Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
If people just played by the rules, life was good
Kysak, Slovak Republic, 2009
Ľudmila Čopová, Retired teacher
After WWII the Americans sent us bags of used clothes. Our family got one pair of child’s shoes. Each child in my family exchanged the shoes each day. The Russians sent us wheat, which we could mill and make into bread. We were hungry so we choose the Russians.
Before children in kindergarten went to take an afternoon sleep, they used to say, “We are sleeping well. We are eating well. Thank you Lenin.”
There were many advantages to Socialism. Everybody had work. There were no homeless people or beggars. School was for free and materials were for free. Healthcare was for free. If people just played by the rules life was good.
I was a Christian but also a teacher so I could not go to church. This was hard because I believed in God. One time the pastor came to me and said that he could confirm my children in a secret place. I asked my husband if we could have the children confirmed. He was the head of the Communist Party at his factory. “Lenin is my God,” he said “and I cannot worship two Gods at the same time”. So the children were not confirmed.
I was shocked when the revolution happened. It was without any warning. We feared what would happen next. With Socialism you always knew what was next. There was fear of what would happen if you did not follow the party, but there was security. Now there is no security. There is freedom, but also fear of what will happen next.
This interview was in Slovak with the aid of a translator
Photo by Janeil Engelstad
Audio File: Mrs. Čopová reciting children's "prayer" to Lenin