Dec 9, 2008

Czech history in pictures

I've just finished reading a great book that Miro brought home from the library. Miro has been bringing home a number of books about Czech from the library but this one caught my attention because it was mostly pictures!

It is called The Wall: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis. It tells the story of his life growing up in Czech Republic from the 1950s with drawing as the theme. It is told against the backdrop of all that is going on in his country under the control of the Russian Communists: family and neighbors informing on each others, food shortages, censorship, control of schools.

He was a teenager/young adult during Prague Spring. This was the time when the Czech government was loosening control and there was a birth of creativity among the people. This was quickly followed by an invasion of Russian tanks and a reassertion of control over the people.

It is a beautiful book about some very sad times. If you are interested in getting an insiders picture of Czech's most recent history I highly recommend it.

Two things struck me most. "Children are encouraged to report on their families and fellow students. Parents learn to keep their opinions to themselves." It is hard to imagine this kind of control. Families not able to trust each other and not able to train their own children in what they believed or to even express a desire for freedom. I can't imagine the type of impacts this has on people over such a long period of time (1948-1989).

And from the afterword: "Now when my American family goes to visit my Czech family in the colorful city of Prague, it is hard to convince them it was ever a dark place full of fear, suspicion and lies." Czech is much more than it's beautiful architecture. I have a lot to learn from the people we will meet there and how their history plays out in many different ways for each of them.

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