On the surface, there’s not much evidence. There’s not much telling where Bob Ctvrtlik came from.
There are several reasons why he’ll be inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame Thursday. Still, more reasons why he works so hard as vice president of international affairs for the United States Olympic Committee.
But the source of it all won’t be there in Holyoke, Mass. where Bob Ctvrtlik will be honored. Nor is it at his home on Balboa Island.
In the past, in pictures, in stories told a hundred times over, that’s where the source can be found.
Margaret Ctvrtlik only smiles when she speaks of her late husband. Photos of him, newspaper clippings about him and even music that told much of him can be recognized in her home at Belmont Shore.
She fell in love with her husband less than a few hundred feet from where she now sleeps. The memories are there below her window, happy times from the days spent with that man from Czechoslovakia. That man who made a life and a family with her.
That man who escaped such turmoil, such despair to earn freedom, to find a better place to live. To find himself.
He seemed destined to succeed. He was fluent in eight languages. Czech, Russian, Italian, German, Latin, French, English and Spanish, he could speak them all. He was intelligent, a graduate of Charles University in Prague.
He was brave, too. As the Nazis occupied his country, Josef stood steadfast in his beliefs and eventually in his pursuit of freedom. In 1943, he spent three months in a prison camp for refusing to help translate for the Nazi mayor of his home town, Moravia.
At the university, he wrote for an underground newspaper. The word got out and it was shut down. The Nazis came hunting for each person who contributed to the newspaper.
Leaving his life behind, Josef fled, escaping on skis. This was cross-country skiing through blizzards. He didn’t care. He was ready to leave.