People Stories
A Holiday from the Prague Spring, 1968
by Karla Škoda
May 5, 2012
Our family Jirí, Karla, & Ivanka lived in Bratislava, Galandova ul (street) number 1 with Maria M and her son Marián in her rented flat. An owner of the house was occupying top floor and house was divided on our level to another flat in which lived Mrs Aldela & Antonin V with their son Patrik. Adela was youngest sister of Maria M, my mother. There was also attic room in our part of flat occupied by another person, Mr Paulus, which we shared our entrance & toilet with. Pretty packed house, but under communist rules the owner was forced to let the house, otherwise he would be paying fees for an excessive rooms, each person was allowed to have so many square metres for living, there was a shortage of houses & apartments in Czechoslovakia. We were lucky to live as we did.

On 21st of August 1968 Russian Red army occupied Czechoslovakia under pretence to stop contrarevolution. They marched in, drove the tanks in and shot a few innocent citizens in their way. It was very confusing, sad day. Sirens of alarms were screaming all over the city. All country was in chaos, not knowing what’s going on. I, Karla 28 years old, went to work, but clinic where I worked as nursing sister was temporarily closed, so went back home picking up our daughter Ivanka from childcare called “Jasle” on the way. Jirí, 27, came home from his work, he was land surveyor in company Doprastav, all shaken and told me that Russian soldier wanted to shoot him with his automatic shotgun while he was working outside the city. He said he doesn’t want to live in this unfree country anymore. We have to find a way to leave. It was a shock to me, Ivanka was just 15 months old baby, where would he take her? Jirí said he take care of our escape & he did. We had passports made & he booked the holiday to Bulgaria because it was the only state we can go without problems of excessive questioning & suspicions. We visited Jirí’s parents, Hermina & Antonin in Brno to say goodbye but didn’t really have heart to tell them about our “holiday”. Jirí was their only child, they would do anything to stop us leaving, so we left with heavy hearts and Hermina’s promise to come visit us next week. When she came we were gone on our way to where?
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Left: One of the properties on Galadova Ulica.
Right: Rooftop view from Galadova Ulica.
“Shoot!” screamed the man in thee blue overalls. Emil Gallo is a municipal plumber in Bratislava. He shouts abuse at the crew of a Soveit T-55 tank and tears his shirt open, ready to die. The photo, almost a sister image to the Tank Man photo that came out from Beijing 31 years later, was the iconic image of the Prague Spring.
Prague Spring
In 1968, when the reformer Alexander Dubcek was appointed to the key post of First Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, there was a brief period of liberalization known as the Prague Spring. In response, after failing to persuade the Czechoslovak leaders to change course, five other Eastern Bloc members of the Warsaw Pact invaded. Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia on the night of 20–21 August 1968.[12] The General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Leonid Brezhnev viewed this intervention as vital to the preservation of the Soviet, socialist system and vowed to intervene in any state that sought to replace Marxism-Leninism with capitalism.
We were able to have with us only money for two weeks holiday & auntie Adela gave us $2 American for good luck. Travelling through Yugoslavia, we left the train in Belgrade & found cheapest accommodation in student hostel and started to seek country we could emigrate. Originally we would like to go to Canada, but it was long process of waiting to emigrate to Canada and we had a small child, Ivanka, and wanted to go out of Europe as soon as possible. Australia was taking refugees fastest, so we went to Australian Embassy & soon we were send by them to Austria. In Vienna we were accommodated in some old historical army building with lots of people in situation as we were. It was sleeping on mattress & eating rationed food supplied by charities. We made daily trips walking to Australian embassy and within one week we boarded Quantas aeroplane taking us to Australia. Ivanka was absolutely good baby on the trip sleeping most of the time.

7th of October 1968 we landed in Sydney. Someone asked us if we wanted to go to Brisbane & off we went even we never knew where Brisbane was.

Our first home in Brisbane was in Wacol hostel. We were able to stay there free until Jirí would found the job. He started working within two days in Holden car factory. It was a mistake because the factory soon close for the summer holiday & we had to pay for our accommodation & food in the hostel through X-mas holiday without any money coming to us. It was very, very sad X-mas for our little family. Far away from our homeland, didn’t speak English, but we were alive, together and looking forward to the future.
Wacol Hostel circa 1965.
Migrant Hostels Forum
GMH in Australia 1
GMH in Australia 2
What happened to the Brisbane Holden plant?
Vienna, Austria
Sydney, Australia
Vienna is only some 56km from Bratislava. For someone who grew up in the wide open spaces of Australia like me it is almost inconcievable that something so close could literally be another world away.
"The house on Galandova 1 was renovated. They added one more level to it and it’s now looks much more bigger and better than in 1968 year. Our entrance was from backyard. Aunt’s and the owner’s was from front. But it is that house."

K.Skoda 14/05/2012