A Boy, an Illness, and the Mountains He Loved

A Boy, an Illness, and the Mountains He Loved

Charles’ love of the High Tatra Mountains of Slovakia deepened when at the age of nine in 1937, he was sent there to a special sanitarium for children to recover from tuberculosis.  “I was told that the mountain air cured me,” Charles said. There “I became acquainted with the territory where years later I would perform important tasks for my father during World War II resistance activities.”

Charles never mentioned the name of the sanitarium, but I suspect it was the spa village of Dolny Smokovec 960 meters above sea level in what is now Slovakia. It became a sanitarium for children in 1920, at the direction of Czechoslovakian President Masaryk.

In his memoir Border Crossings, Charles explained, “My parents had even more to be concerned about that year, for our doctor found a small lesion on my lungs, indicating that I may have been exposed to tuberculosis. An x-ray confirmed the doctor’s suspicion, and suddenly I was the center of everyone’s attention. The cow whose milk I had been drinking was tested, my diet was restricted, and I was sent to a special Tatra Mountains sanitarium, where many children were under observation and medical treatment.

I was there for two months, having much fun in the surrounding woods, hills and mountain streams despite my illness. I would never forget the Tatras, because there, even more than in Svatý Ondrej and Brusno Kúpele, I discovered the endless fascination of the Slovakian mountains. Under the supervision of a medical team, we camped in the high hills for several days at a time. The calcification of the lesion on my lungs was influenced by the healthy environment and good food. By the end of August I returned home fully cured.”

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