Tomas and Tereza move to Switzerland with Karenin, and it isn’t long before Tomas makes plans to see Sabina. He can’t get away long enough to go to Geneva, so Sabina comes to Zurich and stays in a hotel. Tomas goes to Sabina’s hotel, and she opens the door wearing only lingerie and a black bowler hat. Tomas closes the door and takes the hat off Sabina’s head, and they immediately have sex.
Sabina’s bowler hat is a symbol of her sexuality and of her submissiveness to Tomas. To Tomas, the hat confuses Sabina’s gender, since it represents a masculine contrast to the femininity of her lingerie. It seems that this blurring of opposites is part of what makes Sabina attractive to Tomas, but at the same time, he still demonstrates his dominance over her by taking the hat off before they have sex.
Tomas and Tereza live in Zurich for about six months, and then Tomas comes home to find that Tereza has taken Karenin and returned to Prague. She isn’t strong enough to live abroad, Tereza says in a letter to Tomas, and while she is sorry, she has decided to return. Tomas puts down the letter and feels the seriousness of Tereza’s decision. Since their move to Zurich, the Czechoslovakian borders have closed—once Tereza enters Czechoslovakia, she will be unable to leave again.
Czechoslovakia is on the eastern side of the iron curtain, the line that separated countries controlled by the Soviet Union from the countries of the West until the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union in 1991. Tomas and Tereza were lucky to get out once, and by going back they seal their fate—they will not make it out again.