John Hvasta, 85, of St. Augustine, fell asleep in the Lord on March 28, 2013. He was born in Miglesov, Czechoslovakia, and arrived in the United States at age 11 in 1939, to Hillside, N.J. with his parents, the late Michael and Elizabeth Roman Hvasta and his brother, Steven. He attended Bragaw Public School and upon graduation from Central High School, he attended Upsala College. John served his country in the U. S. Navy aboard the USS Hornet as a radioman. After his discharge in 1948, his desire was to return to Czechoslovakia to attend Charles University majoring in philosophy. His happy and loving marriage of 57 years was to Helen Loya of Duquesne, Pa.
Fluent in Slovak language, he worked at the U.S. Consulate with Claiborne Pell, U.S. Consul, as interpreter. The political situation in Slovakia was at the height of the Cold War with Communist power, and fate dealt him an imprisonment in the historic fortress, Leopoldov, the Alcatraz of Slovakia. After false accusations of espionage, he was sentenced to prison for 25 years. Enduring many tortures, he made a daring escape with five other inmates and ran into nearby forests, eventually separating from the others. Hiding in haystacks and caves, for three years, he found generous country folk who helped him find his way to the U.S. Embassy in Prague where he sought protection. He was finally freed with the help of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and flown to New York City where his family was anxiously waiting his arrival. After a nationwide public speaking tour, he graduated from University of Southern California in cinematography and public relations. He was a freelance filmmaker of documentary film for nursing, Ukrainian historical film, and director of the Blue Army TV Programs, Washington, N.J.
Always interested in politics, he moved his wife and children to Washington, D.C., and worked in the campaign for Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, several offices of congressmen and senators, and Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He then started his own business of APRC International in Arlington, Va., dealing in public relations with companies in Slovakia. When the Berlin Wall opened, he returned to Slovakia and was interviewed many times on radio and TV in Slovakia of the freedom they have waited for 70 years. Again this time fate had dealt him a good card and obtained a position with Slovak Telecommunications which Lucent acquired and worked for six years. He then became afflicted with shingles and returned home to retire in 1999. Parkinson"s disease with Lewy Bodies Syndrome had reared its tormenting symptoms, and he became a victim.
He is preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Helen (Loya) of St. Augustine, Fla.; sons, John Thaddeus (Diane), of Mesa, Ariz., Michael Stephen of Fairfax, Va., Mark Francis (Pamela), of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and daughter, Marianne Margaret of St. Augustine; and grandchildren, Alyssa and Nicole, Clare and Cecilia, Michael Joseph and Malia Margaret; and many nieces and nephews.
A visitation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. with Parastas at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at Stephen R. Haky Funeral Home in Uniontown. Divine Liturgy for the deceased will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 4, 2013, at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Perryopolis with a viewing beginning at 10 a.m. Interment will follow at Mt. St. Macrina Cemetery in Uniontown, Pa. with Fr. Daniel Loya, brother-in-law, Fr. Thomas Loya, and Fr. Joseph Loya, cousins, officiating.
St. Johns Family Funeral Home in is in charge of arrangements.