Fate reaches down and taps us all on the shoulder at one time or another during our lives. It gives us a hint, shows us the way, offers options for change.
For Taos real estate broker Pavel Lukes, a couple of those moments in his life paved his route from Soviet Czechoslovakia to Taos, New Mexico. Once showed the way here, Lukes found that that Taos was where he was supposed to be.
His journey started as a kid in Prague where, despite Soviet restrictions, he got ahold of “hidden literature” about the Old West in the United States – and fell in love with the stories about cowboys, Indians and frontiersmen.
“That stuff just resonated with me since I was a kid,” said Lukes during a recent interview at Dreamcatcher Realty.
The next moment came when Lukes, at 16, had a chance meeting with a professor from the University of Michigan who was in Prague for a conference – and staying in the same apartment house where the Lukes family lived. The professor spoke English and French, and wanted to get to know some Czech people. Lukes father spoke French, so the two struck up an acquaintance.
“After he got to know us, he kept telling my brother and I, ‘Come to America, come to America and go to school,’” Lukes said. “The next year he came back just to visit us and he talked us into coming to Michigan.”
So Lukes and his brother moved to Paris and applied for student visas. While they waited, they worked in warehouses. Once the visas came through, they boarded a prop plane in Brussels and headed to the United States.
That was Aug. 21, 1968. As the two Czech boys flew across the ocean, Russian tanks rolled into Prague to quash the Prague Spring revolt and reestablish Soviet control. The Lukes brothers heard about the invasion when they landed in New York.
“We didn’t know what to do and we couldn’t call our parents right away,” said Lukes. “In a week, we called them and they told us not to come back, there was nothing in Czechoslovakia for us.
“I can’t imagine how difficult it was for them to tell us that because they might never see us again,” he said. “But it was fate that it happened that way. And, it eventually led to our parents coming to live in California some years later.”
The two Lukes boys learned English while living the next years in Michigan. Pavel cut his teeth as a builder-developer of some 300 buildings: “I loved the creativity of developing a project, and found real satisfaction in providing a home for human beings.”
He then moved on to Southern California where, in 1973, the final piece of fate’s puzzle came clear in a ski magazine.
Already a skier in Czechoslovakia, Lukes read a story about a town where “cowboys, Indians and hippies all lived in the same place.” He flew to Denver, where he hopped a bus on a snowy night to Taos, ostensibly for a ski vacation.
“In the years after, I came skiing in Taos a lot,” said Lukes, who became an American citizen in 1979 and finally returned to his home country for a visit in the mid-1980s. “During one visit, I suddenly decided that this was where I wanted to move and where I wanted to work for myself.”
Taos became his permanent home in 1994, and Dreamcatcher Realty took shape. He not only brought years of real estate experience to bear, but also a life of learning how to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings and diverse types of people.
“That produced my focus on the client that has served us well for more than 20 years in Taos,” Lukes said. “We listen well and never think about the money. We are not driven by greed and profit, which often can translate into cheating.”
While Dreamcatcher has always had a large number of properties that they represent – “like merchandise on the shelf” -- Lukes insists that he and his associated do not drive customers to their listings exclusively.
“It’s critical in this company to spent time with clients and listen to what they want,” he said. “We never tell them that we know better what they want. This philosophy, what you might call a mission statement, has served us well here. It articulates the way I operate and the way my staff operates.”
Pavel Lukes feels fortunate that he took the chances that fate presented to him and ended up where he is happy and fulfilled.
“I’ll never retire from this,” he said. “If you love what you do, it’s not work.”