Few details of my early life, events that shaped me and some interests. See also our Šternberk story, all about the Rohel name, our Rohel family page or Names pages with close and distant relatives. Clicking on a thumbnail picture will generally provide a larger image, sometimes with an enlargement box "bottom right". *Picture collage above - may take a while to load with dial-up.
: I Peter (Petr, Pete the Czech), middle child (youngest in above picture)
of eight, was born in ČSA 20 (prev. street names)
, Šternberk (pop.14,000) near Olomouc)
where I lived 14 years. The town people site
is best known for its annual European "Ecce Homo
car races in all
categories, including historical cars *see 2020 book "Fenomén Ecce Homo" (Karel Fiala, atd.) cover page & one of the images, more images
. The town also use to host Euro-Motocross races and perhaps that's why, out of the several
motorcycles I owned in Toronto, 1 was a CZ-250 motocross. My parents Miroslav Rohel
+ Adele Heidi Klimesch
enjoyed outdoor activities, sports, gardening and Sunday family walks. We were aware of North America, as almost all of our maternal relatives escaped Europe during WW-II, after their Czech & Austrian Factories and assets were Confiscated. This included the Šternberk Friedmann Textile
factory & home of our Mother & her 2 brothers worth abt. $20 million
dollars (at the time)
by the Czech communist in 1950's. Adele
visited Canada on 2 occasions and 4 relatives came to visit us; Gertrude
. Our mother would bring back "great toys and gifts"
from the West, including a large Eaton's department store catalogue, we all enjoyed viewing.
I remember owning a pair of Wrangler jeans, perhaps the only pair in town and wearing them proudly, until there was nothing left of them. As with others of the greatest generation, our parent's were greatly effected by WW-II, but they survived the war, as well as Communism that followed. *see Radio Prague articles Czechs in WW-II: Heroes or cowards?, Liberating Ostrava - Bloodiest WW-II battle on Czech soil, - category I requested, Aug. 2005 Government apologizes for Czech victimization of loyal, anti-Nazi Sudeten Germans after WWII, similar one by Prague Post.
Early 60's-1968: I have fond memories of the outdoor activities, sports, climbing tall trees to pick fruit, going to camp organized by the factory my parents worked at Moravia (now Mora-Top) and having friends. At an early age I became a recycler, not to save the environment (age 10), but for the money. Being an alter boy, was another source of nominal income to complement my family allowance (based on duties). Outgoing, active, materialistic and mischievous, I needed spending money to have fun. Sunday afternoon movies with friends were also a big hit, especially the popular Winnetou - series. In 1966, the Beatles "mop top hair cut" came to town and when I went to the barber and he asked me "what do you want?", all I had to say was "Beatles". Nearby was a creek, where we would build a dam for swimming, skate and meet our neighborhood friends. My leisure time activities included cycling, building home-made sleds (cross between bobsled & luge with wheels or skates), "old west" home-made articles (tomahawks, bows & arrows, costumes), sports, etc. During the latter years of this period I discovered girls and dating, just as other young males of my age did in Czechoslovakia.
August 21, 1968
: I was 13, when our radio woke me during the night. I asked my parents "what's going on?"
and they replied "Russians are coming"
and they're trying to break into the Radio Prague
station. Later that day, we heard a strange noise - that of "Tanks in our Town". I recall few of us friends went to see what was happening - the streets were full of tanks and military vehicles. We asked the soldiers "where do you come from?"
and to our surprise, they said "Poland"
The soldiers were invading our country and as such in our minds, they were no different than Russians. We proceeded to throw rocks and other items at the vehicles, as well as put nails in the tire valves - to deflate them. Others would park their farm machinery on roads, block traffic and remove or change street signs - to stop their advancement. After the invasion, the stores would become almost empty for a while, as Polish and later Russian soldiers would buy-up everything. They would walk in the store with a box of money, printed specifically for the invasion. In August 2005, Polish general, ex-president Jaruzelski
, apologized for the role his country played in the 1968 Soviet-led invasion.
August 2, 1969: Date of our "Escape to the West". Only the elder (3 of 7) children leaving by train, knew that our family was escaping and not coming back. Rest of us in the car, were told we are going on a vacation visiting relatives in Vienna. Thus we could not say goodbye to our friends and let the secret out. The possibility of either group not making it across the border was high. My 2 sisters and brother arrived late in Vienna and neither party knew - if the others made it across the border. Later we were told, that the plan was to escape earlier in (Oct. 1968) - but while driving to pick-up their visa, dad had a car accident. My parents had to wait for the court proceedings to complete, before they could try again. I can just imagine the stress by all that "knew the plan - family, relatives, friends". Waiting and waiting and hoping, that the border would not be shut down in the meantime. We made it "just in time", since the border was shut down (1-2) moths after our escape for everyone, except of course "commies".
We stayed with friends of my mother Hubert + Lisl (von Zimmermann) SCHÜCK and their son Georg, in a nice 2-bedroom apartment next to the Parkhotel Schönbrunn. I am sure the family of three expected our family of (9) to only stay for few weeks, just as we did, not knowing it would take us (6) months to receive exit visas. As I was under age for employment in Vienna, I kept busy discovering the city, all the sights, museums and Schönbrunn Castle-Park, across from the apartment. We are grateful to the SCHÜCK family for everything they did for us, especially their hospitality and patience.
My parents, (2) younger siblings and I also visited Salzburg, Lisl's sister Dorothea "Dorli" + Wolfgang von REHLINGEN genealogy and their daughter Sylvia in Berchtesgarden, Germany for (2) weeks. They lived in a Bavarian-style country home, surrounded by mountains. My alarm clock became the deer in the mornings, as they engaged each other with their antlers. Trips to the mountains gave us the opportunity to see mountain goats, take a Königssee lake cruise, see Hitler's eagles nest and Munich. From the outside we saw the Straubing prison - where our dad Miroslav was a political prisoner during WW-II (1943-1945), due to being a member of the resistance group “Obrana Národa”. Previous 2 years (1941-1943) he spent in Wrocław (Breslau), Poland prison. Straubing prison is a civilian prison now - thus we were not allowed to enter. We did visit Dachau Concentration camp, the prison our dad was being marched to, before American planes bombed the Germans and he escaped. I must say, both Vienna and Germany were an eye opener for this 14 year old boy, from a small communist town. We are thankful to family von Rehlingen for their hospitality.
January 15, 1970
, we arrive at the home of my uncle Arthur + Beatrice
in Montreal, Canada. My aunt Lottie
) + Donald MACKAY
offered to let 1 child stay with them for 6 months in Pleasantville
, N.Y., USA while the rest of the family remained in Canada. Since I always enjoyed adventure, I jumped at the opportunity, even though my relatives did not speak Czech and I knew no English. Arriving in the middle of a school year, I repeated half of (grade 8) at Byram Hills High School (BHHS)
to learn English. Lotti & Donald offered to let me stay and continue my education (grade 9) in USA. My first English movie was The Green Berets
(starring John Wayne
), being shown in school and in 1 scene, J.W. tells the visiting politicians: "The war is not against Vietnam, it's against Communism; look at where the guns come from: Russia, China and Czechoslovakia"
. Although I could barely understand English, I got the message, especially when several students began to look at me. After the movie, my friends understood why we escaped. As a temporary member of my US family; we studied, go to church, skied, hiked, traveled, visit relatives & family friends, etc. I am grateful to my MACKAY
relatives, as the 18 months proved to be very helpful to our family, as well as a lot of fun - being the only foreigner in the school. My aunt, uncle and (4) cousins were great, accepting this foreigner's sudden intrusion in their lives - thank you!
Also, on behalf of my family, I would like to thank the KLIMES
family, for everything they did to welcome and help the Rohel
1972: Joining our family in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I continued my education at Parkdale Collegiate Institute. Three of my friends (James, Ned & Peter) from Pleasantville "hitch-hiked" to Toronto (830 km/516 mi) and we continued hiking to Algonquin Park (302 km/188 mi) north of Toronto, for a 2 week vacation. We rented canoes in the national park and used our outdoor skill to cross several lakes. On 1 island, we awoke to a noise, only to see a "Bear & cubs" eating our food we hung in the tree. After scarring them away, we continued to enjoy the Canadian outdoors and our friendship.
1973+: Our parents bought a house in Etobicoke (suburbs of Toronto) and I continued my education at "Royal York Collegiate Institute" FB-1, FB-2, where I was again able to make long lasting friendships until today. High school was followed by I.T. career, college, more I.T., etc. - and friends of Lithuanian heritage, with whom I socialized, traveled, participated in some of the sports below, etc. Life continued... 2004 after the death of our Dad, I began a new hobby, this web site. 2011 migration started to www.Geni.com - collaborative 1 world tree genealogy site with 146+ million names, becoming a volunteer Curator in 2013. Life continues.....
: The Mackay
family owns a cottage in Waitsfield
, Vermont, USA and were members at the Glenn Ellen (now Sugarbush
), Vermont ski resort. Although I began Skiing
at the age of (3), I certainly improved at Glen Ellen, allowing me to become (1 of 2) freshman's on the BHHS ski team. Later in late 70's I became a ski instructor, amateur freestyle judge, went to college for "ski resort management (co-op)" and enjoyed skiing in Europe and North America. My U.S. friends also introduced me to Golf
, but the game continues to be a lot more challenging, unlike my past or present sports: Soccer, Tennis, Squash, Bowling, Volleyball, Softball, etc. *right is 1971 Glen Ellen Nastar race picture
*see my YouTube Sand Skiing Video (5:10min), etc. or something different - or my Fun page
Comment: Living in Communist Czechoslovakia (14) years, USA (2 1/2), Canada since - exposed me to different political systems. Thanks to Pope John Paul II, president Ronald Reagan *geni relationship path and baroness Margaret Thatcher *geni-path roles in defeating communism - millions of people are freed from tyranny. Genealogy certainly gives us insight into politics, religions, nations and their historical roles. No matter how messy Democracy, freedom, free speech, politicians can sometimes be - appreciate the democratic system - and try to keep it.
Contact: Peter Rohel, 42 Cardigan Rd., Toronto, ON, Canada M8Z-2W2 | Copyright: © 2004-2012