By Emma Palova
Following is an excerpt from the memoir “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West.”
I lived history twice: Prague Spring in 1968 and the Velvet Revolution in 1989. During the first one, I was a kid, so I don’t remember the Soviet tanks invading Czechoslovakia. However, the second event that changed the course of history for the entire Eastern Europe, I recall as if it had happened yesterday. I documented it myself in a diary with a blue hard cover and bought an important publication published by the Czech Press Office: “Chronicle of Velvet Revolution” in 1989 for 10 crowns. It is the most important document that I own, other than the American passport.
The communist block, which Czechoslovakia was a part of, started collapsing in neighboring Poland under their leader Lech Walesa. I remember, we had no dairy products, as they were all being shipped to Poland. While it was an act of camaraderie, the Polish people didn’t unload the train with the food and let the products spoil, and we were without cheese.
After that it seemed like a domino effect with one block collapsing and making the others collapse.
Sometime in the summer of 1989, I spoke with a friend attorney about matters pertaining to my pending departure to the U.S.- I had to get rid of all possessions, including my citizenship, pay for my education and such. After discussing matters at hand, Mr. H said:
“The bell is tolling for them,” he said. “Can you hear it?”
I stared at him in awe; we were used to speaking in riddles to protect ourselves.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I can’t say.”
It stayed at that, but I immediately knew that he was referring to the bells tolling for the death of communism. To this day, it puzzles me how he gained this insight three months ahead of time.
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