OK3BU story
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Subj: [YCCC] Way back in OK - country
Date: 12/14/1999 9:50:10 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: K3BU@aol.com
Sender: owner-yccc@contesting.com
To: yccc@yccc.org

k1ir@designet.com writes:

> I'd love to hear the memories of those who went through the
> process in eastern Europe

OK, you asked for it.

OK3BU story.
My father and older sister were excellent marks(wo)men, shooters. I heard
their stories and as a kid wanted to be like them. When I was about 14, and
had the opportunity to join the rifle club (we used cal. 22 rifles and
pistols), I jumped on the opportunity and had fun especially beating my
instructor and teacher. Then one day I went to get my ration of ammunition at
Svazarm (civil defense org.) and see this guy (Jozef "Dodo", OK3AS) with
bunch of like postcards from all over the world. I got curious and asked
where did he get them. He said "I talked to them!" These are QSL cards
confirming this. Wow! My eyes and ears popped up, he took me over to the
local radioclub OK3KGH and showed me stuff that Hitler left - modified
surplus equipment, fired it up. With 10W German Tank radio and piece of wire
he was talking to whole world on 10m AM (it was 1958). Wow, wow! This beats
mechanics, shooting and photography. How can I be radioamateur like that?
Jozef explained to me how to get the license, about SWL. I immediately
signed up registration for SWL, got my first OK3-5292 "call sign" and signed
up for summer operator's camp training. I butchered the family radio,
modified it for attaching headphones, built external oscillator (like BFO),
stretched piece of wire outside and started to SWL on AM and CW.
In August of 58 I went to this 2 week training course in Presov at
OK3KAH, met bunch of other "radio nuts" like OK3HS, OK3OM and experienced
this weird brotherhood of hams. OK3KAH had RCA transmitter with pair of 813
and Tesla Lambda V RX, what a difference to my "rig". We had about 5 hours a
day of morse code. Head was ringing, all the noises were being translated to
morse code and tones, I was dreaming in morse code. After two weeks of this
torture, we passed the exams and got our own operator's certificates. Exams
were to receive 3 minutes of 5 letter/number groups, with 5 errors allowed.
Theory, schematics and oral exams about regulations. No sweat, I wanted to be
a ham so badly (way to sneak under the Iron Curtain). Now I could legally
operate the club station under the supervision of the Chief OP or "Traffic
OP", confined to 160 and 80 with 10W. What a training to work the world QRP
and on low bands. Now being able to listen on the commercial receiver vs. my
3 tube universal radio at home was like to listen to code practice
oscillator. Spent many nights at the radioclub. Chief OP was Viktor, OK3LW,
wonderful elmer and VHF enthusiast (we measured the frequency on 2m with
meter, using Lecher wires). Started to build and modify the surplus stuff, I
am still amazed at the technical level and designs and packaging of German
equipment from WW II era. Parts were not available, but we managed to trade
some stuff, sometimes for a bottle of booze. OK3OM would design and got us
made some hypersil transformers (2 bottles of Vodka), got some transmitting
components from scrapped Wehrmacht technology, what a way to learn and build
equipment. No commercial stuff was available to hams. Radioclubs would get
some commercial equipment, but not individuals. In 1959 I upgraded to
"Traffic Operator" class, got phone privileges and all HF bands.
When I discovered contesting, that was it. My first contest was SAC and
then it was regular thing, I had to be in CQ WW (our OK3KAG picture made it
to CQ mag.). The problem was English. When I fired up on phone, I found that
everybody was talking in English and not in "world" language Russian, as they
taught us at school. Speaking English could brand you as being a spy. No
books, no teachers, I had to learn English on my own - on 10m. I listened
what the other stations were saying and soon figured out what "my name is"
and other stuff meant. I just repeated the stuff back at them! Slowly the
vocabulary expanded and I was working the pileups on phone too.
My parents were not excited about me being involved in ham radio (the
possible spy accusation). My father was detained in the labor camp in 1950
when communists took over (for not denouncing his religion) also my sister
was prosecuted, thrown out of university (daughter of "criminal"). I was
denied entrance to university, I wanted badly to study electronics, my new
found love. I had to work at the agri-coop for one year to become "working
class". One day I was coming home from work, walking on the road to the bus
stop. Black Tatra 603 pulls beside me, government looking guys call me in.
Get in the car. No one says a word. They take me to the local police station
and start interrogating me. What can you do, what you can't? I was very
careful not to do anything illegal, knowing my "status." Finally after a
while they pulled out accusation, that I gave my address over the air
(forbidden) to American, used German callsign and I used F$%#@ word on the
air with G station. I didn't know what F$%#@ means, had to look it up in the
dictionary, never mind using it on the air. When they showed me call sign of
the American Ham, I remembered one of my SWL QSL card replies that came via
buro. It had German Call, my name and address on the back. Lucky me. I had
also QSL from the German who was in QSO with American. Fortunately they both
replied, I had both cards and I remembered it. They let me go home and bring
the cards. I explained to them what must have happened. Some SOB (Son of a
bureaucrat) at the Central RC saw the mix-up on the card and interpreted it
that I used German Call and gave my address on the air while operating from
the club station and promptly reported me to the authorities. I remembered
that the American mentioned on his QSL card that he is married and has two
daughters. Wow! - I wish I could go and visit him and maybe marry American's
daughter (and buy Collins)! - Was my thought at the time. That note saved me
from the jail, I remembered the QSL card and question mark by CRC SOB. So I
was let go and back to operating the club stations, couldn't even dream about
getting my own callsign - I was potential enemy of the state.
After finishing the high school and working for one year I applied again
to University in Bratislava (OK3KFF), I was turned down again and also from
Mechanical Engineering TU in Kosice (OK3KAG). My mother collected all my ham
radio and sports awards (I played in team handball league, did cycling and
long distance running) and trophies and went to see the Rector of TU in
Kosice. He, being from the old pre-communist era, accepted me on his own
risk. We had nice Radioclub at the University, slept there many times and we
did a lot of contesting with Laco, OK3CIR and eventually got medals - titles
"Master of Sport" as the youngest ever and joined the big league of famous
sportsmen like marathoner Zatopek. The sad thing was that my father died as a
result of incarceration and also they killed my sister with injection. The
ham radio provided me with escape from the grim situations and was a window
to the rest of the free world. I could listen to foreign broadcasts and keep
the hope for better days.
Friendships developed with many hams. Got to know the pair of hams OK1AT
and OK1ZQ. OK1ZQ had 40m CQ WW CW world record. OK1AT was technical wiz (but
after working with Collins equipment at work he couldn't bring himself to
build home brewed stuff at home, so he gave me two sets of parts and said -
build me one transceiver and build one for you to keep). They worked at the
Ministry of Interior Affairs (incl. secret police). Chief of licensing bureau
was OK1PD of 7G1A fame. Using their friendship, they managed to talk the
OK1PD to issue me a private call and even gave me a choice of few two letter
calls. Of all the available, I liked OK3BU, kinda had a nice rhythm on CW and
close to my initials. I almost jumped out of my skin when I got the papers
and OK3BU. Finally I am "somebody," not just another op at the club station.
Finally I can collect DXCC and do contesting under my own call.
During my radio career I met many wonderful people, made many friends and
radio helped me professionally and in life. Thanks to it, I managed to get
out in 1969, just to avoid the arrest for "anti socialist activities" during
Russian Invasion in 1968 (I was sentenced to 5 years), spent 6 months at IBM
France in Paris (F0SY) in training on IBM 360/30, emigrated to Canada to be
VE3BMV before i had a job or a piece of furniture, met this gorgeous
American girl on the way to FP8 (never made it there), got married in 73,
have two boys and Big Bertha, but that's another story.
So here I am in Amerika, married, with children, big American cars and
commercial radio equipment. Who says dreams can't come through? Even got
(part of) my old call back - o'K3BU and starting all over again, building
bigger and better station.
So there you are. It wasn't as much scary taking the exams (they were
tough and no way around them), as being constantly worried what would they
accuse you of (spying) and the constant possibility of ending up in the jail
for doing what one loves so much. We were constantly monitored and kept sharp
eye on. Many were denied oportunity to even obtain license. When Dubcek came
with his Prague Spring, we were in support of his efforts, by organizing
network we prevented blood spill and kept the country informed in what was
happening. Many hams were arrested and prosecuted for this (OK1ZQ too, but
OK1AT "cooperated", became big shot in the prison system and sent me
threatening letter after I published editorial in Radiosporting about "Barbed
wire Beverages") and I thank God (and ham radio) for letting me get out and
having the opportunity to live, work and contest in the free world. (Only to
find Clintonistas taking over US. Is it going to repeat all over again?)

Merry Christmas and Happy and Peaceful New 2K!

Yuri, Kick 3 BUtts