“The only way to make strong people is through struggle. One grows tough mentally and spiritually by putting up a strong resistance to hardship, to obstacles, to suffering.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“Truth” (series) Toilet Paper Lines-part 4
(Living Under Communists)
By Maya

I’ve always hated standing in lines. No matter when and what for…I consider that “activity” actually the most wasteful, unproductive part of living. And I did have to stand in many, many, many lines. Yes, you read well. I had to…together with all others who wanted/needed basics for living…It was simply part of life. But let’s not jump ahead of those events. I’ve already mentioned that the best understanding is always easier when there is a real example presented.
And I’m happy to say that I’m able to do just that.

The reason being is that coincidentally I was born in a country that was a “shop window” in Europe before WW2. Located in the center of Europe, a highly culturally, highly educated nation (illiteracy unknown) was making it all and it was something to be proud of. Yes, all was just booming, industries, trade,  economy, and life. There was true freedom to do business, to trade with a world, export, import, invent, travel, and live…Tiny nation of only 10 million did it all and shined in all.
There was a saying:
“Czechoslovakia makes everything from a needle to the locomotive.”
And that was the truth.

Only 10 million people and we made trains and planes and cars and motorcycles, we made famous glass and jewelry, we put shoes on half of Europe (actually building shoe factories as well, ex. in England) our beer “Pilsner Urquell” was Europe #1, Prague’s ham was famous, Moravia’s pickles considered best in Europe, our restaurants were sought after by visitors just the same as historic sight-seeing… Our coffee houses were centers for intellectual discussions on all possible and impossible topics, (famous pastries served) our composers (Antonin Dvorak was known even in America, just to name one) and many other artists (classical music, opera, etc.) were performing all over Europe. Famous concerts were always conducted in a past in Prague as well as in Vienna and Paris. Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt…. all knew Prague, and Prague knew them. I can go on and on and still forget something, such as our guns were superbly made, the USA used those, then fabrics…simply, you name it, we made it, being totally self-sufficient.

You might think now: why is she telling us all that? Simple. This is very much needed as a base for comparison with what was about to come. And I wish you would pay great attention to this, because if that puts a light on in your mind, great! If not yet, it might soon… But trust me, the sooner the better…

Then WW2 happened, which events details  I skip here…I just would like to mention that Germans, fortunately, did not destroy much in Prague, because they liked and valued this beautiful historic city and obviously intended to make it their own one victorious day. That, as you know, never happened, because Russians came and brought us freedom in 1945, actually also Americans who freed part of the country as first, (but no credit could have been made public) Russia claimed it all then.

That was a time when we acquired freedom from the war although at the same time lost it as a nation in newly founded peace. We were very thankful for heroic Russian soldiers, of course. They survived hell on earth. But people and government are two completely different “species” and it would be a good idea if people always, for all times keep this in mind.

Nobody expected though that a completely new regime was being prepared for us, a new idea already established in a neighboring  Russia.

Communists were put on Czechoslovakia’s “Throne.”

I obviously wasn’t an eye witness of all those new and strange happenings, but later we, younger generations talked to our elders and had a lot of questions and tend to blame them for the present situation.

So, those were their answers:
“We were young, it was a time after the war and there was a lack of everything, we had to rebuild our country and our lives. There came those who promised us all to be so good, a new,  brighter tomorrows, freedom, equality, people in control, people owners of it all, new system, best in the world to be envied by all, to live happily and worry-free live under the greatest government that would answer to people and will be voted for by people.
Speeches were superb and people listened, all wishing for a good future, followed…
And even if nobody would have listened, we were a tiny nation, strategically by country location very important (central Europe) and our destiny together with other Eastern European nations was already decided regardless. We would have to comply either way. Because we acquired a “new boss” now.
Big and strong and persistent.

So people rebuilt what was damaged and lost due to the war, but their economy and lifestyle have never been rebuilt. Because there was another plan coming to life, a socialistic plan under communist leaders. These were led by the hand of Russian advisers. It was easy for them, a good time to “place things” under control in post-war chaos that under normal circumstances would perhaps not be possible, or would take much, much longer and meet resistance.

Well, people worked and the new government worked as well.  And busy it was… With something most important to its leaders. Securing power over everything. Great speeches were presented ongoing… All will be yours, nation!
We shall clear up this country from those rich capitalists, industrialists, wealth owners, we will put all they own,  into your hands. Trust us, this is a new era, something that never happened before, we have the greatest example and leader in our brother, Soviet Union. (Realize that there wasn’t free radio anymore, no TV as yet anyway, no newspapers, just “new” editorial, “new” kind of news of course…)

You will be The most progressive and free country in the world. No bosses, no exploitation of the workforce, no rich and poor, wealth will change hands, just watch….

Yes, people did watch.  They watched bloody processes, interrogations, of course, all “justified”, imprisonments, murders, confiscation of everything the government wanted.  There were suicides of those who lost it all overnight and then there were those who were lucky enough to get abroad and start over in the West. Because now there were 2 Europes.  West, where freedom governed,
under capitalists, and East, where communism governed.
East now behind  an “Iron curtain.” 
Then there were those who were caught running to the West and were dealt with on a spot and many others who were murdered by “guides” when crossing borders in a woods carrying with them some money and jewelry to start a new life in the West, but never did…There were films showing stories about those strange and scary times later on.

So when the veil from people’s eyes fell and fog from their brains evaporated, it was too late. The government was in total control of  EVERYTHING, even their lives, obviously also what was left of their lives included. Because not only the rich were divested from their riches, EVERYBODY followed. Every single individual was “invited” to their bank together with their “savings” book and received a stamp in it, meaning something like “seized.”  That clearly indicated there is no money anymore, zero balance.  So this was done and done for good. We were all, at least considering the property, equal. Starting from ZERO… So this is how “redistribution of wealth” looks like in a real life. Oh yes, all was “nicely” redistributed and nobody should be upset, because actually, nobody else got rich from the efforts of others.

The government was now the new owner and don’t you remember? They now take care of you, all they control is still yours, it belongs to you, people…
Unhappy? Well, you might still be in a grasp of that old thinking, aren’t you? Capitalistic ideas still surviving? Perhaps you should have some more of an enlightening education about your attitude in order to understand it all better…. Informers were very busy and very well rewarded. All information was welcomed. “Comrade officer, that woman, my neighbor, dresses up suspiciously well, I saw just last week she had 2 different pairs of shoes on and red lipstick on always. I wonder where she gets her money?” “Comrade officer, I overheard what such and such were discussing, they had anti-government ideas”, etc…

People were scared of each other. So my family ended up just the same as everybody else. There were cases when people couldn’t get work for many years. Life was just great poverty and constant fear…there were those who lost someone by escaping to the “west” and had nightly visits from secret police… people were afraid to talk to them or help,  just to avoid being stalked themselves. (Case of my husband’s mother, if not for her parents she would have died with her little boy from starvation.) Father was one from capitalists. There wasn’t enough food anyway, coupons were issued only for a specific meager amount of this or that. “
Great New Times” was here for real…

But, no worry, all would be better in a short future, it is time now for a new way economy to put in place. 

So, all those rich- capitalists, imperialists, industrialists, meaning experienced business owners, big and small were gone. Those, who stayed were really humiliated and insulted and given only the most unqualified work like cleaning, (they had to accept to survive) to show to the nation they are now equal and deservingly punished… didn’t they exploit their workers by “providing jobs” for them? However, now we’ll do it all in a new way. And they did. Leading all, deciding all.

So, the first thing to do was to create some plan, it is surely good to have a plan, isn’t it? One can’t go just blindly ahead.

Then first an ” ingenious” called 5-year plan has been worked out. (There was a special name for that plan, not possible to translate exactly, people gave a nickname to it.) Although the results of the “shiny brand new plan” were to be seen rather soon… Hmmm… somehow not all was just what one would have expected, was it?

Unfortunately, being a member of the communist party somehow didn’t provide experience to lead factories and other similar establishments. Directors were named. Directors and managers everywhere. Remember, no owners! To own business was OUT! To set-up, any business was OUT!  For good! We cannot create other capitalists. We are and we will stay all equal. (LOL!)

So this thing didn’t work out as expected? Obviously, it is still folds of those capitalists… Harvest in a field wasn’t greatest? It is just the weather’s fold. We didn’t make enough of this or that what we have planned? Capitalist sabotages, that’s obvious. But directors and managers, (remember all equal!) just really do deserve theirs, you know…(members of com. party) must receive their annual bonuses… So all was made up somehow (?) to show that no capitalistic evil is possible here any more…. New vocabulary started forming and invented so-called politically correct expressions…

“God”,  I’ve never heard about this one here, or have I? (note: word, expression in any way of “God” was not allowed!)
Commies see in this expression competitor and you suppose to acknowledge them as only one/ones to listen. Visiting churches, FORGET IT!
Well, we’ve produced somewhat too much of “this or that”, the planners “overestimated.” What to do with it? We could not export to the West anywhere, (by the way, those had real quality products actually, so we cannot export anywhere… Those avenues were closed for good.
Well, Russia always TAKE! it. So many people, who need it. And it is being said they are giving us cheaper gasoline so we must be grateful…and so it went.

There was a shortage of everything!!!!
Let say they planned only black and blue pants to be made in the factory, so if one wanted a different color, actually even his/her size… out of luck. They forgot to plan for “this,” oh sorry, wait for the next 5-year plan. Flexibility? Adjustment? What’s that?  After all, we still make plenty of shoes, the old capitalists built factory still works well and in Russia, there is always a shortage. They TAKE! it. They did and did not care a fig about such unimportant matters like sizes and colors, people happily bought any size, any color, any style and they exchanged it among themselves. Yes, every Russian from those times would confirm this. But THE main thing was to be in the right place at the right time to obtain necessities. Conversations there:

“Oh, thank you for letting me know there is a new delivery from Czechoslovakia, otherwise I would go barefoot this winter.”
In other words, as you can see we had a great example of how to handle the economy in a new way, don’t you think so? Toilet paper? They “miss-planned” for that, sorry, just limited supply… and so all it went daily about like this:

“Mrs X… hurry up, my neighbor just told me they’ve got  toilet paper delivery at the store at xxx…/ Mrs Y… today they have at xxx this and that, hurry up!

There really wasn’t too much leisure time for the women, actually, a better name for those would have been “huntress.” Every Saturday when there was some meat at butchers, lines were something to behold… well at least once a week to have some meat for dinner. Bananas, somewhere in my article I wrote a joke about this one…
Well, such a situation applied to everything. Services, repairs…better have someone handy in a family…

Well,  I am over 2000 words already in this “novel” and still, there is so much more you should know… serious and/or even funny…still, because forewarned is to be forearmed…so see you soon right here with part 5 of my series..named
“Behind Iron Curtain.”

With all of you (ALWAYS) politically incorrect
Maya

Short follow up on response from one who knew….

Hi Martina (so the majority would understand, I continue in English)
I highly appreciate, with an accent that it was a woman! who presented the Real truth in her comment. Shame falls on many countries around us, for abusive treatment, robbery, lies, deceit, stealing, and other better unnamed negative approaches towards educated, talented, hard-working Czechs, who just suffered for others. Only because we are a small country and in central Europe, always close to all bad going around us. I shall not repeat all Martina said, I just stress that ALL she mentioned here is the truth, historic truth, and nowadays truth. It is always easy for the elephant to step on an ant.
But as a nation, we were never just tiny ants.
Here you read the truth about what we were before communist Russia confiscated us after WW2.
However, poor Russian people had it even worse than we did.

 

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