Tuesday, October 16, 2007

November 1989

Before the move to the Zamek.....

In the summer of '89, Uncle John of Litomerice actually mailed us a political joke. "Will they arrest him, or is the Communist bloc breaking up?", we wondered. Then we began hearing stories of east Germans requesting asylum in Prague. In September arriving in Boston to visit my ill father, security told me chunks of the Berlin Wall had come through security continuously in people's carry-on bags.

Short wave radios were not allowed where we lived, but we had one, and followed the BBC's announcements, excitedly hoping and holding our breath. My father died on November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. I cooked on Thursday and soon flew to his memorial service.

In the States, television programs and newspapers were full of events in Czechoslovakia. We prepared for the memorial service and arriving family, meeting some men my dad had known in the 1930's. In between, we glued ourselves to the television. I thought about how my husband, back where we lived, was listening to these happenings on the BBC.

The most wonderful day was when Vaclav Havel was due to speak on Wenscelas Square, but could not because of the cheers of the huge crowd. Soon they were chanting, "Havel na Hrad, Havel na Hrad" - "Havel to the castle, Havel to the castle". And the crowds all went to the castle.

We devoured newspaper and magazines, collecting them for my husband. After I returned in December we started planning when we would go to Czechoslovakia. This would be my first time, and the first time since 1948 for my husband when he was ten years old. Although we knew some people who'd visited, we'd never seriously considered it. We'd read about a young man who had decided to visit - and had been put into jail for awhile. Others had had sad experiences, and had to reimburse the regime for the time they had spent in Czech schools!

At first we thought we'd go in August, our long vacation time. Then we decided on a short break in April. Our youngest daughter was in ninth grade. At the border from Austria we saw the scary no-man's land. Back home our daughter enlightened a fellow student who remarked that there's no such thing as no-man's land: "Yes, there is! I saw it!". The Czech guard used his "English" on us: "Caio, baby!".

We visited the Zamek in its devastated condition. Near the Zamek, one man said to my husband, "I know you. You were in fourth grade and I was in second grade. Everyone here says 'Now George will come back'."

We met other people, including some from Obcansky Forum, Havel's party then, and also our present doctor. We saw Uncle John in Litomerice who showed George the surrender papers he'd been given at the end of WWII which the communists had wanted and he'd kept hidden for 40 years.