Lubomir Hromadka was born in Folvark in 1926, and grew up in Jičín in northeastern Bohemia. His parents František and Julie owned a pub near Jičín, in the area known as Český raj [Bohemian Paradise]. Lubomir’s father had been in the Czechoslovak Legion during WWI, and Lubomir remembers him participating in annual parades that celebrated the founding of the First Czechoslovak Republic. Music was an important part of Lubomir’s life, and at the age of six he began playing the violin. He learned how to play other instruments, including the trumpet, and played in and led several bands throughout his lifetime. Lubomir attended technical school and says that his studies were occasionally interrupted during WWII if students were needed to work for the German war effort. After the War, Lubomir finished high school and studied chemical engineering at ČVUT (Czech Technical University in Prague).
In February 1948, just days after the Communist coup, Lubomir participated in a student march supporting former president Edvard Beneš which was stopped by police and militia. Lubomir says that because of his participation in the march he knew he would come under the scrutiny of the authorities and decided to leave the country. He obtained false papers and, with a friend, was escorted to the border near Cheb. After being lost in the forest for several days, Lubomir crossed the border. Upon arriving in Bavaria, he says a German soldier attempted to send him back to Czechoslovakia. According to Lubomir, an American soldier intervened and sent him instead to Ludwigsburg refugee camp where he stayed for one year. After being told it would take years to receive a visa to the United States, Lubomir decided to immigrate to Brazil where he found employment as a chemist at Pirelli Tyre Company in São Paolo. Lubomir says he was ‘very happy’ in Brazil, as he formed a small brass band and also wrote articles for a sports newspaper.
In 1957 Lubomir received a visa to the United States and moved to Cleveland. He found employment as a research chemist at Gibson-Homans Company where he worked for over 30 years, becoming a chief chemist, manager, and eventually vice-president. Lubomir is especially proud of discovering a method to eliminate the asbestos fiber in industrial products. In 1959, Lubomir married Jarmila Humpal, an American of Czech descent. He became involved in Czech theatre — writing, updating, and directing plays. In 1994, Lubomir’s Old Style Bohemian Brass Band toured the Czech Republic and he was invited to conduct at the Kmoch Festival in Kolín. Now a widower, Lubomir lives in Washington, D.C. with his former classmate from Jičín, Kveta Gregor-Schlosberg.
“As a little boy already I started playing violin. I was about six years old or so, and then later on I switched to flugelhorn and trumpet since I heard the army band in Jičín. So I just loved the brass band. This was my love, music.
What style of music?
“This was the military style music. Like over here, John Philip Sousa type. Very nice, and very happy music. Very happy music.”
Busy Young Man
“I was involved in sport. I used to play ice hockey and football – what they call here soccer – and also handball. So I was very busy, and with music, I already had a band. So I wasn’t crazy, I was just always busy, busy doing something.”
Participation in March
“I was living in the Masaryk dormitory. This was the biggest dormitory in Prague for more than 1,000 students, and there formed the march to support President Beneš. They caught us before the castle where President Beneš lived, and we got a lot of [beatings] from the police and from the – not the military – but they were from the factories, workers who got arms and they beat us really badly.
So you’re standing in front the castle. How many people are marching would you say?
“Oh, thousands and thousands from all the universities. So we joined someplace and went to this castle to support President Beneš. Oh yeah, many, many thousands. And some people from the streets also joined us and they were supporting us. Only the militia and the police stopped us there. We couldn’t talk to the president. We sent there our representatives, but the militia didn’t let them talk to the president. So it was tough.
Were there chants in the streets? Were you saying certain things?
“Well, especially before the castle we were singing the national anthems. So as long as we were singing the national anthem, they let us. But soon we stopped, so they started to clobber us.”
“Right away when we crossed the border when we got into Germany, there was some German guy – big guy – who tried to stop us. He said ‘What are you doing here?’ We said ‘Well, we are refugees.’ ‘Oh we don’t want any refugees’ the German said, and he tried to push us back to Czechoslovakia. So we were yelling at each other, and apparently the GI, the [American] military people heard, so they came with the Jeep and said ‘What’s happening?’ So I told them ‘He’s trying to push us back, which is no-no because we are refugees.’ So they put us in the Jeep, and we had to disrobe and they checked everything, it was ok. And they gave us the ticket to Ludwigsburg.”
“No, no. No way. This was a starting point for us to go further. So we didn’t want to stay in Germany, but we could immigrate to either to Australia, Canada, or Brazil – I selected Brazil – so it was ok. A starting point to something better.”