Thursday, August 21, 2008

The 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion

Yes. The armies of our great friend in the East and allied countries came to fight our counter-revolution which demonstrated itself in free speech and passports given to anyone who asked. Politically, there was this idea of combining democracy and socialism and the Soviet leaders didn't like, obviously, the idea of people saying what they want without the possibility to lock them up so they sent some people (and tanks) to help fighting the stupid renegade Czechoslovaks.

Read something historical on Wikipedia or somewhere. I'm a historian but as for that one, I got stuck in the Middle Ages. This is emotional. My history, part of me. I don't remember the actual invasion, sure. My parents do but for whatever the reason, they don't talk too much about it. I expect there's not much to talk about. When my grandparents still lived in the countryside, we drove to them once and mom was showing where 'they were lying in the ditches'. In my hometown, there was a huge garrison of the Soviet armies (although East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria took part in the invasion, their armies withdrew within days) seated in my hometown. There were whole neighbourhoods inhabited by Russians (generic term for the citizens of the Soviet Union, just to be clear). The Orthodox church was in one of them, accidentally, but it had been built before, in the 1920's (it was a fashion to convert to Orthodox church after the fall of Austro-Hungarian empire which supposedly oppressed the Czechs with Catholicism as the state religion and between the wars, there was this Panslavic idea of the big brother in the East who will take care of all the smaller Slavic nations. Go figure) and the priests say that some of the Russians would go there but it was rather the officers' wives - the soldiers would have troubles and the officers themselves even more.
Two streets away from our house, there was another Russian area. The garrison houses and a heliport where the fighter helicopters nested. (Should there be some army freak, an advice on what type of fighter helicopters it could be is welcome, I may add a link, then.) We lived on a little hill in the third floor and the pilots happily ignored all regulations for aviation, such as the limit of 200m above ground in residential areas and flew at the eye level of ours. I was a kid and I was scared of them so I would hide under the sofa or kitchen table.
Another Russian area was close to where my grandma's garden was. It looked like slums, the Russians had a tendency to use newspapers instead of everything - toilet tissue, sanitary pads (a family friend of ours studied Russian. In Russia. She was told to bring half a year's supply of those and it was needed), curtains.... and the houses looked like slums. (It needs to be admitted that many other places inhabited by the natives looked like slums, too, since all the houses were owned by the state which wasn't always too good with maintenance. Did I already say that all this communism thing is a total crap?)

The invasion is rooted in people's minds. It's a part of us although some do not want to admit it. The time that came after, of no freedom of speech or freedom of anything but to shut up and march in the line is a part of us, too - sadly enough. When Russia started messing things up in Georgia a few days ago, the people here felt Hey, that's like here in '68. People still dislike Russians here, for many they are the occupants, invaders, enemies. Sure, it doesn't prevent the natives from selling them souvenirs or property.

Some time ago, in Cyprus, we were in a restaurant and at the next table, some Russian people were sitting. Young people, around 30. They heard us speaking Czech and came to apologize for the invasion although it happened before they were even born. The whole thing was painful for them, too,

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