Freedom is Not Free
By Henry Piarrot
After World War II Czechoslovakia was reestablished as an independent state. Yet, in the 1946 elections, the Communists became the country’s largest party with 36% of the popular vote and quickly created coalition government. Then, in 1948 the Communist performed a coup d'etat and Czechoslovakia became a complete communist nation.
During the 1960’s Czechoslovakia did experience a gradual liberalization with the help of the reform oriented general secretary Alexander Dubcek. But this brief period of sunshine was eventually crushed by the Soviet invasion of August 1968. The next year the reformist was replaced by the more traditional Gustav Husak and Czechoslovakia faced an even tighter grip by the Soviets for 20 more years.
Born the daughter of teachers, in the historic town of Skalica, Jana Suchanska was born on October 23, 1962. Young Jana and her little sister grew up basically unaffected by the government’s control over their lives. Inspired by her need to be useful, for as long as Jana could remember, she wanted to become a nurse. This aspiration became a reality in 1977. In 1980, Jana married Anton Cernak, a painter and skilled hockey player. They had two children, a son Marcel and daughter Jana. Life under communist rule was not necessarily bad for the professional couple, but they soon began to realize that a life without opportunity would not allow a free future for their kids. Consequently, in 1987 they decided to do something about it.
The couple planned a vacation to Yugoslavia that was designed to provide them the opportunity escape the bonds of their government. While they were in Zagreb, Jana and Anton visited the Austrian embassy to get permission to return home through their country. They were granted a visa and with everything they owned still in Skalica, their quest to become Americans officially began. Ten miles from Vienna, they came upon a camp for immigrants in the town of Traiskirchen, Austria. Completely unsure of what would happen to them, they took a deep breath and continued inside. They told the officials there that they had a 7 year old son and a 2 year old daughter in their car and they wanted to go to America.
In the meantime, once the Czechoslovakian government realized they did not return from their 10 day vacation, their apartment was locked, possessions seized and their parents were forced to witness their trial.
In their absence, Anton was sentenced to 14 months in prison, while Jana’s conviction carried a 1 year sentence.After 15 months in the care of the Austrians, they were informed that a Lutheran Church in Orlando, Florida agreed to sponsor them and the family’s dream of becoming Americans soon became a reality.
Once they arrived in their new country, Anton found work in a tire repair shop, while Jana went to work for a Burger King, riding a bicycle to and from work every day. Additionally, they both attended English classes 3 nights per week for 6 months. Within 2 years of working hard and studying, they bought their first home in America. In early 1994, they took a vacation to East Tennessee. The mountains and the climate reminded them of their home in Czechoslovakia and they decided to relocate to Sevierville. Jana worked cleaning cabins while Anton started a small construction company.Ultimately, after 20 years of marriage Jana and Anton divorced in 2000. Then, in January 2001 Jana Cernak became a full partner in H H & C, a Sevierville temporary employment agency, serving over 20 businesses with more than 300 foreign student employees annually.
Today, her son has his own construction company and her daughter is currently an assistant manager for a popular cabin rental business. Opportunities for a bright future neither would have had a chance to taste without their parents great gamble.The bad news is that far too many people continue to be oppressed by governments across the world. The good news is the American Dream isstill within ech for those willing to take a chance and pursue it the right way. Jana Cernak will confirm that it is a difficult endeavor, but freedom has never been free.
Henry Piarrot is a hotel manager in Sevier County. Please send all story recommendations to email@example.com