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Defying all odds

Dr. Zbysek Brezina wasn’t looking for a job when he found Eastern: he was looking for a challenge.

The school’s newest history professor is no stranger to a challenge.

In the late 80s, Dr. Brezina deserted the mandatory service in Czechoslovakian army and his university, joined the student movement in Western Bohemia and co-founded a university preparatory school.

Before these adventures, Dr. Brezina had been planning to become part of French Foreign Legion that was fighting against the Communist movement. His first hundred English words were all military commands.

Growing up in what was then Czechoslovakia, Dr. Brezina and his family were discriminated against in the 80s because of their faith and political beliefs. Because of his family’s ideologies, Dr. Brezina was not going to be able to attend college.

“My test scores were excellent, but even with Gorbachev’s changes, getting into University was very difficult,” he said.

While at the University, Dr. Brezina was offered a membership to the Communist Party, but he turned it down and instead dropped out of school to stand up for his beliefs, despite the societal demand to join the Communist Party.

During this time, people of faith were often besmirched in the political and social arenas. “If you display a faith, no one was really happy about it,” Dr. Brezina said.

Now, close to 85 percent of Czechs do not believe in God.

 

“Eastern didn’t try to hide that they are Christian,” Dr. Brezina said. “That’s something I like.”

Dr. Brezina had worked at Bethany College in Kansas before his move to the East Coast. His wife, Sue, had just published a book, and they were expecting their second child. For the move, Dr. Brezina didn’t want just another job but a spiritual community.

Dr. Brezina always knew he wanted to teach. With only a few exceptions, he came from a family of teachers for the last 200 years. “Teachers, priests and soldiers – I think they have the same job: they spread the message.”

That is exactly what Dr. Brezina aimed to do in 1992, when he and others established a university preparatory school. No one could have been surprised.

What surprise did come was a recent Vassar graduate by the name of Sue. She had come to the prep school to teach English just days after she’d learned about the opening. “We paid her almost nothing,” Dr. Brezina said.

It was difficult for the two of them to communicate at first. “I didn’t speak any English, and she didn’t speak any Czech,” Dr. Brezina said. But somehow it all worked out, and Dr. Brezina found himself moving to the United States to be with her.

After all that has happened, Dr. Brezina is pleased to be in America and at Eastern where he can be open about his faith. “You don’t have to be shy of it,” he said. “[You] have the opportunity to freely show your belief in Jesus.”

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