With a B.A. in Music Education and a minor in Spanish, recent Bloomsburg graduate, Martin Pastor has accomplished much that any student and parent would be proud of. But to Pastor and his mother Irena, graduating means so much more.
Raised in communist Czechoslovakia, Pastor’s mother, Irena, fled to the United States looking for freedom and opportunity. When Irena’s great grandmother applied for a pass to visit the states from the Russian government to see her elderly brother who was living in Kingston, Pa, it was perceived as a long shot. However, after pleading a case of “age and inability to contribute to society,” Irena’s great-grandmother’s wish was granted.
The Russian government awarded Irena’s great-grandmother, grandmother, and sister three month allowances to exit the communist establishment and visit the aging brother in Pennsylvania. Before making the journey across the ocean, Irena’s sister discovered that she was expecting a baby. Because she was pregnant, Irena’s sister could not accompany her family members on their trip.
Martin and Irena’s family lived in the small village of Nizna Hutka, which is located right outside of Kosice, the second largest city in Slovakia. At the time, the only airport was in Prague, so Irena’s uncle went with them on the train from Kosice to the airport in Prague.
“The entire train ride they kind of noticed a man who stood out from everyone else. In a creepy sort of way, I guess” recalls Pastor of his mother’s story. Pastor said his family had to stay in a night in Prague, which is where his uncle ran into the same man from the train and offered to buy him a drink.
“Well, he got the man drunk and found out that he was a KGB spy sent to keep my mom from getting on the plane.”
The next day at the airport, the KGB spy stopped Irena as she began to board the plane. He allowed her to board the American bound plane, but told her that he would be waiting for her in that same spot when she returned in three months. He gave her three months to the day.
Three months had passed and Irena did not return to that airport as she was supposed to. Being from a small village in a controlled country, Irena’s family was shamed and her belongings confiscated. Soon after, letters arrived demanding Irena’s immediate return and imprisonment. She stayed, then soon after, in 1986, Martin came along.
In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. Czechoslovakia was no longer part of communist Russia. This was accompanied by a letter of good-will to the young mother Irena, allowing her safe return and a pardon of her previous sentence.
Slovakia declared independence in 1992 and in 1993, Pastor and his mother traveled back to Slovakia to stay. A year passed and Martin and Irena made the trip back to Pennsylvania.
“We came back to Berwick to sell everything we owned and settle in Slovakia for good,” said Pastor. “However, once we were there for a couple of days, we decided that the opportunities and education here were better.”
In 2004, Pastor graduated from Berwick High School. On Saturday, December 13, 2008, he graduated from Bloomsburg University.
Pastor plans to pursue his musical career and take advantage of all that life has to offer.
Pastor’s mother’s biggest dreams came true for her son, making everything she risked and fought for all worth while.
“Her name is Irena Davis,” said Pastor. “I don’t know what my mom’s dreams were when she came over. I’m sure the sky was the limit for a young girl in her 20’s coming from a poor village in Eastern Europe.”
“For me, I’ve always hoped for happiness with whatever I did in life,” said Pastor. “Music does it for me. It takes me away from the stresses of life. I try to extend that to others by creating a moment with the audience; a moment that no one can touch or take away; it’s magical and I love it.”
In discussing his relationship with his mother, Pastor stated, “My mom has been the best when it comes to role models. Her life story goes much deeper than any story that I could tell. Whenever I feel doubt in something, I just look to her and she knows just how to turn the weight of the world into a feather.”