Yesterday it was twenty years that “the ’89” began for me. As with many things, there are several untypicalities specific for me connected with this one.
The headline, of course, refers to the popular nickname of the event, to wit, the Velvet Revolution. I know quite a few people who maintain it was no revolution at all, because revolutions move mankind in some way further towards a better future. They usually use the words coup or overthrow. Now, a coup implies to me a group of people already to some extent in power taking all the power, and that doesn’t apply here. Nevertheless I don’t call it a revolution either, yet for a very different reason. As far as I’m concerned, an inseparable part of a revolution is multitudes of people murdered for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So I go for overthrow. Personally, though, I call it the Strike. Which brings me to point two.
The event, whatever we call it, is generally understood as having begun on Friday, 17th November, and quite understandably so. But not by me. It wasn’t until Saturday evening that Vondr came to tell me there was another dispersed demonstration in the capital, and there having been quite a few that year already, it didn’t look even then as though there was anything special about this one. So that the starting point for me was, and remains, Monday 20th, when universities and technical colleges actually went on strike. And so did I, which is where we get to point three.
Most people I knew (and/or know) who took part were doing so because they believed they were doing something that should significantly improve their lives. Most of them were later disappointed. Either they now perceive their lives as actually worsened by the consequnces of the ’89, or as improved to a much smaller degree than they expected. While I took part despite what I expected. I supposed I wouldn’t be able to survive for long under the new conditions; reasoning, however, that within two or three years my life wouldn’t be worth living anyway, I wanted to at least help my friends who, unlike me, saw some future to look forward to before themselves. Today, I’m much better off, having upgraded from an Untermensch to a mere second-class citizen. Make no mistake, I really appreciate that.
Which is where the fourth untypicality originates. Nineteen years ago, you could hardly find anybody not claiming that they, too, had done their bit to overthrow the regime. (“Yeah, mate, even before the November!”) Fourteen years ago, you had problem finding anybody ready to allow that they, too, had been going to the squares to chant and ring with their keys. Nowadays, the situation is settled in the usual way: those who have materially profited talk about a moral victory, those who have materially lost talk about a moral defeat. I always openly admitted I had been merrily collaborating with the regime until the Strike, of which I’m not ashamed, the idea I might live to see it overthrown never having occurred to me; then merrily (okay, at the beginning sometimes scared shitless) helping to bring it down, of which I’m proud.
So when people ask me, “Weren’t you better off under the Commies?”, my reply is “Yes, I was… but just because back then I was only some twenty years young!”