Milada Kubikova-Stastny was born in Plzeň in 1943. Her father, Jaroslav, was a doctor and her mother, also named Milada, was a lawyer. When Plzeň was liberated by American troops at the end of WWII, Milada (then two years old) and her brother were dressed in Czech folk costumes to welcome the soldiers. Milada began ice skating at the age of seven and for several years skated pairs with her older brother Jaroslav. Along with her later pairs partner, Jaroslav Votruba, Milada became a national champion, competed in the European and World Championships, and placed tenth at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck.
Milada moved to Prague to study physical education and Russian at Charles University. One year before graduating, however, she joined the Vienna Ice Revue and toured for two years throughout Western Europe. She was in West Germany at the time of the Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968 and although she considered not returning to Czechoslovakia, Milada did return and finished her degree. Upon graduating, Milada again joined the Vienna Ice Revue which was undertaking a tour of North America. In the fall of 1969, as the ice show was ending in New York City, Milada decided to stay in the United States and claimed asylum. She settled in the borough of Queens where she had two children with her first husband and worked as a skating instructor. Milada says that she became involved in the Czech community ‘almost immediately,’ where she became a member of the BCBSA (Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria), participated in Czech theatre and enrolled her children in Czech school. Milada married her second husband, Bretislav Stastny, who was a jeweler in Manhattan, and moved to Long Island. The pair had a son in 1976. Milada continued to teach skating and became the director of a large skate school in Great Neck, New York.
In 2001, Milada, along with her pairs partner Votruba, was honored as one of ten ‘Sports Stars of the Twentieth Century’ in Plzeň for her international success. She travels to the Czech Republic yearly, in part to visit her brother Jaroslav who also left the country as part of a touring ice show. He returned to Plzeň in 1991 and now runs three skating rinks in the city. Today, Milada is active in the Czech community in the United States. She is a member of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) and the Association of Free Czechoslovak Sportsmen, and in March 2012 she was named president of the BCBSA. Milada lives in Roslyn, New York.
“We were actually lucky that Plzeň was liberated by the American Army. General Patton was there, and General Harmon actually lived in the little village that my parents had a country villa. That’s where his headquarters were, near Plzeň. It was about 40 kilometers from Plzeň. We as children – I was barely two years old and my brother was six years old – we were welcoming the American Army there in our national costumes. I have a picture with one of the soldiers, one of the black soldiers because it was something very unusual for us. We’d never seen a black man before, so this was really something unusual. I have a picture which was printed in Americkè Listy later on. It was a big celebration. All the people were really happy and we were hoping that the American Army would be allowed to go all the way to Prague and liberate Prague, and if they had been able to liberate Prague, the whole Czech Republic would have been liberated. But, of course, according to the treaty and Stalin’s orders in those years, they were ordered to stop right before [Prague sic.]. So our destiny would have been very different if the American Army would have been allowed to go all the way to Prague.”
“My father, as a doctor, wanted one of us, me or my brother, to follow in his footsteps and study in a medical school, but we wouldn’t have been accepted in a medical school because we were not children of working-class parents. We were so-called ‘bourgeois’ because our parents were intelligentsia. My father was a doctor and my mother was a lawyer, so it was not desirable by the Communist Party for us to have a higher education. The only way for me to get a university degree was to study in the physical education field because they wanted to have well-qualified professionals in the sports. To the communists, sports were actually a means of showing to the world that they are a strong system. They wanted to show the world ‘We have the best athletes in this and that field, so we are the best system…’ That was part of their plan. So actually, I was only allowed to study sports to be a qualified professional in that field later on. So that was my only possibility to go on to higher education.”
“After four years, I interrupted studying and joined the Vienna Ice Show (a professional skating show) which was the only way to be able to travel throughout Europe, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to leave the country. So I traveled with the Vienna Ice Show in many European countries, including Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy, so it was really valuable experience for me. After the two years’ contract, I went back to graduate, to do my last fifth year and graduate. But after the two years, it was the summer of 1968 and there was the Russian invasion on August 21, and that left me actually stranded in northern Germany and I was thinking if I should return to the country or shouldn’t. I didn’t know what was going to happen because it was totally unexpected and none of us knew what to do, so I waited almost until the end of September to figure out if I should go back to finish my fifth year and graduate or stay in the West. I really didn’t want to back to the dark ages of the communist regime of the 1950s and that’s actually what happened later on.
“I did return; I finished my fifth year; I graduated. But during that fifth year, from September of 1968 until June of 1969, it was clear to me that the country was returning to the so-called normalization process which was returning to the bad time of the dark ages of communism. So I said ‘If I ever marry and have children, I don’t want them to grow up in this regime.’ I said ‘I have to get out of the country. If I marry and have children, I want them to live in a free country.’ So after I graduated, I first looked for a job in Czechoslovakia. I wanted to teach skating in one of the larger cities that had skating rinks, but of course the jobs in the larger cities went to the kids of communist parents, so everybody from those families got a better job. And to us, to the remaining people, we would have to take a job somewhere, maybe in the border villages or something like that. So I decided to join the Vienna Ice Revue again, to sign another contract and went with them on a tour of Belgium and Holland, and afterward there was a tour of American and Canada, and at that point I decided that I’m going to stay in the United States and I asked for political asylum.”
“When I was in the Vienna Ice Show and he [Milada’s brother Jaroslav] joined the Skala Ice Revue, we joined these professional ice shows officially. We got a contract through an organization which was called Pragosport, and there was also Pragokoncert. Those were two organizations that negotiated contracts with Western companies. But for that, we had to pay the government a pretty large amount of our salary in Western currency. That was the only way we were able to travel to the Western countries.”
How did they justify that?
“Because nobody else was allowed to travel outside, so for the privilege of negotiating contracts with Western companies, we had to pay them quite a large amount of our salary, quite a large percentage of our salary.”
First Job in America
“The first place I lived in was LeFrak City in Queens, which is near the Long Island Expressway, and the nearest rink to it was the World’s Fair skating rink, which doesn’t exist anymore, but in those days was the closest rink to the apartment where we lived. I used to travel to that rink on a bicycle before I had a car. They knew about my international skating background, my competitive background, so they gave me a job right away. I started teaching there; I had some nice kids there. Actually, in those first days I didn’t know much of the skating terminology and I was just learning from the students I was teaching. So I was showing them a move, a jump or spin and I said ‘What do you call this? What do you call that?’ That’s how I learned the terminology, so that was interesting.”
New York Czech Community
“I think it was almost immediately, because I had some friends who brought me to the Bohemian Hall and [Beer] Garden in Astoria, and I went to the celebration of Czech and Slovak Day which was usually during Memorial Day weekend. At first it was Sunday and Monday and now we are celebrating it every Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I met a lot more friends there. I started to get involved in Czech theatre in Queens, which was led by Mrs. Božena Snížková. The theatre’s name was the Theatre of Jan Snížek who was her husband who died just before I met her. She was continuing his work and brought to the Czech and Slovak community a lot of beautiful performances, and I even acted in some of those performances. She talked me into it and it was a great time. My kids were little at the time and they started attending Czech school in Winfield, which is also in Queens, and their teacher was Mrs. Marie Miladova who was a wonderful lady. She always put on a show of the Winfield school at Czech and Slovak Day, so my children were reciting Czech poetry at that time, they were singing Czech songs and they were dancing Beseda, and I even danced Beseda with them once when one of the girls was missing. So it was really a happy time. And that’s how I developed my relationship to BCBSA (Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria) and, this past March, I even became a president of that society.”