2 stories from communist regime in Czechoslovakia (don't take your freedom to travel for granted)

in travelfeed •  5 months ago

Hey there,

this post won't be about any cool trips, there won't be any cool photos and it's possible it might be straight up boring. I'm going home for a week in several days (living abroad) and I was just thinking how easy it is. Just open the browser and buy a ticket. And you're good to go..no hustle. But it was not always so easy - at least not in Eastern Europe. Here are 2 stories from my parents childhood they told me.

Just some basic history for non-europeans (to get the context)

I don't want to be boring here. Basically only thing you need to know, that till 1989, Czechoslovakia was under the influence of communist Soviet Union and any traveling to the west was impossible. Also, Bratislava is capital of Slovakia and it's just several kilometers from the "forbidden" border with Austria. Now those two stories:

Story 1 - Trip to Vienna

Both my parents studied in capital of Slovakia - Bratislava. it was around 1985 and they decided they'd really love to go to Vienna for a weekend. My mother worked as tourist guide in Bratislava and she had some contacts which allowed her from time to time to take Asian tourists to Vienna as well. But my father was just a normal student and his chances for a trip to Austria were almost zero. After 6 months of hustle and tons of various paperwork, they got my father a leave for 48 hours. They were allowed to go to Vienna city centre only. If they wouldn't come back, government would expell their siblings (my uncles and nieces) from universities and their parents (my grandparents) would lose their jobs. Anyway, eventually they got all the permissions and were good to go. They went there with a group of tourists (as mentioned earlier, my mum was a guide). Tourist group was going back to Slovakia after one day and my parents had extra 24 hours to spend in Vienna. As they were saying bye to the group, many people were just furiously waving at my parents or from some reason wishing them best of luck in life. Just couple of days later my parents realized those people assumed they are going to flee and emigrate to the west.

Story 2 - Hill near Bratislava & paraglide

This story often used to tell me my father as I was younger. It's about him during his student years in Bratislava as well. He really wanted to travel to the western Europe when he was yonger. Not to flee, just to see how's the world there. Therefore he often went for a hike to some hill behind the Bratislava which is super near the border with Austria. He just used to sit there and look on the austrian fields behind the border. It's kind of fucked up to think this was happening just 30 years ago. He even told me he considered buying a paraglide and just try to fly over the border :D

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I never really talked with my parents about these two stories. But they just sometimes cross my mind, especially when I'm travelling somewhere and think about it that I don't even realize how big of a deal it actually is. To be able to travel somewhere. And I'm actually from the generation which has experienced countless hours of waiting on the borders and the passport control. That's also a thing of past right now (in Shenghen zone and European Union). So I actually think, my little sis who's travelling through Europe left and right all the time takes it actually aabsolutely for granted. Well, it might be now, but as you can see, it hasn't always been the case.

It's nice to sometimes think about it and realize how blessed we actually are nowadays...Especially if you find yourself facing some unexpected complications like missed or cancelled flights, border traffic jams, flat tires or whatever it might be. Not everyone is fortunate enough to travel, so if you're one of the lucky ones, embrace every moment of it and don't bi$ch about every tiny detail which went another way than expected!

Thanks for reading!
Martin

You can find my latest posts here:

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It is true. I have never known any difficulty in travelling so I have taken it for granted. I have been to many nice places and still don't feel I have traveled near enough.

A VERY good reminder of more difficult times.

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So true ! We are really blessed that we have the convenience and ease of travel that some of our parents had to go thru to travel short distances and cross borders.

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yepp yepp...where u from?

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I was born and raised in NYC , but my parents came here from the Balkan region in Europe. They had to take refuge in Italy , then after about a year, they were able to come to America . It was a struggle.