People Have Rights

Excerpt from Chapter 5

Stories about citizens risking death to escape communism circulated widely, said to have run west over heavily guarded fields lined with barbed wire and armed border guards or jumped into the frigid water of the Danube. Many died. Those captured were beaten, tortured, and imprisoned indefinitely. Others drowned in the unforgiving waters of the Danube or shot. Every one had aimed to reach the Free West, a world where it was rumored that “oamenii au drepturi.

I wondered what “people have rights” meant.

I had begun to understand that the communists ran our lives. The government controlled food stores, clothing stores, shoe stores; it controlled what the media reported, how much information and how the information was presented; it decided when two television channels aired and what programs would be broadcasted; it controlled the medical field, hospitals, and the quantity and quality of health care; it decided how much each profession earned; it controlled education and how many openings at each higher education institution; it required every second grade elementary student to join the communist party as a Pioneer; it instituted state atheism and declared it illegal to possess a Bible or Christian literature or to confess faith in God, the consequences of a violation being imprisonment, torture, and personal ruin.

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One response to “People Have Rights

  1. I grew up thinking of the ‘Eastern Bloc’ as a cold rainy wind-swept and sad place. A place people risked their lives to escape. However, being a German Studies major has given me some things to think about. One, is “Ostalgie”. The nostalgia some East Germans felt for the socialist system they once had. Incredible – I had no idea! I’m not saying that many (former) east Germans are not happy with reunification, but the fact is, there are quite a few who miss those old days. Why?
    “When the renowned West-German magazine Der Spiegel asked former GDR-inhabitants whether the GDR “was the better state” (compared to present-day Germany), 57% of them answered yes. To the statement of the interviewing journalist that “GDR inhabitants did not have the freedom to travel wherever they wanted”, Germans replied that “present-day low-wage workers do not have that freedom either”.
    Sitting in a small Gästhaus in the suburbs of Leipzig, a song came on the radio; “Moskau” (Dschingis Khan). This song is clearly a propaganda song fostering love or respect/adoration for Russia and was extremely popular in former East Germany. Even more to my surprise, and that of my friend, the patrons and bartender all started singing along.
    Right or wrong, good or bad, I realized that the sun still shone behind the iron curtain; memories were made, joy was had and quite a few East Germans actually do miss it.

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