Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
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Jozef Hablák, Anna Habláková

With this system some people did not have
enough to eat

Oravská Lesná, Slovak Republic, 2009
Slovak English

Jozef Hablák, Anna Habláková, Husband and Wife, retired

Anna: In the 1950s, during the first decade of socialism, life was really hard here. People did not have enough food.  

Jozef: When socialism began each family that had land, or even a garden, had to give the government a portion of their vegetables, milk, meat, eggs everything that they grew.  They had to have enough to eat, something to sell, and something to the cooperative. It was very difficult. With this system, which went on to 1968, some people did not have enough to eat. 

Anna: In 1958 electricity finally came to Oravská. In the early 1960s life started to be better becasue they built the Tesla factory here. It was mostly women who went to work in the factory. Communism was fine because there was enough work, the problem was with the suppression of religion. But we didn’t let them take it away. We kept our faith. Now we can practice our religion freely. There is no suppression.  

Jozef: Most of the men worked in the nearby Czech coal mines around Ostrava. They would work for six days, come home by train on Saturday evening and then return to the mines on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Not me, I was a forest worker. I could never be a manager because I was not a party member. So my income was limited. I bought a car for the first time when I was 45. Now there is a car in each family.
Anna: Under communism the health care benefits were better than now. The government paid for everything. For us as retired people health care is now expensive. 

Jozef: Some things are better now and some things were better under socialism. For those that are poor it is harder now than it was during socialism. Then, people had to have a job and a place to live. That was the law. 

Anna: One time we had a relative visiting us from America and they told us that people there get government support even if they are not working. We were trying to imagine, how could this be, to get money and not have a job? Now it has also come to us. But we don’t want communism to come back. After the revolution, we were looking forward that it is going to be better. And the truth is, in many ways it has, we don’t have a bad life. 

This interview was in English
Photo by Janeil Engelstad

Note: People often interchange the words communism and socialism when talking about 
          the system of government, that ruled post WW2 – 1989, in Czechoslovakia.

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