Sunday, 16 February 2014

Continued.....Long lost night in Czechoslovakia.

I wish I'd had a camera back then....but 'digital' gadgets weren't around yet and I don't think my husband even took his film-camera with us, most probably because well, quite honestly we were probably scared of being arrested.  You had to be extremely careful not to photograph anything that could even remotely be thought of as 'spying'.  Be careful to whom you spoke, even what you said.  This was only 7 years since The Prague Spring when in that following August, Eastern Bloc countries invaded Czechoslovakia and Dubcek the First Secretary of the Communist Party was taken into custody. Two hundred thousand troops and two thousand tanks entered the country and although eventually they retreated, they remained along the borders and it was common to see young Russian soldiers strolling about the streets or boarding the trams. Thus followed a long period of 'Normalization' which was well established by that night my husband, daughter and I drove across the border from East Germany.
During the invasion there was resistance in the streets and road signs in towns were removed or painted over leaving only the ones pointing the way to Moscow, succeeding in confusing the invaders. Whilst early in 1969 three young men, students, Jan Palach, Jan Zajic and Evzen Plocek died after setting themselves on fire to demonstrate their protest heroically at the demoralization abounding and the suppression of Free Speech.

In the midnight dark of that long night in 1975 we drove blind almost.  We had a map but stupidly no compass so it was literally driving by the light of the stars and the moon, and I truly don't know how we found our way eventually.  It must have been around 2:30 am. that we started to climb.  The Reliant Scimitar car we were driving snaking up the mountain road, negotiating pot-holes and stray boulders at the sides of the track.  On the point of turning back we came suddenly to a plateau and rolled into a mountain village.  It was very dark, the moon having retreated behind the clouds and although there were houses either side not a light in sight.  However, slowly the grey billowing clouds slid past the moon and the whole village slunk into view bathed in a terrible platinum steely blue light.  Mist clouded the fir trees of the surrounding forest and curled up from the rough hewn fences around the houses.  Did you ever see that film, Deliverance with Burt Reynolds?  This village reminded us both of that film instantly.  Even though there were no lights anywhere there were still one or two individuals about, dark tousled figures whose eyes followed this 'flashy' Western car gliding through the centre of their street at 2 o'clock in the morning.  Neither of us suggested stopping to ask the way. Well....they most likely wouldn't speak English anyway we reasoned.

Painting:- 1874. John Atkinson Grimshaw. 'A Moonlit Lane'.
                   English 1863-93.