Iveta Clarke

* 1963

  • "We landed in Washington, D.C. on the day the new president was inaugurated. The city was beautiful, with fireworks and what not until late night, and lights everywhere. It felt of like America was welcoming us."

  • "'What's your trade?' I said I had a degree in economics, a business degree and a red diploma. And they said, 'Well, that won't help you much. You should be a barber or a lumberjack or a carpenterm, a manual worker.' Then someone told me to marry some tradesman, since then we'd be taken as a married couple during the procedure and it would suffice if the husband is a tradesman. So I got married in Austria."

  • "They said they would decide whether or not I'm granted asylum in Austria within six months, and if I'm not granted it I will go back to the Czech Republic, and that probably means I'll go to prison for leaving the country illegally. They told us that right away during the interview, and you just start to panic hearing that."

  • "They took us in at the front desk - and the first shock is that they take your fingerprints, so you feel like a criminal. They take your passport away and photograph you front and side, so you get to think, 'Jeez, it's a prison of sorts.' Then you go down the corridor and they give you some clothes, a toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a tin dish, so you think, 'Jeez, where are they taking me?' There were 17 of us in the room."

  • "The Austrian customs officers examined my passport and said: 'But this is a Czech passport, our visa has no business being in it.' Of course, all of Europe knew that Czechoslovakia was part of the Eastern Bloc and that Czechs were using this as an excuse to get to the west of Europe, which Austria was part of. He took the passport and left and then came back and said I had to get out."

  • "So I called my cousin who had emigrated to Canada the year before from a pay phone and asked him how to do it. I inserted coins into the machine and he was scared at first, seeing that I was serious. Then he said, 'You have to get to Zagreb and there you have to apply for a transit visa to Austria at the Austrian embassy. Tell them you want to go back to Bohemia via Austria, that you have to get home quickly, and then you get off in Vienna and apply for asylum.'"

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 05.12.2022

    duration: 56:01
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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And where will I sleep?

Iveta Clarke
Iveta Clarke
photo: Witness's archive

Iveta Clarke was born in Brandýs nad Labem on 24 September 1963. When she was 22 years old, she went on holiday to what was Yugoslavia at the time following graduation and decided to emigrate to Austria. Despite various obstacles, she got to Vienna where artist Jan Brabenec and his wife offered her shelter. This was not the end of her emigration hardships however. Iveta had to stay at the Traiskirchen refugee camp, get married, and apply for asylum not only in Austria, but also in Canada and the USA. She was in touch with the Czech artistic community in Austria. Eventually, she and her husband, also a Czech immigrant, were allowed to leave for America in 1988, having waited for almost two years. In the United States, they both started working and had a son. After the revolution in Czechoslovakia, Iveta returned to her native country for work, eventually staying here with her son. She was living in Prague at the time of filming in 2022.