of Holy Mount I was taught to pray for my future spouse long before I ever met her. As I transferred after my first two years of college (at Morton) to Illinois State University to finish the balance of my semester hours to my Bachelor’s Degree I met a beautiful and very personable young freshman woman named Louise Evanich. This was in the fall of 1962. I recognized her name to be Slavic, and since I had been a Slavophile since I was a child, I approached her. I found out that her father’s name used to be spelled Ivanic` but Ellis Island produced the Anglophonic change. Slovenia was the homeland of her ancestors. She was quite impressed that I knew so much about that tiniest of Slavic nations which had its own territory (Lusatian Sorbs are a smaller nation yet but they have no national territory and live in Germany.) I knew, for instance, that Krvava Klobasa was a blood sausage and that Slovenians had a very precise kinship system in which they differentiated between paternal and maternal uncles and aunts – Teta and Tetec and Stric and Strina. Yes, she was impressed, but she was somewhat turned off when I was so intense about the Slavic ethos. So, first round I scared her off. Two years later she “came to her senses” and she as a junior and I as a senior began to date more seriously. Louise had to graduate in only two and a half years of college because her parents could not afford to have two kids in college at the same time. Thus, Louise went to school every summer session and post session to allow her parents to support her younger sister, Sheila, and younger brother, Charles Kent, as they went to college. That way Louise graduated only a semester after me.

On our first date I asked Louise If she would like to go for pizza. She said that she would rather go and rent some horses at the local livery stables. I had ridden before on horses – but NOT THE WAY THIS GIRL COULD RIDE! A week later I asked Louise if she would like to go to the movies? “No”, she said, “I’d rather go to the stables and rent a couple of HORSES and go RIDING. On the third date Louise said that she wanted to move out West and HAVE A HORSE IN HER BACKYARD. More about that later!

I had a bit of money to rent the horses since every weekend I went back home and tended the bar and minded the store (deli) and take minimal amount of money for my own needs and have OUR enterprise flourish. Studying hard, working hard at the family business(es) and keeping up with Louise was pretty much my whole life.

Before we got teacher certification we needed to get our chest x-ray to make sure we did not have active tuberculosis. Louise had some trepidations when she was called in for a conference. The doctor reassured Louise that she did not have TB – but pointed out that she had a terrible spinal scoliosis! Much more about the SCOLIOSIS LATER!

After Louise and I got our Bachelor’s Degrees and Teacher Certifications, she found an art teaching job in South Holland, Illinois. (I already had an additional about 16 or 18 semester hours towards my Masters Degree at Illinois Institute of Tech.) I found an art teaching job in Round Lake, Illinois at the high school. We knew by then that we were going to marry, but we wanted to start our lives with a “nest egg”. My first teaching job was for $5,600 a year – because I had hours towards my Masters, Louise’s was a couple of hundred less. We banked all of my income and we lived off of Louise’s $. This was in 1965. From her FIRST paycheck Louise bought her first horse which she sort of named after her sister, Sheila.

The mare’s name was Sheia. I was trying to keep up with Louise, so from my first paycheck I BOUGHT 2 HORSES – an appaloosa mare named Floating Feather and her filly named Little Green Hands. There had not been a farmer among my ancestors for as long as we had a genealogy. They were all Petty Bourgeois – store keepers or weavers – (cottage industry) – more about that later. My FAMILY was shocked that I WAS BUYING HORSES!

Louise’ family was not at all surprised…

We kept the horses in Dyer Indiana. Louise lived with her parents in Lansing, Illinois, She taught art in South Holland, Illinois. I taught school in Round Lake, Illinois, We would ride our horses on Saturday near Dyer, Indiana. Usually we rented a couple of horses for Kent, Louise’s brother, and for my sister, Vera. We would spend the night at my parents’ house in Cicero, Illinois – of course in separate bedrooms. On Sunday morning Louise and I would catch an early Czech Mass at Our Lady of Holy Mount church. We would go to the delicatessen and open it for the crowds of people getting out of churches. The tavern could not open until noon. My parents would arrive shortly before noon for my father to open the tavern and for mother to take over in the delicatessen. We would go riding again on Sunday afternoon with Kent and Vera. Then, late in the evening, I would drop off Louise at her parents’ house in Lansing, Illinois. Then I would drive to Lions, Illinois to pick up 10 sandwiches (lunch and dinner for five days and fruit). I would arrive in Round Lake, Illinois about one in the morning – sticking my head out of the window of the car to stay awake the last few miles. In Round Lake I lived in the most spartan and cheapest conditions imaginable. I rented a tiny “cell” about 8 x 10 feet. There I had a cot and a dresser and a 3 x 3 foot closet. We saved every penny we could.

Mrs. Wake was my landlady. She tried to make ends meet by taking in a bunch of foster children (and the art teacher) She would get a government stipend for taking care of kids whom nobody wanted. She was a member of the Police Auxiliary and insisted that I would join too. I paid my membership of $5.00 and at the cop meeting that I had to attend my name was drawn and I received a door prize of a snub nosed 45. The “real” cops coveted my prize! Mrs. Wake also raised a “pack” of Chihuahuas and sold puppies. Every day when I came into the house the Chihuahua pack attacked my ankles!

I had a real problem introducing Louise to my parents. I was going to be the FIRST JANDACEK TO MARRY A NON-CZECH. I Had to introduce Louise as a SLOVENIAN which by some leap of faith was SOMETHING LIKE A SLOVAK, which by some leap of faith was SOMETHING LIKE A CZECH. Louise protested that she was an American – NOT a SLOVENIAN! …only her father was born in Slovenia and came to the USA as a three year old. I had to be FIRM! “TRUST ME, YOU HAVE TO BE A SLOVENIAN for my family to accept you!” I said.

Car Accident Almost Takes Louise’s Life

At the end of November 1965, Louise and I were going to Illinois State University to meet with some of our friends who had not yet graduated, to flaunt our jobs, and to check with the placement services to see where BOTH of us could live together and teach in close proximity to each other after we would marry. Near Joliet Illinois we were broadsided and the place where Louise was sitting (passenger side) was NO MORE. Louise had seven broken ribs, two broken collar bones and a collapsed lung – due to one of the ribs puncturing it. The doctors were not sure that Louise was going to survive. It was a long and painful struggle to recovery. Roger Van Arsdalls was the doctor who saved Louise’s life. I made a sculpture (bust) of him to show my gratitude to him. Louise’s brother (sometimes called Chuck, sometimes Kent) would come to visit Louise in the hospital. He and I would tell jokes and Louise was laughing so hard that she had horrible pain in her broken ribs and punctured lung. Her brother’s pet name for Louise was “LUNG” for a while. It was a great day when Louise got back on her horse!

At the very moment that we had the accident which almost killed Louise – Grandmother, VERONIKA POLAKova died in Czechoslovakia. In my “cosmology” this was a providential tradeoff. Grandma Polak came to visit us in America in 1965. She knew that I was going to marry Louise. So, Grandma Polak made her sign of the cross blessing on Louise’s forehead. Then she said that she was ready to go back to Czechoslovakia and die. In candor I always considered Grandma Polak to be a rather simple village woman. Only in my 60s did I learn that she was a professional tailoress and that she studied tailoring at an institute in Vienna. She had a bunch of adjustable mannequins which could with different wing nuts adjust to represent the dimensions of her clients. I never put that together as a kid. I will also write up an extensive set of remembrances about Grandma Veronika Korbel Polak under a separate cover.

Louise & Petr

Engagement & Wedding 1965-1966

By Christmas Eve 1965, Louise was still in her brace from the horrible accident. One must realize how important Christmas EVE was to the Jandaceks! After all, it was the ONLY DAY OF THE YEAR THAT THE STORE WAS CLOSED BEFORE MIDNIGHT! We closed the store at 6:00 PM on Christmas EVE. Remember, as a child I got to bathe with the carp for at least one week before Christmas Eve! Even in America we managed to secure a carp, but by then I no longer could employ it as a Geisha. =) In the Czech tradition (as in the German – Kristknd) the presents under the tree are from Baby Jesus (Jezisek) – NOT from a Santa! Bigger than an American Thanksgiving dinner is the feast in a Czech home on the EVE before Christmas. No turkey, but a BREADED CARP is the centerpiece. Everybody hopes that the carp is a FEMALE with lots of roe (Czech Caviar) for the soup. The sperm of a male carp can also be used – but that is a disappointment to the gourmets of carp. Potato salad is the main carbohydrate source. Mushrooms prevail in several dishes. Pickled mushrooms are a favorite. Remember that we arrived in New York on December 21, 1950, and in Chicago December 22/23, 1950 and we celebrated our BIG REUNION on DECEMBER 24, 1950! Czechs open Christmas presents on the evening of December 24, NOT morning of December 25th. As we obtained economic well-being in America, Christmas EVE became a great festival of gift giving. I found a charm bracelet ornament of of a tiny box with a diamond engagement ring. The whole thing was bout a quarter of an inch in every direction. The tiny box opened up to reveal a tinier yet diamond ring. No one around the Christmas tree – not even Louise, picked up on the significance of the inconspicuous little charm when she received it!

The tradition dictated that we would go to MIDNIGHT MASS and in your best outfit!. As we were KNEELING for the consecration of the Host – I decided to “kill TWO birds with one stone … while down on my knees … I turned to Louise and I asked her to marry me. She said, “YES!” I gave her the ring, but asked her NOT to put in on until after we had received communion. At home at about 1:30 in the morning on December 25 I was congratulated by my family and Louise was embraced as a future Jandacek. Still recovering from her accident, by this late time she was VERY, very tired. The next morning we went to the Evanich home in Lansing, Illinois to tell Louise’s family the news and show the ring. I too was accepted by that side of the family. Prior to our public engagement we started to make arrangements for the church (St. Peter &- Paul’s) Lithuanian parish in Chicago (about half way between the Evanich and the Jandacek homes), for June 11, 1966.

Louise (Nee Evanich) Jandacek will be expected to provide her personal history from her birth on July 17, 1944 in Alton, Illinois, to her wedding day on June, 11, 1966, and onto the 21st century…

We had an incredible ethnic wedding with the Czechs and Slovenians in charge and the “Americans” trying to make sense of the wild festivities. Little old Czech ladies had a livelihood by cooking and catering to weddings. Everybody had sit-down seven course meal and an open bar for the wedding guests to quaff all that they wanted. Louise’s cousin, Dickie Kozdras, had a band and they played a lot of polkas and some rock and some waltzes… a bit for every taste on the dance floor. The tradition was that toasters, dishes, crystal, and bedding were given at the wedding SHOWER. At the reception Louse’s sister, Sheila (Maid of Honor), put a decorated apron on Louise and the men got to dance with the bride, and placed envelopes with big money into the pocket of the apron. The wedding and the reception were expensive, but the generous guests matched the cost. At midnight Louise and I danced a waltz and I picked her up in my arms and ran off with her… The party continued and continued and continued… till late “dawn thirty”!

After Louise and I got married we spent our wedding night at 50th On The Lake. It was a fancy hotel in Chicago. On the way there – we thought that we would save some time and distance by getting off the express ways and going through town. We found ourselves in a high crime neighborhood – dragging tin cans behind us as was customary for wedding revelers to do for the newly married couple. Evidently we survived! Meanwhile, after the reception, Louise’s mother was in charge of the TOP part of the big multistoried wedding cake… to be eaten on the first anniversary. Louise’s mom was a little tipsy and somehow lost her balance and smashed the top part of the cake (tiny statues of bride and groom) and all the frosting against her bosom! She had been teased about that ever since!

For our honeymoon we went camping after stopping at Louise’s parents’ house, 18414 Ridgeway in Lansing. Great Aunt Anne was still there. We went to Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado. At the Rocky Mountain National Park I got a bundle of wood for our camp fire and could not understand why I was out of breath after a couple of hundred feet. I was not used to the altitude! From Colorado we went to Utah and saw the movie RUN APPALOOSA, RUN… a grade B minus movie. Insofar that I got married to Louise when I was 25 years old – this represents the first quarter century of my life.

Louise has a much better recollections of our life together (a female thing). and also has better writing style and a sharper mind when it comes to all the wonderful trips we had taken camping in the west. That includes the 1966 honeymoon camping. I will rely HEAVILY on her input. We are now Sept. 2009 at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St Louis after Louise’s spinal surgery.