In celebration of New York City’s Immigrant Heritage Week, our president and co-founder Jan Vilcek read from his memoir, Love and Science, at the Mid-Manhattan Library last week.
Established in 2004, Immigrant Heritage Week is celebrated each year in mid-April, to commemorate April 17, 1907, the day on which more immigrants entered the U.S. through Ellis Island than on any other day in history.
Jan told the story of his immigration, with his wife Marica, from Czechoslovakia to New York City in 1965. To an audience of over 50 people, Jan shared a presentation about growing up during World War II and starting his medical career under the communist rule. He also read an excerpt about a border inspection during his and Marica’s defection from Czechoslovakia.
He also spoke about his medical studies in communist Czechoslovakia, and how official state policies approved by Stalin’s protégé Lysenko influenced the teaching of genetics and biology. Jan then shared insights into his research in immunology and the development of Remicade, the first in a new class of treatments for autoimmune diseases, as a professor at the New York University School of Medicine.
Afterwards, Jan answered questions from the audience on the latest developments in autoimmune treatments, what it was like to leave Czechoslovakia, and his initial experiences in New York City as an immigrant in the 1960s.
It was a fitting tribute to the theme of this year’s Immigrant Heritage Week programming: “From Many, Making NYC One.”