Journey for Freedom, an American Dream
Saturday, March 9, Philip community members found themselves on the edge of their seats while Peter Vodenka told his story "Journey for Freedom," the ultimate version of an American dream. As a young boy, he read books and watched old western movies about America and always dreamed of one day being free.
Vodenka was born and raised in communist Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain from 1955 until his defection in 1983. At the age of 15, he graduated from grade school and went on to a trade school to be a plumber. He graduated with his journeyman plumber’s license at 18. As an adult, without his parents to shield him, his eyes were opened to Communism and what the government was doing to the Czech people. Many questions started formulating in his mind and he knew then, he had to escape.
Over the next 10 years, Vodenka would marry and have two children. During this period, he and his wife planned their escape secretly. No one could know of their plan, for fear of persecution, not only for their actions, but also for their thoughts. In June of 1983, Vodenka, his wife, Lilly, four-year old daughter and two-year old son, defected successfully, running for their lives across the borders of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia to a western Austria refugee camp while being chased by guards with automatic weapons and dogs. They left everything they owned behind except personal documents, the clothes on their backs, and $600. They spoke no English. All of their family was left behind, but they were free at last. After only three months in the camp, a Lutheran church in Beach, N.D. sponsored Vodenka’s family. Two sisters in the congregation shared their Czechoslovakian heritage and spoke their native tongue, making the transition to life in the U.S.A. much easier.
From the dream of a teenage boy longing for freedom in a small foreign country years ago, to living free in America – his message combines hope, life threatening danger, a struggle for freedom, a new beginning, hard work and success. Vodenka's mission, "I have felt strongly that Americans need to be reminded how lucky they are to be FREE, since I know what it is like to live under an oppressive government. It is my dream and pleasure to be a motivational speaker and tell my version of the American Dream."
Vodenka's authentic presentation draws participants into the unfolding events as if they were there. Peter captures the urgency of a message too important to keep to himself, infusing it in such a way that his audience leaves with a burning desire to cherish America and not take our freedoms for granted. To book Peter Vodenka for a presentation, find an event near you, or to get his book, "Journey for Freedom," look at photos and read reviews, visit the website www.journeyforfreedom.com. Vodenka signed and donated two books to the community; one book is available at the Haakon County Public Library and the other book is at the Haakon School library for check out.