It was a cold and rainy day in April, 1984, when 17-year-old Petr Svoboda made a life-changing decision. Together with his Czechoslovakian National U18 Ice hockey teammates, he had just beaten Sweden 4-2 in the final round of the European Championships. As teammates and coaches were celebrating the important win in the dressing room, he quietly took his few belongings, his umbrella, and walked out on his old life. He defected. He escaped to the West, as his biggest dream was to play in the National Hockey League (NHL) in America and Canada.
This step was not only courageous, it had severe consequences. The communist regime in Czechoslovakia took immediate revenge. Both his parents, who worked in good jobs, were fired and placed under substantial scrutiny by the authorities from that point on. With the Iron curtain firmly closed in the mid-eighties, there was literally zero clarity around whether Petr would ever see his parents again.