Prague Spring ’68 spurred immigration


Thousands left former Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of Soviet invasion

As Czech and Slovak republics approach the 45th anniversary of the Prague Spring invasion of Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops on Aug. 21, I continue to work on my memoir “Greenwich Meridian.”

The memoir tracks the history and present of our family immigration saga which now spans three generations. It was directly spurred by the Soviet invasion in 1968 also known as Prague Spring.

Like many other Czech expatriates living around the world, our family left the country as a result of the Soviet occupation of former Czechoslovakia.

Soviet tanks invaded the streets of major cities in former Czechoslovakia.
Soviet tanks invaded the streets of major cities in former Czechoslovakia.

Here is an excerpt from the second chapter of the memoir titled:

On the run

The 1968 Prague Spring was looming over Czechoslovakia. On August 21st, the country was invaded by Soviet tanks from the East and the armies of the Warsaw Pact. Hundreds of tanks roared all over the country in the full- blown invasion that impacted an entire generation of immigrants to the US, Germany, Canada and Australia. The country was occupied, and the Russians set up bases both in Slovakia and in the Czech part. The Russians were out to punish the Czechoslovak liberal government for creating “socialism with human face.” The movement was led by Alexander Dubcek, and late president Vaclav Havel was part of a signatory group called Charta 1968. A series of reforms were meant to ease restrictions on media, free speech and travel.

          At the time of the occupation, my mother was on a spa stay in Carlsbad in Western Bohemia, a famed town known for its 12 healing springs.

          “I went to the colonnade in the morning,” mom said. “People were crying, listening to the radio. There were huge demonstrations, as people knocked down statues of the communist leaders.”

          Mom had to stay three more days, because the roads were closed due to tanks. Then she took a detour bus through Sumava to Brno.

          “We had a new apartment in Brno, but I left for Vizovice to be with my parents,” she said.

          There was no telephone connection, according to mom. But, the borders were open for anyone to leave freely.

          “ My friends were leaving the country, crossing the border on foot with just a suitcase in their hands,” she said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere.”

 

Copyright © 2013 story by Emma Palova

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