Otto Machac, Bratislava 2014
Curiosity can be paper thin and without true feelings and passion it is easily blown away, then the few scribbles we made on it will surely be forgotten.
When we met, Otto had just returned from France, having been there to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. For many years Otto had been a paratrooper and was honored to have made his most recent jump from a Hercules transporter plane over the skies of Normandy during that very celebration. Otto was born after the war in 1949, though his uncle had been in the O.S.S.during wartime and was one of the many Slovaks that played an influential part in the D Day landings, Otto grew up during socialism where the freedom his uncle had fought for had been replaced by communist rule. So when the tanks came in 1968 he left Slovakia for West Germany and didn’t return until after the revolution 30 years later.
Before he left Otto had been a graphic designer making screen printed posters for the national theatre. He showed me some of his posters and paintings, that thanks to his neighbors efforts were kept safe from the authorities when he emigrated. On his return to Slovakia his involvement in Radio Free Europe put him under scrutiny from the state intelligence service, something he brushes off though his study filled with memorabilia mostly from that time, illuminates a feeling of pride and is testament to his generosity and spirit.
Sitting in his kitchen with a coffee, he lights up a cigarette and talks of how in their late teens he and his friends would go ‘tramping’ to the forest with backpacks, playing and singing their versions of popular American songs on guitars round a campfire, drinking and dreaming of a different life. Though many friends from his generation have passed away or are still scattered around the world, a handful still manage to meet regularly in the forest and sit round a fire singing the songs of their youth.
Before I leave he tells me he will take me tramping and I can meet his friends, we can sit around the fire and sing songs together. I feel richer and lighter of heart for the time spent and I hope my curiosity and its subsequent scribbles won't be forgotten