‘Journey for Freedom’ author to speak

Peter Vodenka
Peter Vodenka

Peter Vodenka will share the story of how he escaped with his wife and children from Communist Czechoslovakia in 1983 at the Fairview Lakes Auxiliary fall luncheon and silent auction.

The event will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Wyoming United Methodist Church, 5459 East Viking Blvd.

Vodenka was born in Czechoslovakia in 1955. His parents worked at an iron ore processing plant, where his father was an industrial designer.

In 1970 Peter studied plumbing at a trade school in Prague, but after trying plumbing, decided become a lumberjack.

He married Ludmila in 1978. They were raising their two children in southern Bohemia, where the outdoor-loving Peter worked on a collective farm and owned a mare (named Nelly Gray, after an American song he had heard).

In 1983 Peter drove with his wife and two children to Hungary and then Yugoslavia, where they left their car at the border and walked into Austria in the night.

After escaping the Yugoslav border guards, with the help of a cousin they made it to a refugee camp.

They applied for entry to America, a process that included interviews with the U.S. consul, interrogations and medical exams.

Sponsored by First Lutheran Church in Beach, N.Dak., the family immigrated in September of 1983 with $600 in their pockets, speaking no English.

Peter found a minimum wage job on a pig farm, then moved on to construction work. He advanced to a management position and now owns his own company.

Today the Vodenkas live in Scandia.

In 2007 Peter published a book, “Journey for Freedom,” about his experience. He is also a motivational speaker and enjoys outdoor pursuits, including hunting in the Black Hills.

Tickets are $12. Call 651-464-8758 to reserve tickets, or buy them at the Auxiliary Gift Shop at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, at local Fairview Clinics, or at Yellow Bus or Carousel Hair Salon in Forest Lake.