“Truth”(series)-”Toilet Paper Lines”-part 4
“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)
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. I had 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 events. I’ve already mentioned that 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.
Reason being is that coincidentally I was born in a country that was a “shop window” in Europe before WW2. Located in center of Europe, highly cultural, 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 a true freedom to do business, to trade with a world, export, import, invent, travel and live…Tiny nation of only 14 million did it all and shined in all.
There was a saying: “Czechoslovakia makes everything from needle to locomotive.” And that was the truth.
Only 14 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 also, ex. in England) our beer “Pilsner Urquel” was Europe #1, Prague’s ham was famous, Moravia 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 discussion on all possible and impossible topics, (famous pastries served) our composers (Antonin Dvorak was know 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 new them. I can go on and on and still forget something, like our guns were superbly made, 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, sooner the better…
Than WW2 happened, which events I skip here…I just would like to mention that Germans fortunately did not destroy much in Prague, because they loved 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 were ones who came and brought us freedom in 1945, actually they even met with Americans who came shortly after on our territory and that was end of WW2.
That was a time when we acquired freedom from war although at the same time lost it as a nation in newly founded peace. We were very thankful to heroic Russian solders, 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 completely new regime was being prepared for us, new idea already established in neighboring Russia. Communists were put on Czechoslovakia’s “throne.”
I obviously wasn’t an eye witness of all those new and strange happenings, but we, younger generations talked to our elders and had a lot of questions and blame to present.
And those were their answers: “We were young, it was after war and there was lack of everything, we had to re-built our country and our lives. There came those who promised all so good, 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 happy 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 good future listened. And even if nobody would have listened, we were tiny nation, strategically by country location very important and our destiny together with other Eastern European nations was already decided regardless. We would have to comply either way. Because we acquired “new boss” now. Big and strong and persistent.
So people rebuilt what was damaged and lost due to war, but their economy and lifestyle was never rebuilt. Because there was another plan coming to life, socialistic plan under communists leaders. These were led by the hand by Russian advisers. It was easy for them, 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.
Well, people worked and new government worked too. 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 new era, something that never happened before, we have greatest example and leader in our brother, Soviet Union. (Realize that there wasn’t free radio anymore, no TV, no newspapers, just “new” editorial, “new” type of news and of course, not Internet yet:))
You will be the most progressive and free country in the world. No bosses, not exploitation of work force, 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 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 a West. Because now there were 2 Europe. West, where freedom governed and East, where communist governed. East now behind “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 new life in a West, but never did…There were films showing stories about those strange and scary times later on.
So when the veil from peoples eyes fell and fog from their brains evaporated, it was too late. Government was in total control of EVERYTHING, even their lives, obviously also what was left of their lives included. Because not only rich were divested from their riches, EVERYBODY followed. Every single individual was “invited” to their bank together with their “savings” book and received stamp in it, meaning something like “seized.” That clearly indicated there is no money any more, zero balance. So this was done and done for good. We were all, at least considering property, equal. Starting from ZERO… So this is how “redistribution of wealth” looks like in real life. Oh yes, all was nicely redistributed and nobody should be upset, because actually nobody else got rich from efforts of others.
Government was now 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 enlightening education about your attitude in order to understand it all better…. Informers were very busy and well rewarded. Every 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 8 years, living in great poverty and constant fear…there were those who lost someone by escaping to “west” and had nightly visits from secret police… people were afraid to talk to them or help, just to avoid being stalked themselves. There wasn’t enough food, coupons were issued for only certain amount of this or that. Great new times were here for real.
But, no worry, all would be better in a short future, it is time now for new way economy to put in place. So, all those rich- capitalists, imperialists, industrialists, business owners, big and small were gone. Some who stayed were humiliated and insulted and given only the most unqualified work like cleaning, (they had to accept to survive) to show nation they are now equal and 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, first thing to do was to create some plan, its good to have a plan, isn’t it? One can’t go just blindly ahead.
Then an”ingenious” 5-year plan was worked out. (There was a special name for that plan, not possible to translate exactly, people gave a nick name to it.) Although 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, by being member of communist party also 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 business was OUT! For good. We cannot create another capitalists. We are and will stay all equal. (LOL!)
So this thing didn’t worked out as expected? Obviously it is still fold of those capitalists… Harvest in a fields wasn’t greatest? It is just a weather 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, so called politically correct expressions…
Good I’ve never heard about this one here, or have I?
Well, we made somewhat too much of “this or that”, the planners overestimated. What to do with it? We cannot export to West, actually we cannot export anywhere… Those avenues are closed for good. Well, Russia always TAKE! it. So many people, they 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 factory, so if one wanted different color, actually even size… out of luck. They forgot to plan for “this,” oh sorry, wait for the next 5-year plan. Flexibility? Adjustment? Whats that? After all, we still make plenty of shoes, the old factory still works well and in Russia there is always shortage. They TAKE! it. They did and did not care a fig about such a unimportant matters like sizes and colors, people happily bought any size, any color, any style and than they exchanged it among themselves. Yes, every Russian would confirm this. But THE main thing was to be at the right place at the right time to obtain necessity.
“Thanks God you told me there is new delivery from Czechoslovakia, otherwise I would go barefoot this winter.” In other words, as you can see we had a great example how to handle economy new way, don’t you think so? Toilet paper? They “miss-planned” for that, sorry, just limited supply… and so it went daily about like this:
“Mrs X… hurry up, my neighbor just told me they have t. 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 women, actually better name for those would have been “huntress.” Every Saturday when there was some meat at a butchers, lines were something to behold… well at least once a week to have meat for dinner. And that applied for everything. Services, repairs…better have someone handy in a family…
Unfortunately, I am over 2000 words already in this “novel” and still, there is so much more you should know… serious and/or funny, because forewarn is to be forearmed…so see you soon right here with part 5.
- Government Takes Care Of Me
- Why Communism Can’t Be Realized, Ever…Part 6
- “Truth”series-”Behind Iron Curtain”-part 5
- “Truth”(series)The “Fingers”Theory-part 3
- “Truth”(series) “Perfect”Idea Realized-part 2
- “Truth” (series) “The Border”- part 1-prologue
- Berlin Wall – 50 years
- Socialism In Humor