Tuesday, 8 April 2014

We finally arrived....

After many wrong turns we finally arrived in the small town of Litvinov in the north-west of Czechoslovakia.  My memory tugs and jostles me to a modern 1975 style building of apartments run by the state,  facing the tram terminus and opposite a supermarket shop.  Every hour of the day and night the thrumming sound of the trams setting off or coming to a stop accompanied our days, they would ring their bell each time, presumably to warn folk to get out of the way.  The tinkling sound became to be part of our lives along with the loudspeaker broadcasts blaring around the town several times a day.  As we didn't speak Czech we had no way of knowing what the speaker's were saying although each time the anthem was played so consequently we guessed that the words were meant to be encouraging the Czech workers.  Everywhere there flew long red flags.  Massive, 8-10 feet tall but narrow, not like the usual rectangular flag shape and solid bright bright red, catching the wind flapping and snatching and no doubt once more intended to remind the lovely Czech people of the Soviet presence.
On the ground floor of the apartments in the foyer was an old desk behind which sat a large portly woman dressed in an apron of washed-out material that crossed over her ample bosom and fastened at the back.  To say she was unwelcoming would be a gross understatement, her manner was strict, curt and harsh, demanding our papers by signing and one or two words of English, we came to recognise her as simply,'the Pani'.  She was presumably a loyal party member, possibly even secret-police.  Her power within this building was severe and absolute.  We eventually found our allotted flat on the third floor, along a wide empty corridor with tall windows either end the key echoed in the lock resounding off the bare walls and concrete floor, there was no-one else around.  The door swung open into a tiny hall.  To the right a cramped toilet, a separate bathroom with a door either end one from the hall the other leading into a cupboard-like kitchen with no windows in any of the spaces. One wall of the hall was a cupboard and opposite a door led into a small bedroom containing a flat bench with three cushions as a mattress, nothing else. The last opening showed into the living-room, containing two more flat cushioned benches a kind of cheap dresser and a really old television.  All the partitions were grey-mottled plastic coated metal, but the saving grace was a balcony that looked out over a square grassed and flowered area towards the supermarket and a building that later turned out to be a pub.
We were still standing out on the balcony when a key went into the door and the Pani pushed inside without knocking.  She carried a pile of linen which she threw down onto one of the benches speaking Czech she lifted one of cushions to reveal a duvet stowed beneath and gesturing she indicated she had brought covers for our bedding.  With that she slewed her slippered feet out of the door leaving it standing wide.
The kitchen had two gas rings and a minute oven, the tiny fridge was empty.  All in all it seemed exceedingly stark and drab.
(Still more to follow should you find this of interest)

11 comments:

June said...

Hello dear Jane, I am excited to see that you are continuing the telling of your experience there. I am so glad to read that you at least had a balcony where your little one could see a little nature during your stay. I feel as though I was standing in this room with you. I can't wait for more my dear.
I hope you are well and enjoying spring there. Things are starting to look a little like it the past few days. I have even been out edging beds the past 3 days and it feels wonderful.
sending love from here...

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Jane,

How well we can empathise with what you write so beautifully evocatively here. Indeed, time does stand still in so many ways in these countries that were for us so mysteriously "behind the Iron Curtain". Even today there remain the house people who still try to cling to their last vestiges of power from the past.........posting officious notices, accusing one of breaking house rules and overseeing the rubbish collections with an eagle eye!

Yes, yes, more please of this.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Your powers of description are absolutely wonderful. I could envision the scene, so bleak ... what a memory you are sharing with us ... thank you.

Susan McShannon-Monteith said...

Your memoirs are full of such description it brings it all to life...
Thank you Jane for your kind words and well wishes for my daughter.
I do hope Spring has arrived there in all her beauty and that you are enjoying every moment.

Susan x

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Hi Jane,
Thank you so much for your lovely comment. We have had a bit of a time of it over the last couple of weeks. I will post about it soon when everything has settled down….. and, I shall read all of your posts that I have missed !!
You are a dear blogging friend and your ' creaking gate' made me feel better !!!!
Hope that you are feeling well ….. much love. XXXX

L.P. said...

Happy to read the continuation of your journey! But how grim! It sounds so different from the rather romanticized Czechoslovakia we hear about today.

Marsha Splenderosa said...

Goodness, Lord, I would have been terrified of the Pani, I'm sure. She did make herself unforgettable didn't she? You describe so well the bleakness of the Soviet occupation and of those days spent wondering what would happen next. It is a good thing to learn about life as it exists in these circumstances, knowing that you can leave at any time. Yes, do keep up the stories. I think everyone enjoys them very much. xx's my dear friend....

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Dear Jane,
Thank you so much for your lovely comment. My husband had a small brain haemorrhage and, although small, takes a long time to get over. He is now at home and resting.
Hoping to be back blogging soon. Much love. XXXX

June said...

It was so good to hear from you Jane. I love it when I see you've stopped by to see me. I hope that all is well you you my sweet friend. Things are going along nicely here.
many hugs to you...

June said...

Just wanted to stop by my dear Jane and say hi and hope all is well with you. I have been dreaming of England a lot lately so of course it makes me think of my sweet friend there.
Take care of yourself my dear!
sending hugs...

Ruthie Redden said...

I love reading your words Jane, they paint a vivid picture, the "Pani" sounds a very formidable lady! Looking forward to the next instalement. Hoping you are keeping well. Ruthie x