These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtains. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
Kids are kids everywhere, at least when they are not dying from malnutrition. In at least somewhat functioning society they like to play, run around and nag their parents with incessant questions about the mundane as well as the profound. “Mom, why is the grass green? Mom, why does rain fall down? Mom, what is a whore?”
Children in eastern bloc behind the iron curtains were not different. We liked to play and chat, and we did so whenever possible. But one thing that many children from that time shared, some more, some less was fear.
Fear of nuclear annihilation.
Later in life I learned that people in the West were afraid of those evil aggressive USSR commies who wanted to wipe them out and were held in check only by superior military power of magnificent NATO. Well, on our side of the border it was those trigger happy evil capitalists led by evil imperialist USA who were held in check by superior military power of magnificent Warsaw Pact. And in reality both sides committed war crimes and atrocities, there were no angels in the hot spots of the cold war.
Adults might have had their doubts and objections regarding the veracity of all this fear mongering, but for kids it was definitively all real. The regular “fallout drills” at school, regular alarm drills, signs how to react in case of nuclear attack hanging in every office. Once we were playing with my cousins in the garden and we heard a noise from the sky we did not know. What instantly gripped us was the fear that these are the nuclear missiles heading for Prague. Where I live this feeling was exacerbated by the very real presence of the iron curtains.
From every window of my house I see across the border to Germany. If I were to walk in a straight line in any direction from my property, I will end up in Germany within a day’s walk. Going mushroom hunting was allowed only in certain directions and certain areas of the forest were taboo. Big signs “Caution, State Border Ahead” everywhere. I still remember that one of the signs was riddled with bullet holes. The only time in my life I have seen a real thing riddled with bullets
And the curtains themselves…
Due to the signs and restrictions on movement, they were not usually seen in person and I never touched them. Mostly I knew they are there, somewhere in the forests. But the train track was driving very close o them, so whenever we were riding train to visit the inland, I could see them from the window.
Three meters high, double fence of razor wire. Roundup sprayed shooting corridors. And a macadam road for easy military access.
To a child, that was a terrifying sight. I loathe to see such structures being build again.