Jan Ludvig

As Interviewed by Max Adrian Schmidhauser, March 23rd, 2015

Jan Ludvig: In His Own Words

My strongest recollection was waking up as a seven-year-old. There were Russian tanks driving all over the streets of Liberec, my hometown. Russian jet planes were doing loops above the town to intimidate people. People were being shot in the streets. The Russian soldiers made a circle with tanks around the plaza. One of the Russian soldiers took out a machine gun, and there were a whole bunch of Czech people yelling at the tanks telling them to go home and that the Czech people didnít want them here. The young Russian soldier with the machine gun emptied his whole clip into the crowd of people, murdering dozens. After that, there was a mass funeral held for all the people who were brutally slaughtered by the Russian soldiers.

For all my life, we were fed the lie that Russia was Czechís biggest ally and that Russia was good. But the vast majority of people hated the Russians due to their actions of murdering hundreds of Czechs and oppressing the Czech people.

After we were caught attempting to cross the Yugoslavian border in order to defect, they (the Yugoslavian government) gave us 24 hours to return to Czechoslovakia. We were scared because we had no idea what was going to happen to us. We got lucky and a young Yugoslavian soldier told us where we could buy a 24-hour transit visa to go from Yugoslavia to Austria. I was forced to pawn off my grandpaís old heirloom ring because we barely had enough money to afford the visa. We got on a train in Yugoslavia, and at about midnight we arrived in Vienna, Austria -- and that was the first time in my life I was in the free world.

I have zero regrets, buddy, even though it was hard at the time because no-one ever wants to leave their/your family, yíknow? Your mom, my sister. I was still just a little kid [he was 19] when I defected, and at first it was very difficult leaving your mom, my older sister and my parents, but the biggest benefit is that all my kids were born in the free world. Their lives are full of options in the United States or Canada. As far as myself, no, I have no regrets. Leaving Czechoslovakia was the best decision I have ever made. If I didnít defect from Czech, I would be dead by now anyways because I was always in trouble. I didnít have much of a future in Czech and I did not know where my life would have gone if I had stayed.