Vlado Šolc was born in Prešov in eastern Slovakia in 1972. He grew up with his mother, Anna, who was a sewing teacher, his father, Julius, who taught at a military school, and his older sister, Martina. Vlado’s family had a cottage near Lake Domaša, and many of Vlado’s fondest memories are of his time spent in the countryside where he loved to camp and fish with his friends. Vlado says that when he was younger, he loved animals and dreamt of being a zookeeper; he owned many pets, including snakes, mice, and guinea pigs. When Vlado was 14, he began attending a military school. His first year was spent in Košice, and he lived in a dormitory in Prešov for his final three years. The Velvet Revolution in November 1989 broke out during the time Vlado was at school; he says that he and his friends snuck out of the barracks to join the demonstrations in the city.
Upon graduating, he was sent to a military airfield in Hradec Králové where he was an electronic communications specialist. After the split of Czechoslovakia, Vlado returned to Prešov to work at a military base there. At this time, he became interested in psychology and decided to pursue a degree in the subject. In 1997, he began studying psychology at Charles University in Prague after being discharged from the Army. One year he spent studying abroad in Finland. While at university, Vlado spent several summers working on the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, and met his future wife, Rebecca, there. After he graduated, Vlado decided to move to the United States. He and Rebecca settled in the Milwaukee area where Vlado found a job as a case manager. He is now a licensed therapist with his own practice. In 2006, Vlado began a training program at the C G Jung Institute of Chicago where he is studying to be a Jungian psychotherapist. Vlado and Rebecca have two children, a son named Emanuel and a daughter named Veronika. Although his daughter is not yet talking, he says that his son is learning Slovak and that they keep several Slovak traditions at home. Vlado lives in Glendale, Wisconsin, with his family.
“You have to imagine this beautiful nature. This crystal-clear lake with cottages around. We are all friends. We knew each other so visited each other. At night we made fires in a fire pit – the stones in a circle. We’d play music; we’d sing; drink beer. We’d have fun. We’d grill a goat or a little pig on a fire and it took hours, and we’d go fishing and bring fish. We’d go to a pub and buy a lot of alcohol and celebrate. Or we’d go in a pub – and we all are friends – you have imagine, we’d go this plechač [disco], you’d go there and you know everybody, and guys come and bring their guitars and drums and violins and everything and we’d start singing, and we’d dance on the tables and drink beer. It was just so unbelievable and transformative. I can’t even describe the experience; it was just great.
“We would go camping. Right at Domaša there were cottages, but we would go camping in the woods, and we would stay by the lake and be fishing for three, four, five days. It would be raining and we would still be sitting and catching fish. We just ate the fish we would catch. It was really a connection with nature. It was a pure nature experience.”
“She’d get to travel because she was very good at what she was doing and they were designing new clothes. So she would have her students design new clothes and they would compete and they would go to these international competitions. She won a lot of prizes actually.”
Was she really fashionable?
“She was fashionable, yeah. That was the thing about it; they would have to be fashionable and they would have to design something new, and that’s how they would compete and win the competition. She was great. Right now, when I’m thinking about my mom, I think how much she was able to do. Taking care of the family, having a full-time job, catching up with the food. Our cottage was always clean and taken care of. Bringing up two children and basically sewing clothes for the whole family. Once in a while we would buy something, but most of the clothes we had, she would actually make it. Even things like a blazer or nice pants or complicated vests. Amazing. She still does it; of course, much less.”
And did she also sew for friends?
“Oh yeah. Doctors. We had a family doctor. She would sew for them and it was for exchange for the good stuff. For example, good meat, if we wanted to get good meat, there was the exchange.”
“I was kind of oblivious to what was going on in politics. I think I started paying attention to it when I was 14, 15, 16. I remember sitting in a pub in Domaša, drinking beer and having a discussion with friends. My older friends, three years older were saying ‘Communism is going to fall. I am telling you guys, it will end.’ I was like ‘Wow, so there is something wrong with the system that communism is going to fall.’ We had very lively discussions about it and two, three years later, it really happened.”
“It was prohibited to leave the base, but we would hide our civil clothes – non-Army clothes – in the bushes. So after 10:00, we would dress, jump the fence, run down to the city, and we would [jingle keys] do the Revolution like everybody else.”
Were lots of people out in Prešov? Because you see pictures of Prague and Bratislava, but what was the Revolution like in Prešov?
“Oh yeah, there was a revolution like everywhere else. Thousands of people in the streets. Full streets..”
Was it exciting?
“Of course! It was so exciting. That was the time people were so full of ideals and the revolution spirit. So peaceful. That’s why it was called ‘Velvet.’ Not an aggression. We were just connecting one with the other in spirit. November, October, that’s when it was happening, so it was cold out, so you would be out, bundled up, with the keys and shouting slogans.”
“I believe this is a part of who their father is and I’m trying to preserve that piece at least for a little bit. I know it’s sort of an illusion because it’s going to disappear in a few generations. You meet these people who say ‘My grandfather was a Czech. I know, say, ‘Dobrý den’ and that’s about it.’ So I know it’s going to disappear. My son is not going to teach his children Slovak, but he’ll speak about it. More, it’s not really to preserve the culture; it’s not really about it. I think it’s more about having exposure to the language and the culture and having this different fabric of experience. The passing on to him something very special, which he otherwise wouldn’t get.”