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Tesla and Love

My mom once shared a story about how her parents met; the details I remember are vague, and perhaps her story was too. But through some research, I’ve learned more. My grandmother Vera and my grandfather Tony met at work as young teenagers, working at Tesla Strašnic, an electronic manufacturing plant in Prague.

At the time, this was a government-owned facility that manufactured electronics in Prague and, at some point, later sold to private. Originally named after Nikola Tesla, the brilliant-minded person who was an inventor, electrical and mechanical engineer, and futurist, he was best known for his contributions to the design of modern-day electrical supply systems and various other inventions.

It seems very fitting that my grandfather worked at a Tesla plant as a young teenager, given his love for electronics and taking them apart and sometimes putting them back together. I remember as a kid going to his electrical shop where things were taken apart, screws, nuts, bolts, the smell of grease and grim, those tubs of orange stuff to clean your hands, tons of coffee cups, some paper from take-out and many that were from the house, that I knew my grandmother was looking for. My grandfather was always so happy in his shop; he’d show me things he’d taken apart, ask me to guess what it was, and I had no clue what they were, then he’d start to loosely put the pieces together, talk about volts and wires, and how I was to never play with them so I wouldn’t get shocked, and as he’d piece together the body I’d see he meant it was a radio. I had no idea about the workings of the radio and how all those pieces work together to make it work. I still don't.

I took this photo at a Prague shopping mall. This was built in 1940 as an advertisement for Tesla Radio.

In my research about the Tesla plant in Prague and my grandparents' age, I believe they worked on radio receivers, light bulbs, vacuum tubes, and military technology to radio and television transmitters. I believe my grandparents worked in the factory toward the end of WWII when they were early teens; I know my grandfather worked there when he was fourteen, which would have made my grandmother ten years old. Nowadays, this seems too young to be working in a factory, but this was the end of WWII, and all hands were needed, especially in the technology development.

I know that when my grandfather worked here and began learning about electromechanics, he then worked in an apprenticeship as an instructor. At the age of sixteen, he joined the Communist Party; then, he transferred to the Czech Technical University in Prague. In his first year of school, he was sent to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Leningrad; my guess is the Communist party made this recommendation. 1956 with a diploma in hand, he began his first report in scientific and technical intelligence for the KGB.

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