When I was a little girl of about six years I had pneumonia. Nowadays it wouldn’t be too bad but in the mid-1950s it was a different scenario, especially in the old Czechoslovakia. Of course, I was given antibiotics but it wasn’t a pleasant experience, I can still remember how painful the injection was.
I recovered but remained somewhat sickly. My Dad was working at that time in the Škoda factory in Pilsen. One of his colleagues there came from a small village in western Bohemia, where his parents still lived.
Dad asked him if I could possibly spend the summer holidays with them, just to get me better. They agreed and I went. I remember the train journey, it was a local branch line and the train stopped frequently. The station was in the middle of nowhere and we had to walk what seemed like miles across fields to get to the village.
It was called Stropčice, and life was blissful there. I called the old couple Aunt and Uncle and we did everything together. Uncle used to be a woodsman, and he knew where to find the best mushrooms and blueberries. Aunt, on the other hand, kept hens and goats and I helped her to collect eggs and to milk the goat. I wasn’t too keen on the milk, but on another smallholding the people had some cows and gave me the fresh milk to drink – that was something else!
There were deep woods all around and I went with Uncle and his dog for long walks. Every now and then we would go to the nearest bigger town, Švihov, by bus. Aunt would take some eggs to sell in the market.
I went to spend my summer holidays there for quite a few years and one of the good things that came from it, apart from me getting better, was that Aunt used to come to Pilsen every few months and bring us some fresh eggs and butter. That might sound strange but things weren’t plentiful in the shops in those days.