Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
My comrads, socialism has already fallen down.
Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
Peter Čačko, Translator, Former Director of Bibiana International House of Art for Children
My private life was different from my public life. Inside I was one person and on the outside another. Working as the export manager for the publishing house, Mladé Letá, I often travelled to book fairs throughout the Eastern bloc countries and also to Frankfurt and Bologna. I had to be careful with everything that I said and did at these fairs, for they sent people with us as monitors.
We published classic children‘s literature from around the world including “Anne of Green Gables” and books by Mark Twain and Jane Erye. Simply the best of the world’s literature. Over 600 titles with illustrations. In this way, it was better then before 1989. After 1989 everything was Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry and other cartoon characters, the commercial best - sellers. Now though, the classics are coming back.
I expected the revolution in 1988, because 8 is our number, 1918 [the first Czechoslovak State was founded]; 1938 [when Slovak autonomy was established]; 1948 [Czechoslovakia became a communist state]; 1968 [Prague Spring, followed by the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia]. So I was not surprised when we had the revolution, just that it was not a year earlier. In 1988 I attended communist party schooling. I was not a party member but because I was a chief editor I had to attend these seminars. At this seminar, the members were talking about what to do for the benefit of the party and I said "My comrads, socialism has already fallen down." The leader of the seminar became very angry, but I was right it was beginning to happen.
The biggest difference for me since the Velvet Revolution is that with freedom I have a giant weight off my back. I am free from the stress of living in that system. Where before I had to walk with my head to the ground, now I walk with my head held high and I am looking out at the world.
This interview was in English
Photo by Janeil Engelstad