We All Got Together to Win. And We Did. Velvet Revolution of November 1989
November 18, 2016
Revolution is not usually a happy occassion, yet ours was. It was a parade of optimism, a parade of human unity, solidarity, empathy, love and joy. It was euphoria of sharing. Sharing our voices in screaming for freedom, sharing enthusiasm in singing national songs, sharing views with friends and strangers, sharing food, drinks, money, gloves, scarves...protecting each other, encouraging, wishing to each other the best of the best, fighting for freedom hand in hand. It was sweet ten days, unheard of, unseen, unprecedented euphoria of unity. We all got together to win. We were sure of the victory. We were young and intrepid and our parents and grandparents joined us in the streets. Nobody stayed at home. Every plaza, street, a river bank of each city, town and village was full with people and their great never-seen-before optimism.
Ten incredible days in the middle of November in the middle of Europe.
Our sad non-democratic fate was decided by the President Roosevelt, Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill at the Yalta conference in February 1945. There was decided about a line marked on the map of Europe. The east of the line will be liberated by the Russians and will fall under their influence, the west will be liberated by the American army. The Declaration stated there is a guarantee for the liberated states "to create democratic institutions of their own choice through free elections and governments responsive to the will of the people." While Americans honored the promise, the Russians broke it at the first occasion and forced the countries that Russia liberated into Communism...and before we knew it, there was an iron curtain and the Czechs ended up on its wrong eastern side.
The Czech history of foreign dominion started many centuries ago. In 1524 the Habsburgs assumed the Czech throne and kept it till 1918. For 400 years, the German language was for the Czechs the only official language. But finally, with the help of President Wilson and a visionary Czech Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia, our first independent state, was established in 1918. Then, Czechs and Slovaks built one of the strongest economy in the world....but only in 20 years Hitler came and with an ironic and tragic blessing of the Munich Agreement of March 1938 snatched us like a hot cake. (Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini agreed in Munich without inviting Czechoslovakia, that Hitler can annex a part of Czechoslovakia in spite of a treaty of protection between Czechoslovakia and France. )
The devastating WW II came to an end in 1945 and the Czechs, moved by the gained freedom from the Nazi, were crying the tears of joy only to have their spirit crushed again by a Communist victory in February 1948. In October of the same year all of the production means, stores, and all establishments were nationalized. Any private entrepreneurship is outlawed. Borders are sealed. Censorship is established. Mandatory election with one party and one candidate becomes a norm. Mandatory state celebrations of the beauty of communism are orchestrated. Protesters are dealt with effectively and quickly. Eastern Europe lost dignity of life by loosing the basic human rights.
Hungary came first with its rebellion against the dictatorship of Russia in 1956. 2,500 people were killed by the Russian tanks, 200,000 Hungarians fled the country, Imre Nagy, the leader of the protest was executed in Russia....then came the Prague Spring of 1968 and Alexander Dubcek with his positive promising reform of Communism in Czechoslovakia. The Russian tanks and Warsaw Pact armies rolled into Czechoslovakia, crushed the rebellion and stayed for the next 22 years.....
Michael Gorbacov introduced in 1985 perestrojka and glasnost, tools to give communism "human quality"....the tight grip of Russia on the Eastern European countries loosened. President Reagan escalates Cold War and in 1987 demands: "Mr. Gorbachov, take down this wall."
And then, in 1989, something magical happened spontaneously in all of the Communist countries. A wave of peaceful massive protests swept Europe and took Communists by surprise: November 9, 1989 a Berlin Wall collapsed, Czechoslovakia booted out the Communist November 17 and Russia November 21....
I was in the crowd in Prague during the Revolution. Then - a young woman freshly out from a graduate school, ready to attack life with all my might, ready to squeeze the universe into my palm. And I did with my fellows Czechs. I won my fight for freedom.