Peter Vodenka, author of Journey For Freedom, will speak at the Hazel Mackin Community Library in Roberts from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23.
According to a press release from Vodenka’s assistant Debbie Stewart, Vodenka, his wife and children fled communist Czechoslovakia in June 1983. His book tells of their journey, struggles and finding freedom in the United States.
“Peter spent 10 years planning their escape,” Stewart wrote. “They did not tell their families of their plan and left them and everything they owned behind.”
Ted Schieffer, of Roberts, said he saw Vodenka speak in February 2013, at an appearance in North Branch, Minn.
“People don’t know what they’ll be missing if they don’t see him,” Schieffer said. “He’s very quiet, not braggy and quite cheery. What happened to him is still happening today in other countries.”
According to his author biography, Vodenka and his family fled into western Austria while being chased by guards with dogs and automatic weapons.
If they had been caught fleeing, they could have been sentenced to a prison labor camp or had their children taken away by the government.
“Peter spent 10 years of his life planning his defection to come to America, the place where the sky’s the limit,” Steward said. “He has great pride in America and wants those of us born in America to recognize what we have and be proud of our freedoms and not take them for granted. His pride in America shows in every aspect of his daily living.”
After spending three months in a refugee camp in Austria, the family was allowed entrance into the United States. First Lutheran Church in Beach, N.D., sponsored the family. They arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 7, 1983.
According to the biography, none of them spoke English. Vodenka found work at a local pig farm for $3.35 an hour. Today, he owns a successful construction company and his wife, Lilly, works for a medical facility. Their daughter, Patty, graduated from college with a degree in graphic design and has five children. Their son, Peter, joined the U.S. Marine Corps and was among the first wave of soldiers to march into Baghdad under the American flag.
“Peter (the author) risked everything, including his life, to live in America,” Stewart said. “They left the loved ones and everything they worked for behind to be free and have the opportunities America offers. Peter felt the risks and hardships his family endured became more meaningful when his son chose to serve this wonderful country, which made him very proud.”
Vodenka has been speaking to schools, churches, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, veterans, historical societies and many other organizations since 2008. His book was self-published in March 2010, Stewart said. He has sold almost 4,000 copies.
“I didn’t want the book to be over,” Schieffer said. “I wanted it to last longer, so I dragged my feet a bit.”
For more information about the author, visit journeyforfreedom.com.