Jan Palach 2 : Media Portrayals

The story of Jan Palach and his dramatic action of self-immolation captured a lot of hearts. Many people and media outlets wanted to retell the story and help the world become aware of his actions, and message. From documentaries, music videos to simple references Jan Palach became world known as one of the heroes that actively stood up against communist Czechoslovakia.

One of the most acclaimed documentaries that told of his story and the days following his suicide, is The Burning Bush by Agnieszka Holland. Holland is a Polish born director who having had studied in Prague at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU), had knowledge and interest in the Czechoslovak revolution and Jan Palach.

Many bands and musicians also wanted to portray or dedicate and tribute their songs and music videos to Palach’s actions including Kasabian’s song “Club Foot”, Francesco Guccini’s song  “La Primavera di Praga”, “The funeral of Jan Palach” by the Zippo band.

As well as documentaries and songs, statues were also erected to commemorate Palach.  Though statues and art might not be considered media, they still serve the same purpose of informing and reminding the masses of a person or event creating a collective memory. Andras Beck unveiled a statue in the city of Melnik dedicated to Palach on the 40th anniversary of his death. This statue is currently in France.

beck_andras_palach1970

Mwen Fikirini

Why Constructivist Grounded Theory?

Now the question appears why is this the best methodology and how it can be applied on our project.

Constructivism, as ideology explains that ideas are constructed by  people and the context in which they are researched. Every time “reality” changes when the context is different and people have a different cultural background. For example if you research the idea of marriage in african culture, american culture and asian culture every context will bring out different ideas.

In the case of our research we were interested how space and place were shaped by the communist regime in Prague. We decided to do three types of research in order to understand better our topic. In the beginning of our project an informative research was developed, trying to find out what Prague was all about, and how communist was perceived there and in the other communist countries. This part helped us understand a bit the context and gave us an idea of what communism is.

The second part, and the most important, was going to Prague for a 5 days field trip. Because of the methodology we are using, we decided to go there with an open minded and with the intention to listen to people and there’s point of view on communism.

Our methodology presumes that the primary data collected from the qualitative research (interviews), has to be coded and compared between it, afterwards it would be compared with our secondary research (online research) and liked with theory and our informative research.

Why is this the best approach? This methodology helped us start from primary data (people’s perception on how space and place was shaped by communism) and after that construct on our findings with the secondary and informative research. In this way we put more accent on people’s experience and their own perception, we also had more theoretical sensitivity. If we were to start from books and theory to understand people’s perceptions we couldn’t bring something new on the filed because we already had an idea of what happened in Czechoslovakia.

A question that is being put now, is how “blank page we could go into our research?” Butler brings up that we all perceive the world in the “law”, which means that we cannot conceive and imagine our world without binding together aspects and ideas that we already have, she talk’s of an already existent really. Corbin and Strauss did not believe in a pre-existing reality, they tried to be more objective in the construction of the grounded theory, however, Charmaz in the construction of constructivist grounded theory was more subjective. we couldn’t detache 100% from the law when we went to do the field trip, but we tried to be as open minded as possible.

Looking on the steps of our methodology, first we gathered all the field trip data we started coding it into categories, such as: architecture, media coverage, perception of communism and crimes of communism, afterwards every thing was correlated with the other researches that we did and  in the end decided that the core category of our research is: the perceptions of communism. All the bits were studied and compared having in mind the core category .

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Constructivist Grounded Theory

After talking a bit about constructivism and grounded theory, I would like to discuss now constructivist grounded theory.

This type of research was developed by Charmaz, a student of Glaser and Strauss, she points out the a researcher has to look beyond date, to seek meaning in ideologies, environment, beliefs and values, all in the context of the participants. There is an underlying assumption that the interaction between the researcher and participants “produces the data, and therefore the meanings that the researcher observes and defines” (Charmaz, 1995, p. 35) also she assumes that “data do not provide a window on reality. Rather, the ‘discovered’ reality arises from the interactive process and its temporal, cultural, and structural contexts” (Charmaz, 2000, p. 524). To enrich these data, Charmaz (1995) has positioned the researcher as coproducer, exhorting them to “add . . . a description of the situation, the interaction, the person’s affect and [their] perception of how the interview went” (p. 33).

Charmaz (2000) developed the theme of writing as a strategy in constructivist grounded theory in her later work, when she advocates a writing style that is more literary than scientific in intent. She has argued that constructivist grounded theorists are impelled to be analytical in their writing but that their style of writing needs to be evocative of the experiences of the participants (Charmaz, 2001). The researcher’s voice need not “transcend experience but re-envis[age] it . . . bring[ing] fragments of fieldwork time, context and mood together in a colloquy of the author’s several selves—reflecting, witnessing, wondering, accepting—all at once” (Charmaz & Mitchell, 1996, p. 299)

Charmaz, K. (1995b). Grounded theory. In J. Smith, R. Harré,&L. Langenhove (Eds.), Rethinking methods in psychology (pp. 27-65). London: Sage

Charmaz, K. (2000). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 509-535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K. (2001). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 675-694). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K.,&Mitchell, R. (1996). The myth of silent authorship: Self, substance, and style in ethnographic writing. Symbolic Interaction, 19(4), 285-302.

Graffiti in Prague

In Prague, they too have a special wall that is dedicated to graffiti. The once normal ordinary wall became the famous wall of Prague in 1980s. The famous wall was then called the John Lennon Wall, named after the famous pop star from the Beatles, John Winston Ono Lennon. Although it was named after John Lennon, the legendary pop star has never been to Prague in his life. The wall was filled with quotes, lyrics and graffiti that are all inspired by John Lennon and his band, the Beatles.

Image
Credit: Prague.net

John Lennon was considered as the pacifist hero for the Czech subculture during the totalitarian era (Ron Synovitz, 1998). While the communism ruled the country, western pop songs especially songs by John Lennon and his band the Beatles were banned by the Communist authorities simply because their songs were praising the freedom that doesn’t exist there and then. Some unlucky musicians who were caught playing those songs were jailed.

John Lennon becomes a hero when he was murdered in 1980. Upon hearing the news of his death, fans of John Lennon gathered and mourned his death together in Prague but were at risked of being caught and put in jail by the authorities over the offence of “subversive activities against the state”. His pictures were painted all over the wall and a group of anonymous youth group in Prague set up a mock grave for the famous pop star.

8325566017_208c3169d5_z
Credit: thehaymans

The threats of prison weren’t all that successful in stopping these people from coming out at night to scrawl graffiti in honor of John Lennon. Slowly, the wall was filled with feelings and dreams of the painter as they had limited freedom of expression. The communist authorities tried every single way they could to keep the wall clean either by repainting the wall or installation of surveillance cameras or even an overnight guard was not good enough. The wall will be filled with graffiti the very next day. It was basically a war between the people and the communist authorities who cleaned the wall. The Lennon Wall represented not only a memorial to John Lennon and his ideas for peace, but also a monument to free speech and the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth against the regime (Prague.net, 2008).

Image
Credit: broadgairhill

What makes the John Lennon Wall special today is the history behind it, although it may have looked like any other graffiti walls around the world. The wall had to go through reconstruction of its crumbling façade in 1998, but the spirit of the wall lives till today. The famous John Lennon Wall was once filled with anti-Communist graffiti is now filled with graffiti and messages on love and peace. You can still get a glimpse of tributes to John Lennon and a yellow submarine if you looked hard enough at the wall.

Image
Credit: experienceprague.com

Ron Synovitz. (1998). Prague’s Lennon Wall. Available: http://www.bagism.com/library/lennonwall.html. [Accessed 10 April 13].
Prague.Net. (2008). John Lennon Wall. Available: http://www.prague.net/john-lennon-wall. [Accessed 10 April 13].

Tony Hayman, (2012), John Lennon Wall Prague [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyhayman/8325566017/ [Accessed 10 April 13].

Experienceprague.com, (1998), The John Lennon Wall [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.experienceprague.com/mala_strana.htm [Accessed 10 April 13].

Prague.net, (N/A), John Lennon Peace Wall [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.prague.net/gallery/john-lennon-wall/pic1.php [Accessed 10 April 13].

broadgairhill, (2008), Prague – John Lennon wall [ONLINE]. Available at: http://photo.broadgairhill.com/index.php?showimage=7 [Accessed 10 April 13].

Foong Lin, Liew

The Czechoslovak State Security (StB)

The Czech state security known as the StB Státní bezpečnost (Czech)/ Štátna bezpečnosť (Slovak) was active between 1945 and 1990. The sole aim of this force was to deal with any issues that could be considered anti-communist; this usually meant arresting, torturing and even executing any citizens that spoke up against or protested the communist regime.

The StB were used as an instrument by the communist party to show their power, they intimidated, spied and even forged false allegations and evidence against anti-communists. Their aim was to keep any talk against the party and therefore chance of uprising at a minimum. One of the many visible actions they took against the Czechoslovakian people was by trying to destroy or erase any signs of their revolutionary actions against the regime. One of these was the self-immolation and suicide of Jan Palach in 1973, the StB tried to destroy any memory of his action by trying to stop the demonstrations that occurred at his funeral as well as exhuming his body after burial and cremating it. An anonymous body replaced his at the grave site, reassuring the communist party that they had deprived the Czech and Slovak people of a martyr. It is not until October of 1990 when the cremated remains were returned to their rightful resting place. Actions such as this were seen as normal for the StB, as it was very important for them to keep the communist agenda.

The StB now

Though the StB was dismantled and dissolved in 1990, their headquarters still remains in Prague. It is currently being used as the police headquarters.Image

Some members of the public that we spoke with felt that this was not a coincidence as some members of the StB still held powerful positions in companies, businesses and even the police force. This is not meant to be the case, as with its dissolving in 1990 former members of the StB and associates were banned from specific and powerful roles such as that of a police office, government official etc.

Support for the opinion that this rule has not been adhered to exists in a lot of sources some of which can be seen at the bottom of this post, showing that perhaps the StB still has former members in powerful positions.

http://www.jrnyquist.com/bolshevik_inquisition_3.htm

http://www.prague-tribune.cz/2003/9/7.htm

                                                             Mwen Fikirini

Grounded Theory – Coding and diagramming & Identifying the core category

In this article I am looking forward to discuss the other two common characteristics of grounded theory: Coding and diagramming and identifying the core category

In the traditional grounded theory, coding the data received is vital for this form of the methodology. Looking into Glaser we can see three form of coding: open, theoretical and constant comparison. (Glaser 1992)

Open coding is the initial step of theoretical analysis, developing codes from the data. This form of coding ends when it locates a core category. Theoretical codes are “conceptual connectors” that develop relationships between categories and their properties (Glaser, 1992, p. 38). Constant comparative coding describes the method of constant comparison that inspires both open and theoretical coding.

Another method used by Strauss and Corbin is conditional or consequential matrix. They described it as “an analytic device to help the analyst keep track of the interplay of conditions/consequences and subsequent actions/interactions and to trace their paths of connectivity” (Corbin & Strauss 1998 p. 199). Using the matrix, the researcher is able to locate an interaction that appears repeatedly in the data and then trace the linkages from this through the micro and macro conditions that might influence it (Corbin & Strauss, 1996).

Diagramming is central to the coding processes, and Strauss and Corbin use it extensively. Initially in the coding process, logic diagrams such as flowcharts are used. When undertaking higher level analysis, researchers use both the conditional/consequential matrix and integrative diagramming, illustrating the complex interplay between the different levels of conditions (Strauss, 1987; Corbin &Strauss, 1990, 1998).

An important feature of the grounded theory is that is does not impose a way of coding or reconstruction of the participants storeys, it offers the research a “smorgasbord table” (Corbin & Strauss 1998, p 8) from which he can chose the best technique that fits its research.

 

Identifying the core category

Centre to the grounded theory, the core category includes all the theory contrasts and consist in making a “story line” from all the findings and also integrates the researcher as a writer of a theoretical reconstruction. The story line is the final conceptualisation of the core category, and as such, this “conceptual label” must fit the stories/data it represents (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 121). This process acknowledges the reconstruction of the participants’ stories by the researcher and the fulfilment of their obligation to “give voice—albeit in the context of their own inevitable interpretations” (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 281).

 

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1996). Analytic ordering for theoretical purposes. Qualitative Inquiry, 2(2), 139-150.

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Grounded Theory -Theoretical sensitivity & Treatment of Literature

 

If in the last articles I discussed a bit about constructivism and grounded theory, now I will like to go a bit in depth with the common characteristics of grounded theory as following: theoretical sensitivity and treatment of the literature.

Theoretical sensitivity is a concept that treats the researcher level of perceptiveness in the research zone, it also has in mind the understanding of the complexity word of the partakers and the scholar ability to construct meaning from the data collected and his skills to “separate the pertinent from that which isn’t” (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 44)

Grounded theory implies that the researcher goes to do research with an opened clear mind, as Locke was calling it a “tabula rasa”. This vision can help the research to go in any direction, not giving him the opportunity to get stuck into theoretical or social stereotypes. Of course this is not 100% possible because of the law, in Butler’s view.  She suggests that our representations are made by mixing up ideas and experience together, ours or others, and that we cannot intend a theory without basing or constructing it on something else. Even if Strauss denies a “pre-existing” reality, it is useful to have the law in the mind when we do research.

Strauss and Corbin have suggested different techniques of becoming more sensitive as following: questioning, the flip-flop technique or far-out comparison. They also suggested that is better for the research to use these techniques in the act of theory elaboration, “Theorizing is the act of constructing . . . from data an explanatory scheme that systematically integrates various concepts through statements of relationship” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 25) and that theories themselves are “interpretations made from given perspectives as adopted or researched by researchers” (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 279)

Treatment of literature

The area of literature and its uses are diametrically contested between traditional and evolved grounded theorists. Traditional grounded theory provides the dictum that “there is a need not to review any of the literature in the substantive area under study” (Glaser, 1992, p. 31) for fear of contaminating, constrain-ing, inhibiting, stifling, or impeding the researcher’s analysis of codes emergent from the data (Glaser, 1992). This, again, situates the data as an entity separate from both participant and researcher.

Engaging proactively with the literature from the beginning of the research process, Strauss and Corbin identified many uses for this information (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), interweaving the literature throughout the process of evolved grounded theory as another voice contributing to the researcher’s theoretical reconstruction. In the same way that Strauss and Corbin have viewed the use of techniques to increase theoretical sensitivity, the literature is able to provide examples of similar phenomena that can “stimulate our thinking about properties or dimensions that we can then use to examine the data in front of us” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 45).

The “nontechnical” literature, such as reports and internal correspondence, is seen as a potential source of data, providing information, in particular, about the context within which the participant operates, for example, their employing organization (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This then contributes to an analysis of additional data that is concerned with uncovering the meso and macro conditions that might influence the area of interest identified by the participants (Corbin, 1998).

 

Corbin, J. (1998). Alternative interpretations: Valid or not? Theory & Psychology, 8(1), 121-128.

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Grounded Theory

In the search of the proper research methodology for our project, I had a look into constructivism and now I will talk about grounded theory in the view of Glaser, Strauss, and Corbin.

The new wave of views upon research brought to light very interesting and useful ideas, one of them is grounded theory. This approach makes the researcher to leave all the views settled for his research along side and to start the investigation with clear eyes, without any preconceived ideas to prove or disprove. In this way the accent if put on the constructions of theories “about issues of importance in peoples lives”. (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998)

This requires a process of data collection and interpretation with the purpose of creating theories from people’s experiences and their issues of importance, usually that have a shared interest with the researcher.  In the analysation of data, the research makes comparisons initial data with data, and afterwards with other sources.

Depending on the researcher’s ontological and epistemological beliefs, there are several points of departure along a spiral of methodological development. Engaging in any form of grounded theory study, however, requires the researcher to address a set of common characteristics: theoretical sensitivity, theoretical sampling, treatment of the literature, constant comparative methods, coding, the meaning of verification, identifying the core category, memoing and diagramming, and the measure of rigour (McCann & Clark, 2003).

In the history of grounded theory it can be seen two different approaches: traditional (Glaser) and evolved grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin). For this research we believed that the evolved grounded theory is more appropriate and closer to constructivism.

Strauss and Corbin, in the evolution of grounded theory, acknowledge the importance of a multiplicity of perspectives and “truths” (Strauss, 1987; Strauss & Corbin, 1990, 1994, 1998) and as such have “extended and emphasised the range of theoretically sensitising concepts that must be attended to in the analysis of human action/interaction” (MacDonald, 2001, p. 137). This enables an analysis of data and a reconstruction of theory that is richer and more reflective of the context in which participants are situated. They insist that theirs is “interpretive work and . . . interpretations must include the perspectives and voice of the people who we study ” (Strauss&Corbin, 1994, p. 274). Such a position clearly implies that this perspective includes relating participants’ stories to the world in which the participants live.

In the following articles I will explain more about evolved grounded theory and I will explain how grounded theory can fuse with constructivism and why is the best approach for our research.

MacDonald, M. (2001). Finding a critical perspective in grounded theory. In R. Schreiber & P. N. Stern (Eds.), Using grounded theory in nursing (pp. 113-158). New York: Springer;

McCann, T., & Clark, E. (2003). Grounded theory in nursing research: Part 3—Application. Nurse Researcher,11(2), 29-39;

Glaser, B. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity: Advances in the methodology of grounded theory. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press;

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press;

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago:Aldine;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage;

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Constructivism – or how we can we perceive the world in the 21st century

After the Crises of Representation in the 80s, researches looked for new methods to analyse and represent their work. If some of them said that this can be the end of theory, others tried to find different approaches to the use and the development of theory.

One of them can be considered the constructivism methodology. It occurred to that in the need of being academical we apply and use theories form different periods of time expecting the same results as they had before. We apply “Freud” and pretend that it might have the same result, we speak about Foucault and think that his ideas can be the same today. Some of them can and are very useful, explaining our problems but what we constantly forget is to bring them in the spectrum of today’s context. Each scholar, when he did research, was influenced by the historical and cultural context that he lived in, this shaped his view of the world, his creativity and the most important “the meaning of the truth”, however all put together, made his findings important and relevant.

Constructivism, as research paradigm, sustains that there is no objective reality “asserting instead that realities are social constructions of the mind, and that there exist as many such constructions as there are individuals (although clearly many constructions will be shared)” (Guba & Lincoln, 1989, p. 43). To be more specific, suggests that our perceptions can find more than one reality of the subject matter, al being influenced by the different contexts in which the researcher looks. People who reject the objective reality usually find their interest in the relativism ontological position.

Relativists claim that concepts such as rationality, truth, reality, right, good, or norms must be understood “as relative to a specific conceptual scheme, theoretical framework, paradigm, form of life, society, or culture . . . there is a non-reducible plurality of such conceptual schemes” (Bernstein, 1983, p. 8)

Constructivism, epistemologically speaking, underlines the subjective line between the research and the individuals that take part in it. (Hayes & Oppenheim, 1997; Pidgeon & Henwood, 1997). Presuming that, researchers are part of the research, they cannot be seen as objective observers, also their outcomes must be seen as part of this subjectiveness paradigm.

Looking for a methodology that can sustain the research with our ontological and epistemological position, we decided to follow the constructivism grounded theory paradigm.

Bernstein, R. (1983). Beyond objectivism and relativism: Science, hermeneutics, and praxis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 105-117). London: Sage

Hayes, R.,&Oppenheim, R. (1997). Constructivism: Reality is what you make it. In T. Sexton&B. Griffin (Eds.), Constructivist thinking in counseling practice, research and training (pp. 19-41). New York: Teachers College Press.

Eduard Claudiu Vasile

Interview with Ivan Hurnik – perceptions of the communist era in Czech Republic

Could you introduce yourself and then relate us some experiences you had during the communist regime?

My name is Ivan Hurnik, I was born in Czechoslovakia in year 1954, September 22nd. It was really a hard time of communism. I was growing up during the time of communism in the 50s and 60s.

My father was an Army pilot; he was flying on the Mid 15 and one of the Mid15 almost killed him, so he stopped his career as an Army pilot… And processed to work for Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In the beginning of his career, as a Foreign Affairs Minister he was working as a diplomatic courier, so he visited all the countries in the world. But at the time of 1986, my father was working in Czechoslovakia embassy. My father took part in the political movement of Prague spring 1968, while he was still a minister. At the end of the spring he was sent to Africa Sudan as a Czechoslovak diplomat, so our family left Czechoslovak on the 25th of July 1968, just one month before the invasion in August. Our family was eight thousand kilometers away from Prague. Of course it was a very big surprise what happened there, we were even affected in Sudan because of the Invasion, we were imprisoned in our house in Kartun, we were guarded by Sudanese police, we were not allowed to go to school, my father was not allowed to go to the embassy for a week.

In 1969 it was exchange of the general secretary of communist party of Czechoslovakia, instead of Alexander Dubcek, Gustav Husak took over and became general secretary. He was very good friend of comrade Brenzhnev in Moscow, Gustav said it was not an invasion, it was an international help. The communist party in the year 1970 made some kind of questioning of other members of the party, and who said during the questioning that it was an inversion, was dismissed from the party. So my father did not say it was an inversion, he only asked, if it was a help, why did the come with tanks? Of course he got a simple answer; he was kicked out of the party in the year 1970, but the main reason why he was kicked out, was that he took part in the political movement of Prague spring 1986.

When he got back from Sudan in May 1971, my father was fired out of the Foreign affairs minister, and he was unemployed for three years, in a socialist country, which was officially impossible. My siblings and I were not allowed to study, travel, or have good jobs, because our father was fired out of the communist party. Just imagine we finished school in Africa, but we were not allowed to finish secondary school in our country.

I did not have a passport for nine years, when I ask for a passport from the foreign police, I was told three times to go to eastern Germany… you can’t travel with an ID card only, which means you can’t travel anywhere else because they had power to say so.

From the beginning, I was working in a company which was called Foreign Trade Corporation. Companies were not allowed to import product directly, they were doing it through foreign trade corporation. I was using English every day at work, so my boss told me to go to the management and ask to take the English exams which will give me 30 crown over my normal wage per month.  30 crowns which is approximately just one dollar more, my salary was 800 crown in the year 1971, and I was just asking for 30 crown over the wage. When I went to the management office, and said to them I want to take the exams for English, since I am using English every day, The asked me do I speak Russian and I said to them no I don’t, they said to me you can’t have 30 crown for just English.

Until the first half of the 1980s there was nothing to buy, let say the tropical fruit, oranges, bananas, melon etc, we usually have them three or four times in a year in a shop, it is not like now where we have them every day, and it was very expensive. Life was completely different.

My experience with communism is not good;[…]

I have a group of friends… we know each other from the 60s, in that group there are two friends which I know each other from the 60s, because we were in elementary school from the first class. We were always going to the pub every Friday, just for drinking, of course… and the boys were studying at the university; we usually talked about politics and other things and also singing forbidden song sometimes… And…Someone heard us and said something to the police and three boys from the group were in prison for six months!!

Later on there was a trial, but the secret police called STB made a little mistake, because during the time of communism, when the police is searching your apartment, the usually have a witness with them it could be anybody. But the police made the search without a witness, so they lost the trial.

Anyway the boys were kicked out of university. Later on one of them immigrated to Austria. Then there was another trial, it was said that the guy who immigrated was at fault. So the others were allowed to study again. It was normal.

In fact if you said political jokes and someone heard it, you will go straight ahead o prison. Also, it was a crime to have one dollar bill in your pocket, it was not allowed to have foreign currency, it was a crime.

In simple terms what does communism mean to you?

Very bad time, and very bad memories, because I was not allowed to travel, but now I can go anywhere I want to, I don’t even know where I have my passport, because I don’t need it. The last time I used it was when I was travelling to Ukraine, but now within Europe I don’t need my passport. I can now say anything I want to say, and of course if I have the money, I can buy anything I want to, But during communism, if I want to buy a car, I will have to have good friends.

During the time of communism everything that was good was only for the members of the party, we can say we had two categories of inhabitants: members of the party and non-members, if you want to have well-paid jobs, your children going to school, and travel around, you have to be in the party, really everything was just for the members of the party.

But life in Czechoslovak was best in all the socialist country, because Czechoslovak was used as a shop window of socialism, because we had boarder with western Germany and lot of people from Germany and Austria were coming here for business purposes. But the life here was best compared to other countries, let’s say in the Soviet Union it was much worst, because in the Soviet Union, everything was under control of the KGB, let’s say you were living in one city and you wanted to travel to the another city which is just 100/150 kilometres away, you will have to ask for a permit to travel around in your own country.

Marina Gogeanu

Interview transcribed by: Lesoda Otu-Iso