Thursday, November 18, 2010

Love of Country Lost and Found

by Rick Zedník

Wall Street Journal
November 17, 2010

Young Juraj did not think he was leaving Czechoslovakia for good in 1968. For an educated, ambitious 22-year-old, the country held his past, but he soon decided that the regime did not offer a future.

To be sure, a boy's life in Bratislava in the 1950s and 1960s had its charms: After-school ice-hockey games on the frozen ponds of the Carpathian foothills. Friday nights strolling and flirting with girls along the Danube's left bank, weekend train trips to hike or ski in the Tatra mountains.

But there were limits, and they were close at hand and they were harsh. From Bratislava's castle hill, Juraj and his friends could see Austrian fields and villages just beyond the Danube. But they could not bike over to them because of the barbed-wire fences and armed soldiers in towers guarding the border in between.