Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI – I continued to work on the Greenwich Meridian memoir this morning for the NaNoWriMo 50K word challenge. I logged in 2,948 words for a grand total of 43,485 words.
Mom Ella left for the U.S. for the second time on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1980 after a long battle for emigration visa from Czechoslovakia.
It was a sad farewell at the Ruzyne Airport in Prague on a rainy day.
Excerpts from chapter “Without mom”
I actually honed my writing skills on letters to the USA long before the Internet, mobile devices, keywords and hashtags.
Calling from Europe was expensive, so mom and I wrote to each other letters mailed in thin transluscent Air Mail envelopes with red and blue border. It was a celebration when I received a letter in the mail. It was mostly good news coming from the west side of the Atlantic; mom getting a job or new furniture for the house.
I can’t say the other way around. Eastern Europe was still under the grip of hardldine socialism in 1980, and it would stay that way for another long nine years. Letters were censored and the phones were bugged. Lines for food grew longer.
Living under the oppressive regime meant constant search for life’s necessities.
Once mom left for America so were gone her connections from the pharmacy on Main Square in Zlin. Mom had a long arm and she used it to get what we needed from meat to toilet paper.
I had to start living like millions of other people. That meant standing in lines on Tuesdays for bananas and on Thursdays for beef. On weekends at 2 pm a truck came with Prerov beer. Grandpa Joseph wouldn’t drink any other beer.
On the other hand, life was more social in every aspect, because we had to use public transportation. There weren’t enough cars made, and there was a waiting list for them. The only brands available were a standard Skoda, and the lesser Trabant dubbed as Hitler’s vendetta because it was made in East Germany. That was before the wall went down.
However, most people didn’t have money to buy either the Skoda or the Trabant. We used public transportation choosing between buses, trains and trams. They were all equally uncomfortable and dirty.
Everyone carried a bag full of groceries every day, because the refrigerators were not big enough for longer storage. And then of course there was the issue of different days of deliveries of different groceries, not to speak of fresh produce and meat.
In the heat of the summer, people smelled of cheap fragrances. The better perfumes were imported from the West, and available only at Tuzex stores with fake money called bons.
Submit your questions about what was it like living in socialist Czechoslovakia.
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