Sunday, 9 November 2014

A quarter of a century

I seldom cry when I watch TV-news. Frankly, I selsom watch TV-news at all. But at that time, twenty-five years ago, we all sat glued to our TVs, watching history unfold.

Much as we hated the regime when I was young, we knew it was for ever. Communism was invincible, and the only thing you could do was learn how to cope. Some people tried to escape. Some brave people did it literally: crawling under barbed wire, swimming out to sea. Some, privileged to travel abroad, defected, knowing that their relatives remaining inside the Soviet Union, would be prosecuted. Dissidents who weren't sent to camps were sent abroad, which we honestly didn't see as punishment. Some got married to foreigners, for real or for convenience. In the '70, Jewish families were allowed to emigrate. But these were handfuls, sunshine stories in a bog of misery, and there would always be the hundred millions in Russia, the occupied countries and Eastern European satellites, deprived of material wealth and human rights.

Being one of the lucky handful, I always felt guilty. But what could I do? Communism was invincible, and the West didn't care. As the party bosses promised us, our children and grandchildren would live under communism.

And then one evening twenty-five years ago it all changed. I sat crying in front of the TV, repeating like a prayer that I had never, ever hoped to live long enough to see it.

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