A Building in Prague, or How I Came to the United States

Tom Lenda, son of Pavel, and author of “Children on Death Row,” is a great story teller.  Here is his story of how how he came to the United States, some time after the war.

A Building in Prague, or How I Came to the United States
a Story by Tom Lenda
© Tom Lenda 2017

The whole story started a long time ago, when my Uncle Otto from Canada visited us in Czechoslovakia, in our town of Sumperk.

Otto had left Czechoslovakia when it was occupied by the Nazis, and went to China, where he spent the war. He finally settled in Canada. For some time he could not visit Czechoslovakia, because he would be immediately drafted into the army. So he waited. When he was too old for the army, he finally visited his brothers Pavel and Fred, and their families, safely. He invited me then to visit him in Canada, promising to pay all the expenses of the trip. I applied for permission to leave the country. Because it was a friendly time for the Communists (there was new management running Russia) I was permitted to travel to visit my Uncle and his family in Canada.

I discussed my plans with my Jewish friend and counselor, a retired engineer, Dr. Raichel. He had some valuables from Czech people who had held them for friends during the war, friends who never returned from the concentration camps. They gave these valuables to the friendly engineer, to pass on to their relatives now living in the West, including Canada, the United States, and other countries. All these valuables were supposed to be given to the Czech Communist government, so keeping them put the friendly engineer at risk. To take the valuables out of the country would be a risk also. So he suggested that I take them to the people’s relatives in Canada! Well, I was not all right about being asked to take them. So I suggested I would take some non-valuable items as a test, to see if the border officials would let them through. And it worked! I made it, and visited relatives in Canada and also the United States. While there I noticed a special business practice of having people model suits in the display windows of stores, in the evenings and at night. I had some friends doing the same in Prague. I returned home.

Prague WindowIn Prague I continued my normal life. I would go to my job in the General Bank for eight hours each day. Then I would drive home to my family in our basement apartment, and I would work on some designs for a new building hopefully planned for a future bank building. Then I would drive back downtown, and would settle and dream in a sales window of an office building in downtown Prague. It was the same building which is the official Czech Bank today. It was in the middle of Prague, at a place with big, arched glass display windows. I sat there, and moved around, dressed in a nice suit that was for sale. And people looked at the suit, hoping to buy it. Sometimes I got so tired I fell asleep. Then when morning came I would go and eat at the Wenceslas Place, and went on to my work at the main Bank down the street. This routine went on quite successfully for some time.

However, one evening a young man approached the arched glass display window where I was sitting. The young man held a heavy brick in his hand, and he threw it through the window. The glass shattered, and the brick fell inside. I was very afraid, but I wasn’t hurt. A policeman came and took the young man away to investigate him. It turned out he was the son of an important Russian official, a General in the Russian Army! So the General supposedly invaded Czechoslovakia with the Red Army, to get his son out of prison! Well the result, it seemed, was that the Red Army occupied Czechoslovakia. and all my so-called “friends” blamed it on me!

So I decided to leave the country, which I did with some difficulties. Finally, I am now in the United States!

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