Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Vera Gissing - April 22, 2006

Problems in Communist Czechoslovakia

Then I was offered a job to be a head of a, a translating pool at the Ministry of Defense and it seemed too good to miss, so I thought, "Okay, I'll take it and I'll do my studying sort of uh, in my spare time." You know, I didn't think I'd, I'd have any problem, but...

This is still in Prague?

Yes, it was still in Prague, but six months after that uh, there was the Communist coup. And, of course, I was pro-British, anti-communist, Jewish...

And Jewish.

...and a bourgeois uh, bourgeois. All the things, you know, all the things that uh, the Communists hated and I found myself being interrogated because I could never keep my mouth shut. And I nearly ended up in uh, in the salt mines...

[interruption in interview]

...and, and uh, I'm saying that in all seriousness. Luckily for me they found that I wasn't the culprit, and they found--and he was actually my uh, senior--a young officer from the British uh, Air Force and that he was a Czech--that he was in the uh, I mean, the Czech uh, pilots were part of uh, the British...

The RAF.

...uh, British, yes, RAF. And um, he kept telling me that I've got to be careful and I must keep my mouth shut and, you know. I--okay. So I won't join the party. That will get me into trouble, he kept saying, you know. And it was he who was giving the ??? away and he was hanged. So I had a very narrow escape and then I managed, you know, to get to England.

Was that tough? Was that difficult to do--to get back to England?

Oh very, it took years for me to bribe the authorities to get me a passport, you know, to--because my passport obviously wasn't recognized anymore. I actually managed it because I--because they realized they were accusing me unjustly. And I said, "Look, I don't, I don't want to have anything to do with pol...I don't care if you're, if you're Communist or if you Democrat, ??? or whatever. I want to go back to England to my sister. I've lost my family here, I've got my only sister in England, please let me go. That's all I want. Let me leave my job." Because the first thing is you had to have uh, to be able to get out of the country uh, was permission of your, uh, from your boss. And the Minister of Defense couldn't give me that permission, really, because uh, of the political uh, sort of tie-up. And, because, I mean, I could have um, given a lot of secrets to the other side. But uh, in the end I managed to um, go.

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