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 Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries

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Ol'ga

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PostSubject: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Sun Aug 21, 2011 9:17 pm

Today it is forty three years that my sister woke me up at dawn with the news that we were invaded. On the bus downtown we talked to people going to work who had no idea what had happened. The core of the city (Bratislava) was full of tanks. We talked to the soldiers, who themselves had no idea why they came. Some thought they were in the USSR, others in Germany. Once I found myself in the middle of shooting, bullets flying all around. I thought they were blanks; a friend dragged me, the naive twit, to safety. Later I learnt to be more careful. Many civilians were shot. On the eighth day after the invasion Dubcek (our leader, a Slovak) signed capitulation. He had no choice. Listening to his address to the nation on the radio, we all wept, as did he - he was clearly devastated. There was no way we could fight the invasion. Anyway, the first thing the invading armies did was to disarm our army. They discended on the country from many points. Czechoslovakia had common borders with Hungary, (then) USSR, Poland and (then) East Germany. The attack was synchronized in such a way that any defence was out of the question.
The world was not interested. When, after a series of coincidences, I ended up in Canada, I discovered that people in my new homeland did not understand, and did not want to understand. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.
Russia just 'celebrated' twenty-second anniversary of the collapse of communist rule. Putin is reputed to have said that the end of USSR is a tragedy. He is a former KGB-shnik - so what can one expect.
Ol'ga
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:19 pm

Ol'ga -- As I mentioned in a pm to you, I once wrote a college paper about the Prague Spring and the hope and excitement generated for the future and the tragedy when it all came crashing down as the Soviets invaded.

I think I also mentioned that my husband and I recently spent several months living in Romania. Until then, I had no idea how much damage Soviet domination had done to the economies of Eastern Europe or the harm to the spirit of the people living under Soviet domination. You can see it clearly now even 20 years after the revolution that threw off Soviet domination. I have a good friend who grew up in East Germany and the people there experienced similar frustrations and deprivations.

I have been a liberal all my adult life and believe that American anti-communism in the post-war period (McCarthyism, the HUAC, the false domino theory in SE Asia, etc.) was over-blown, opportunistic, and politically motivated. But I have recently learned the deeper truth about how the Soviet-dominated people of Eastern Europe suffered under communism.

I'm glad you found your way to Canada and hope you know that many of us feel deeply for what you went through in Bratislava.
-- Carol
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:58 pm

A guy called Petre Vastle turned up at Throssel when I was there, he stayed with me in London too. He fought the Russians at that time, at night time.
He had to flee Czechoslovakia, as a wanted man

He moved to the Scilly Isles off the Cornish coast and would walk around with bare feet, always sleep on the floor, in case he ever had to run again. He moved to Penzance and ran a saddle repair business, and carried on sitting zazen with us all,

He gave me a leather belt in 1979 that he made , I wear it every day, I remember him every day when I put my belt on, and if I did not my trousers would fall down!

Peter moved on to Ireland he became interested in Irish music and played the fiddle, He was a good friend I hope to see him again
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:30 am

Ol'ga--I wasn't here quite yet in '68 when I think the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. I think many in the west were just wrapped up in their own lives.

Now we are told that Russian youth are taught to love the memory of Joseph Stalin, and are not taught about the brutality and gulags and KGB and Stasi and puppet dictators like Ceaucescu and Husak, but just that mother Russia was strong then. How sad that's what nations value (says the American).

I like Herta Muller's short novel "The Appointment," about life in Communist Romania. Sad memories.

Thanks for sharing yours. (Bows)

--Dan
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Stan Giko

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:31 am

OL`GA.

Hi Ol`ga. I remember I was in Poland not long after Dubcek had signed the
capitulation to the Soviets. My father, mother and us youngsters stayed at a
relatives home . As usual, when politics was discussed more earnestly, all the
curtains were drawn and corridors were checked...just in case ! Those were
the times.
I remember one evening the whole family had gathered for the latest news. An
acquaintance had returned from Prague where he had been to a theater before
returning to Poland.
Not long after the start, a whispering began to spread....Dubcek, Dubcek !
Apparently the newly defeated president had just walked in. More whispering...
..Louder now.".Dubcek" then someone stood up and began singing the national
anthem. then more and more people till the whole audience were stood up and
singing the anthem with tears streamind down their faces. They all faced the
president and applauded loudly and sat down. The performance continued.

As we know, the whole communist performance continued till the downfall.
The human spirit can never be broken. It`s such a shame that the wonderful
people of the Russias have always had such dreadful power crazed rulers. it
seems that it is still not over for them.

Best wishes from the heart, fellow Slav.
Stan.
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mstrathern
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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:21 pm

Ah yes Ol'ga, I remember it well, though obviously not with the same immediacy as you. It spelt the death of soviet leaning communist parties in western europe. We were all very excited by Dubcek and appalled and angered by Soviet action and the supine reaction of the western governments. As I remember there was a vigil / demonstration at the Nottinghill Gate end of the private road where the USSR embassy was. I can recall turning up rather proudly for my first stint with a homemade placard that just had 'U SS R' on it; with the 'SS' in much larger lettering in the style of the Nazi stormtroopers symbol. Most people didn't get it, except for a little jewish lady who had been in a concentration camp. So the next day I turned out with a more obvious slogan! I'm afraid after a week or so of being moved on the whole thing rather petered out.
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Ol'ga

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Mon Aug 22, 2011 4:24 pm

Thank you, my friends.
What riles me terribly is when I hear that stalinism was a terrible aberration of communism, that communism never had a chance, it's good in theory, blah blah.

It is as if a surgeon were saying, 'I have a great theory, but all my patients keep dying". Theory is tested by practice.

It is believed that if Trotsky had won out, rather than Stalin, the terror may have been worse. In fact, the evil was already unleashed by Lenin.

If you want to have a lively debate about marxism, hear my hubby David give you a piece of his mind. As a student at LSE, London, he was a card-carrying Communist, and scholar that he is, dutifully read all Marx's and Engels' writings - and could tell you exactly what a bull-banned-word it all is, even in theory.

I'd like to point out that in 1968 we were not invaded by the Soviet Union, but by all the Warsaw Pact countries - not Roumania, since they were not members of the WP, and actually had allegiance to China rather than the USSR. It's all the same thing, the same horror, whether it is Czechoslovakia (we had our own scoundrels), Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, Cambogia (Pol Pot was educated at the Sorbonne), Cuba, North Korea, USSR, China....The degree of oppression varries from country to country, and from time to time, but the underlying oppression of thought is invarriably present, the lies, the suppression of truth. That's the root of it from the very birth of communism.

Yes, Stan, I know about the great care one had to take when talking politics there. My Dad, knowing languages, used to regularly listen to BBC, Austrian and Swiss radio, Radio Zagreb (Yugoslav communism was an anathema to the Soviets, and having sympathies towards Tito was the most lethal). (Radio Free Europe and VoA, in our languages, were hopelessly jammed.) Dad huddled over the radio, so that not a peep could be heard by the neighbours.

I remember once whispering with a friend of mine, Viera Zaborska, when as six-year-olds we were trying to figure out what was happening to our families. We had just been thrown out of our home in Bratislava, banished to exile; her lot was worse. Her Dad had helped someone cross the border to Austria, and got death penalty for that (fortunately, it was commuted to life in prison, and under Dubcek he was let out, if I have my facts straight). We were on a deserted road, no-one could possibly hear us, yet we knew how dangerous our whisperings were. We concluded that the cause were the communists - komunisti. But we loved Stalin - I was hoping he was a Lutheran, one of us! My parents did not dare tell us who he really was.

Yes, Russian patriotism was very big under communism. People need something...But more than that, communism always high-jacked lofty ideals, peace, motherhood, women's rights, racial equality, social equality, national rights. It's all lip service - none of it is real to them. Stalin went after and murdered a huge number of Tatars, for example; and Jews did not have it easy there - even though, initially many communists were in fact Jews - Trotsky, Radek, Zinov'ev, Kaganovich, and in Czechoslovakia, a whole bunch of them around Slansky. They tended to whipe each other out - the Revolution devouring her own children. Frankly, I don't mind too much that the murderers did that to each other!

Anyway, my friends, you got more than you bargained for! Even though this is just a Lounge topic, I'll now fade away, so as not to overstay your welcome.
Hugz,
Ol'ga

P.S. In the meantime Mark just posted his message. Thank you, Mark. I know that initially there was this kind of support. We had great hopes that the UN would act. Not a chance, with all the pro-Soviet patsies (is it the correct word?).Anyway, it was unrealistic that the western powers could take the USSR &Co. on.
I must say that Austrians were very helpful - I was there about three weeks before I boarded the plane to Canada. Eventually, they got rather disillusioned with my co-patriots, many of whom just took advantage of their generosity. People will be people.
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Ol'ga

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Mon Aug 22, 2011 4:32 pm

Mark,
Of course, I got your 'U SS R' immediately, how else. Very witty -and so very true! Both nazism and communism are totalitarian regimes - regimes, NOT systems. It would be so good if people could see that. It's a matter of education ... intellectual honesty...
Love,
O.
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Ol'ga

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Wed Aug 24, 2011 4:19 pm

Here is an illustration of what I am talking about.

Jiri Trnka : The Hand

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qzvCZojnWQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGDV5kITcqg&feature=related





When Jiri Trnka died in November 1969 (aged 57), he had a State funeral with honours.
Only four months later, The Hand was banned; ...
Jiri Trnka, Czech artist, puppeteer, illustrator.

Ol'ga
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sugin

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:08 am

My grandmother was put on a ship from Czechoslovakia when she was 5 with her brother of 12 to be taken care of be an uncle in Texas. This was 1900 or so and they were starving at home in Czechoslovakia. Needless to say things went from bad to worse for the children but all I can think is how terrible things must have been even then for a Mother to send her children so far away never to be seen again.
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:27 pm

Re The Hand--Obviously Trnka was a great artist, and one I'd never heard of before. I'm sure the Soviets got the point pretty fast. Thanks Ol'ga!

The serious artists and intellectuals, the ones that can really make people feel and understand new things, they are always the most dangerous to the totalitarians (best word I can think of for those who desire control over all facets of culture and economy, regardless of the "ism" (ideas) that they profess).

Those artists and writers etc can alert a general population to other modes of thinking than obedience, other ways of relating to their fellow human than as another cog in the machine, and remind people of their intrinsic dignity. That's why their works are banned, when they're not killed outright.

This is why the anti-intellectual, anti-artistic meme must be shunned and rejected wherever it is found, and the main reason why I oppose the TEA Party in the United States. They aren't particularly dangerous now because they don't have a lot of power. But in embryo they show clear signs of wanting to be The Hand.
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PostSubject: Re: Anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries   Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:46 pm

Thank you for the reminder of that terrible time. It helps us to appreciate some of the very good changes that have happened in the world. I remember well the Prague Spring and the Russian invasion. Part of 1968 I was in Europe, a young student in Italy. 1968 was a tragic year and invoked so much despair for me. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the worsening violence in Vietnam, the election of Richard Nixon, and even the untimely death of Thomas Merton. I was 20 years old and 1968 formed my consciousness of the world in a profound way. Many of us in the U.S. thought we might never reach adult life because of a nuclear conflagration. I grew up in a small town in Oregon that was a prime nuclear target because of an air base. I grew up dreaming of nuclear bombs destroying our town. Sometimes the worst doesn't happen, and humankind has been spared thus far such a devastation. The seeds planted by Martin Luther King have born fruit. The Prague Spring is now blooming into a Prague Summer. The East-West dialogue begun by Thomas Merton is now a lived reality by so many, including myself. Blessings do happen.
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