Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
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Ľuba Vávrová

We knew change was coming

Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
Slovak English

Ľuba Vávrová, Executive Director, Local Government Development Center

I grew up in a village. In this village, where I still live today, you simply knew who was a good person and who was a bad person. It had nothing to do with party affiliation.  

At the time of the revolution, I was teaching Marxist and Leninist based macroeconomics at Comenius University in Bratislava. I was very open with my students. Nobody checked how I was teaching or what I was teaching. My goal was to have my students understand the material. Not to make them party members. I would tell them that the class it is not about the party, or me, and that I was not an agent of the party. I was there to help them get the knowledge. It was up to them to decide how they would use that knowledge. When they understood this, it really changed our relationship. In fact, many of the journalists who were involved in the revolution were my former students.     

Even inside of the Communist Party it was expected that the revolution would happen. There was much self-reflection, also inspired by Gorbachev and Perestroika, within the party. In fact, we expected the change maybe one or two years earlier. My students were also waiting for it. We knew change was coming.  We just thought that it would be earlier. During the first and second days of the revolution the students were really active and it was their time. They were demonstrating and speaking. By the third day, it was clear that it was the revolution of other people. It was organized and planned. It had structure.

After the revolution, there was a movement to let go of the entire faculty at the university and to bring in teachers who had no previous relationship to the communist party. Each professor had to undergo a review to retain his or her position. I later heard that my students wrote favourably of me, so I passed the review. In 1994, I left teaching and began to work in developing local, democratic governments.

For me, I did my best for my students in the system that I was given and I am doing my best for my clients in this new system. In each case I have been totally transparent. What can we hide in this open world? In some ways I will always have my left orientation based on the importance of helping poor people, old people and children. Yet now, I can say that inside, I have my own “personal, political party”. Which means for me, I am responsible for what and how I am doing, my decisions and my life. This, for me, is freedom.  

This interview was in English
Photo by Janeil Engelstad

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