My Childhood

This is a thumbnail sketch of my childhood in the then Czechoslovakia as the first part of an upcoming book or website section entitled Divinely Led.


Part 1:  Growing up in a Communist Society  

My Childhood and Basic Education

I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia – today’s Czech Republic. It was close to the beginning of over 40 years of more or less oppressive Communist regime. Placards and billboards everywhere were reminding the Czechs of a “forever friendship with the Soviet Union.” The red Russian flag with its hammer and sickle was traditionally displayed next the Czech flag on special national days. Teachers were “comrades” and diligently taught the students what was approved by the Communist Party, namely that there was no God and that all belonged to the people – that they were capable to rule themselves. Russian was a compulsory foreign language that we started learning in Grade 4.

My parents were not Party members, which would have kept me from possibilities of higher education and other opportunities. Behind the scenes, Party members were voluntary informers about others and could get a person in trouble, or even into jail, for a “politically incorrect” comment. My parents were justifiably concerned about these things, but as a child growing up, I was largely unaware of all the political machinations and implications.

The family kept to themselves, and with me being an only child, I grew up introverted, with just a couple of friends on our street. My closest friend, Blanka, used to spend her holidays at her grandmother’s, but my maternal grandmother lived downstairs in the same house. Occasionally, we visited my great-grandmother and her second daughter, my mother’s aunt, in a small town in eastern Bohemia.

Thanks to a rift in the family, I never got to know my father’s relatives, even though they lived close by, and my cousin and I attended the same school. The only person I knew as a child was my father’s aunt, who lived in Vienna, married to a widower with a son slightly older than my father. She would visit from time to time or send special things like oranges, figs, and chocolates not readily available, or extremely expensive under the Communist regime.

My father played the oboe in the Prague Opera (Smetana Theatre, which was administered by the National Theatre). He wasn’t working regular morning to afternoon hours, but usually was gone for a part of the morning, practiced at home or made reeds for the oboe in the afternoon, and then was gone in the evening. My mother was a housewife. Her mother, a widow, lived downstairs in the same house and as a result, my parents had to deal with the challenges of the grandmother doing what they disapproved of, spoiling the grandchild. Occasionally the tensions of the relationship surfaced in the corridor, resulting in outburst of anger or frustration.

During the holidays, both summer and winter, my family went on camping trips or stayed in inexpensive hotels. Through these experiences, I learned to love nature and developed interest in living things – from small creepy crawlies to rabbits and larger forest animals. My parents taught me the names of various plants, flowers, bushes and trees, and showed me which mushrooms were good to eat and which were poisonous. I also knew the difference between a harmless snake and the dangerous viper with the black line on its back. Even though at this time in my life I didn’t believe in the existence of God, my love of the physical creation stayed with me and God used it later to bring me to Himself.

In winter, we would travel to the mountains for skiing. In the morning we went cross-country on the skis – back then, there was basically only one type of skis – it was only later that people started using different types for downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. In the afternoon we would take walks. It was on one of these skiing trips that I injured my knee by tearing the meniscus. It healed, but continued to make creaky noises and remain sensitive to certain situations, like coldness till many years later when God supernaturally healed it totally.

In the evenings on these trips, my parents would put me in bed in the hotel room or a tent if we were camping, and took a walk to let me fall asleep. Sometimes I felt insecure and unsure of their love and worried that they would leave me there and not return. But all in all, my parents loved me and wanted the best for me, even though they were not often able to express or communicate it. They themselves were products of domestic situations where one of their parents died early and as a result, they grew up in less-than-ideal situations. Looking back and compared to what children and young people go through nowadays, including divorce, domestic violence, alcoholism, and more, my childhood was stable and peaceful.

My first eight school years were fairly uneventful. The first two years were spent at a small three-grade school five minutes away from home with the same teacher. Since this school was to become a music school, we had to choose one of two schools 20-30 minutes away on foot for the remainder of our basic education. So some of my classmates stayed with me and some chose the other school.

My grade 4 was a bad year healthwise – I had one flu after another with the last sickness being unrecognized as mononucleosis and neglected by the doctor. I ended up in the hospital, which was a very negative experience. Later that year I had my tonsils removed which meant another stay in the hospital, but only for a short time and not in the infectious department. My adenoids were removed earlier in my childhood. (It is now understood that removing tonsils and adenoids is not wise in that it negatively affects a person’s immunity.)

I was a good, well-behaved student. Ironically, my mother often complained that I was a bad child at home and tended to expect the worst from me. When I came home from school, I was often welcomed with a question asked with a suspicious voice to the effect, “What did you get up to again?” This type of communication tended to estrange me from my mother and I became secretive. In fact, my mother complained to the class teacher that I refused to share what we did in school and the teacher corrected me for it.

One weekend, several of us were taken on a day hike by a young inexperienced youth leader. We visited the castle Karlstejn, not far from Prague. We enjoyed a picnic on the grass below the castle and somehow time slipped away and we missed our connection back. Walking in the dark, we finally ended up near the airport. In the meantime, our parents were frantic with worry. It was getting late into the night and they had no word regarding what was up and where we were. Thankfully, it all ended well, we got back safely, and at our young age, didn’t even appreciate why our parents were so concerned.

Another part of my growing up were piano lessons with mum and ballet lessons in the city with a retired ballerina, Mrs. S. Later I went to ballet lessons by myself to a nearby culture park only a few tram stops away. I invited mum for the Parents’ Day. Because of shyness and uncertainty, I didn’t do many of the stretching exercises, which was misinterpreted by both mum and the teacher as laziness. Mum meant well, but expected perfection and lacked patience and understanding – so practicing for both ballet and piano was usually not an enjoyable experience which periodically ended in tears and even with spanking. Eventually, especially when my parents left the country and I was in a boarding school for a time, I gave up both.

Unfortunately, the communication gap between myself and my parents grew wider and wider as I became a teenager and a young adult. I became afraid to share almost everything because I felt that whatever I talked about would be disapproved of and criticized – especially by my mother. As a result, the atmosphere at home became very tense the last few years before I left home.

Reflection and Gratitude

While my childhood was not ideal and my parents didn’t always understand me, know how to show me love or encourage because of their own upbringing, they did very much care and wanted only good for me. I am grateful that I didn’t suffer any kind of abuse that many have grown up with, that most of my needs were provided for, that I was taught manners and values that put in good stead in life. They did the best they could — as we all do with the knowledge and understanding we have at the time.


For other information on divine leading, see Spirit Helpers and Guides

Here is a short reflection on being divinely led.

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