|Communist takeover changed Urban’s life forever|
|Wednesday, February 23, 2011|
By KEN BECK
When he was a toddler, his father and mother fled the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia. Although his memories are vague due to his young age, he knows the story well as his parents’ shared it with him.
Born March 30, 1965, in Prague, Urban was smuggled out of Czechoslovakia by his father and mother when he was 3½ years old.
“My dad got this research grant at a university in Paris, and he and my mother were allowed to leave, but I was supposed to stay behind, so they would come back. The best I recall, my dad drugged me and hid me beneath some luggage, and we passed the border and never looked back,” recollected Urban, 45.
They left their homeland for one reason: the Soviet invasion (the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia occurred Aug. 20 to Sept. 20) in 1968. About 70,000 Czechs fled the country immediately, and 230,000 more left in the years that followed.
“My grandfather was a pretty successful businessman, a local industry leader and had his own factory. From one day to the next he lost all of his personal property. It was confiscated as governmental property,” Urban said.
He and his parents were the only family members to escape. His grandparents died there, and he still has cousins and aunts residing in what is now the Czech Republic. Urban recalls little of his hometown.
“I remember some of the big cathedrals, the big square. It was kind of imposing to me, but I have no vivid memories,” he said.
Urban said he found the news videos of the civil unrest in Egypt “disturbing to watch,” even though the transition in government appears to be going smoothly.
“From my perspective, I look at some people speaking their desires and hopefully forcing a change in their regime there. I was too young to have really lived it myself. Through my parents I have.
“They were in their mid-20s when they decided to leave. I grew up pretty much being a regular little guy in Holland, albeit with Czech parents. I spoke Czech at home and Dutch in the schools. The main things different for me—my parents couldn’t tell me one thing about Dutch history. It was common knowledge for everybody else.”
Growing up in the Netherlands, Urban remains a Dutch citizen. He is a permanent resident alien in the U.S. and has the option to become an American citizen, a choice he believes he will make one day.
“When I left for the United States, the Berlin Wall and all the events that took place in Eastern Europe had not taken place yet. So Czechoslovakia was all Communist and somewhat excluded from Western Europe, and my parents were convicted in the Czech courts for defecting. We fled the country. We left illegally, so the fear was if any of us would ever go back to the Czech Republic, we would not be allowed to leave. So I have not been back. Now that is not a problem. I could travel freely there,” Urban said.
He sympathizes greatly with those who are wanting to make better lives for themselves, even if that means leaving their native land, but believes those entering America should do so by following the law.
“The difference for us is that we left the country illegally. We were accepted as political refugees by the Netherlands. I’m opposed to people coming into this country in an illegal fashion and expecting to have certain rights that Americans enjoy. If they want to immigrate to the United States, then do it the right way.”
Urban grew up in the town of Doorn, not far from Utrecht, Netherlands, with a younger brother and half-brother. His mother took care of the family and later clerked at a local hospital. His father performed scientific research, studying pharmacology and brain functions in rats.
Upon graduation from college at the Higher School of the Mid-Netherlands, Academy of Physical Therapy, Urban came to the U.S. in late 1989.
“At the time the job market for physiotherapy in the Netherlands was not very good. There were too many graduating and not enough good positions, and, conversely, in the United States, there was a big shortage of physical therapists,” he said.
After interviewing with recruiters from the States, he took a job with a regional medical center in Stroudsburg, Pa., in the Pocono’s.
“It was a little scary, but I had a decent command of the English language. I felt OK that I had a good education. Everything was pretty well lined up before I got on the plane. . . . All I had to do was show up for work. I was 24 and not thinking I would be here the rest of my career,” he recalled.
Urban relocated to Lebanon in December of 1990 after turning down offers in Richmond, Va., and West Palm Beach, Fla.
“I spent a weekend in Lebanon, and I liked the people I interviewed at McFarland Hospital. I liked the prospect of the job at the time. The building where Dr. Neely, Dr. Petty and Dr. Price are now was merely a skeleton being built. I was honored to be able to set up that physiotherapy department,” said Urban, who first worked here with Humana McFarland and later with the company that owns UMC.
In 1993 he went to work with Tennessee Orthopedics but was hired back by UMC to be director of outpatient rehabilitation sports medicine from 1996 to 2004.
“That was a big department. In our heyday we had six physical therapists, two occupational therapists, 11 or 12 athletic trainers and support personnel. We had a very good and busy department that covered 14 high schools,” he said.
Then, in late 2004 Urban returned to Tennessee Orthopedics to help set up a physiotherapy clinic, which he ran through March 2009. Due to some changes, he left to start his own clinic, Urban Physical Therapy, in April of that year.
“It has been a great decision,” he said. “It was scary. I had to borrow a fair amount of money and put up my house for collateral for the loan. It took some thinking. It’s been very good.”
Today, he and his business partner, Casey McGee, also a physical therapist, employ two full time staff members, office manager Jan Cripps and physical therapy assistant Carol Crockett, and two part time workers, clerks Karen Chaney and Lisa Lassater.
Urban has spent 17 years with his life partner Ann Beadle, a nurse practitioner for Dr. Stephen Neely, with whom he has a step-daughter and step-granddaughter. Once an avid tennis player, he gave up that game due to a back injury but today holds a handicap of five in golf. The sports enthusiast is a big fan of the Nashville Predators. And since 1994, he has spent many a Friday night on the sidelines of local high school football games alongside Neely.
He also enjoys snow skiing, music, traveling and cooking. “I use fresh and good ingredients and cook from scratch,” he said.
Physical therapy, Urban said, “is a very gratifying job. You’re helping people get better. People are appreciative of that. It’s a challenging job. We have to be aware of a lot of things. We have to learn a pretty in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology to understand injuries and what the surgeons do and put it all together as you go about working on somebody with a post-surgical shoulder or knee or back or neck injury. You never stop learning.”
As for the American experience thus far for this Czech native and Dutch citizen, Urban said, “It’s been great. I have no family in the country other than Ann. The reason I’m living here is I enjoy the way of life, the freedom, the country.
“I enjoy Middle Tennessee. It is beautiful. I enjoy what I do and have the opportunity to practice my profession in a way better than what I could have done at home. And Western Europe is a pretty nice place to live.”