I was born on June 6, 1943 in the city of Pilsen, where my parents owned a three-story town house. On the ground floor was my father’s private medical practice, which was later confiscated after the communist takeover in 1948. My brother and I attended an elementary school just across the street. Both my brother Jaroslav (who passed away recently) and I ran to the rink every day after school. I started figure skating and so did he, even though he liked hockey more. But my father insisted on his continuing figure skating especially later when I was very successful – winning many competitions – and started pair skating with him. But I grew almost taller than he, so our coach Mr. Josef Klems paired me with a new partner, Jarolav Votruba. With him we competed successfully in European and World championships (5th place) and the Olympic games in 1964.
I graduated from high school. My father would have liked me to continue in his footsteps and go to medical school at Charles University in Prague, but I did not get a recommendation from the “street committee”, consisting of some women, most likely members of the Communist Party, who lived close by. They interviewed me and objected to the fact, that “my mother wears a fur coat a lot” (I explained to them, that she goes to the rink with me to practice every morning at 5:30 AM when it is really cold). But of course there were other objections, though not expressed verbally at the time – mainly that my parents were part of the “intelligentsia” not working class. But these “street women” suggested that I apply to ITVS (Institute of Sport and Physical Education, now the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport of Charles University), because our “socialist republic needed qualified coaches and teachers”. So I did and was accepted.
In 1966, After finishing the fourth year at university, I received an offer from Wiener Eisrevue (Vienna Ice Revue) to join for a 2 year contract touring many European countries. Every athlete or artist who had a contract with some western company (through Pragoconcert or Pragosport government agency) had to reimburse the government a substantial amount of money for the privilege. The larger the salary, the bigger the percentage of pay. That was one of the reasons many famous artists and athletes emigrated. My contract expired in the summer of 1968. I was visiting friends in northern Germany, when the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact took place. I was not sure, if I should return home. The Germans were very supportive, did an interview with me for the newspapers and offered me a job, teaching Russian and Physical Education in Westerstede near Bremen. After several weeks of thinking it over, I decided to return to Prague. In the spring of 1969, however, it was clear to me that the so-called “normalization” meant possibly even a slow return to the dark ages of the communism of the fifties.
The larger the salary, the bigger the percentage of pay.
After a period of unsuccessfully looking for a job in the larger cities of western Bohemia with skating rinks for me to be able to coach figure skating there besides my regular job as a teacher, I finally signed another contract with the Vienna Ice Show especially because that year it was going on a tour of the USA and Canada. At our first stop in Montreal there were some Czech compatriots who found out that many of the skaters in the show were from Czechoslovakia and offered to help us if we should decide to immigrate to Canada. I met a man from Germany, who opened a ballet school in Montreal. He gave me and my friend Magdalena, who was also contemplating defection, a phone number of his brother in New York for us to get in touch with him while there. His name was Harald and he helped both of us to get political asylum. I later married Harald and had two children with him.
My first job in New York was through our former World Champion Aja Vrzanova who owned two “Duck Joints” with her husband Pavel Steindler. Later I started teaching figure skating in Queens where we lived at the time. In the 1970s I was teaching also in Great Neck, Long Island, where I became the Director of a large skating school of over 700 students employing 22 professionals. While I was a head of the skate school four olympians started their carriers there. Most notably the sisters Sarah (gold in Salt Lake City 2002) and Emily Hughes, Alexander Gammelin and my former student, Slovak Nicole Rajicova.
In 1976 I married Bretislav Josef Stastny, a gem cutter from Turnov, He was a graduate from the Jewelry Specialized Trade School and after some years of working in Idar-Oberstein in Germany and some important jewelry companies like Tiffanys, Wander etc. he opened his own business. He also helped to open a specialized jewelry school in Jerusalem. He died in 2009 at the age of 86. We have a son, who is also working in the jewelry industry.
My children were accomplished athletes: excellent skiers, tennis players, hockey players, figure skaters, I´m very proud of all of them.
I love my country of origin and would have never left
I became active in Czech community life in NYC. In the 1980s, I joined the BCBSA (Bohemian Citizens Benevolent Society of Astoria), organization founded in 1892, which raised enough money to build the Bohemian Hall before World War One. The building still exists today and its outdoor beer garden, one of the oldest ones in the metropolitan area of New York, can accommodate up to 1000 visitors. I held various positions at BCBSA, including as President (2012-2014).
I love my country of origin and would have never left, were it not for the tragic political development after the invasion of 1968.