On a cold rainy night in 1983, Peter Vodenka made the decision that would change his life forever.
It was then that Vodenka, his wife and their two young children began their journey from behind the Iron Curtain toward America.
“We ran for our lives across the border from Communist Yugoslavia to western Austria while being chased by guards with automatic weapons,” Vodenka writes on his website, www.journeyforfreedom.com. “We had spent 10 years planning our escape. We had not told our families of our plan, and left them and everything we owned behind.
“If my wife and I had been captured alive, we would have faced an automatic 10-year sentence in a hard-labor camp with the most dangerous criminals. Our children would have been taken and raised in government-run institutions.”
Vodenka recounts his family’s harrowing ordeal in his 2010 book “Journey for Freedom: Defection from Communist Czechoslovakia.” He’ll be discussing those experiences at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Robert Trail Library in Rosemount as part of the ongoing “Meet the Author” series.
Vodenka, now the owner of a Minnesota construction company, says he felt compelled to write the book following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“Since the 9/11 tragedy, 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.”
Vodenka calls his family’s saga “the ultimate version of the American dream.” His wife, Lilly, works for a medical company, their daughter Patty is a college graduate with a degree in graphic design, and their son Peter joined the U.S. Marines and was among the first wave of soldiers marching into Baghdad.
More about Vodenka’s “Meet the Author” event can be found on the Rosemount Area Arts Council’s website, www.rosemountarts.com.