Miroslav Ihnačák

* 1962  

  • “When they managed to acquire all the papers, we tried to get on the first plane flying to Canada. We went from Vienna to London, from there to Vancouver and from Vancouver across the whole Canada, way to Toronto. I had a security guard. Altogether, five cars left from the flat: two were in the front, two in the back and I was in the middle one. There were soldiers from the Canadian embassy, Austrian policemen with sub-machine guns; simply, it was like a scene from an action movie. At first, we headed to the embassy, where I had to sign all kinds of documents, they took my picture and I received a Canadian Travel Document. Then we went by cars directly to the plane on its flight path. We didn’t pass through any control; the plane was waiting just for us. We got off the car, went up the stairs, and the plane was starting up.”

  • “I was sixteen and I started to play for men’s team in Poprad. Gradually I went through all the youth representational selections and since we used to attend various retreats also in the West, we were asked to fill in different questionnaires. On the other page there was a column to fill: ‘Which of your relatives lives abroad?’ My eldest sister emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1966 and my brother with another sister in 1968. My mother’s sister left already in 1948, so we had way too many relatives in America. However, there were only two lines in this column and if I wrote only two names, the State Security members knew all, and they’d question me why I had not stated other names as well. They found out everything very quickly. That’s when I started to notice, I wasn’t allowed to travel to the West.”

  • “In December 1985 I got on a train in Košice and got off here, in Bratislava, since there were already people waiting for me. I was leaving on December 26, it was on the St. Stephen’s Day, yet before I went to say goodbye to my friends on a party, and on December 27, I got off the train in Bratislava. I was wandering the downtown streets as we were supposed to meet at five in the hotel Carlton. However, I suspiciously thought about everyone looking at me back then, that he/she was spying on me. The whole runaway was perfectly organized, though. A diplomatic car came to pick me up, I got in and they drove me through the borders all the way to Vienna. They only warned me about three upcoming controls, that we would stop three times, during which I was supposed to be completely quiet in the car’s trunk. So, since I was prohibited to travel to the West, I had never seen or crossed the border before. They only told me, there will be military, police and customs control, but I don’t exactly remember the order in which they checked us. When I got out of the car in Hainburg, for me it was like going from a night to a day. Even though it was night and dark, everything was lighted up there and back home everything seemed so dark. For example, back home, since five o’clock, it was dark everywhere, no lights shining, no adverts displaying like today. Nothing. But when I got over the border, everything was lighted up … so that was how I managed to cross the border.”

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    Bratislava, 03.08.2018

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The communists took his passport; he fled to America in a car’s trunk and he even played in the overseas NHL

Witness as a member of the team VSŽ Košice in the year 1981
Witness as a member of the team VSŽ Košice in the year 1981
photo: archív pamätníka

Miroslav Ihnačák was born on February 19, 1962 in Poprad. Following his brother Peter, since his early childhood, Miroslav played ice hockey and gradually became one of the best forwards in the Czechoslovak Federal League. There he mainly played for the team of VSŽ Košice. However, due to the fact that in 1982 his brother Peter emigrated to Canada, Miroslav was forbidden to take part in the Czechoslovak national representation; he was deprived of his passport and was forbidden to play with his club abroad. Regarding the given situation, he also decided to emigrate, what came true in very dramatic circumstances during the Christmas holiday in 1985. From this time on he played for NHL in Toronto Maple Leafs and later he joined Detroit Red Wings. He decided to return to Europe after the Velvet Revolution and he played for various famous European clubs. He also became a member of the Slovak national team. Recently he works as a coach in the first Slovak hockey league.