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Posts Tagged ‘anniversary’

There’s been a falling domino effect with a succession of reminiscences and reportages about the 20th anniversary of the extraordinary second half of the year in 1989 which saw the very public end of most of eastern Europe’s communist regimes. Those events marked the end of a period of history in Europe, a division drawn in (geo)graphically following the speed of invading forces into area occupied by the Axis powers at the end of the Second World War. 

I was lucky, I suppose, to be living in Hungary in that year and seeing some of that momentum from “inside”, and it is almost nostalgic now seeing the footage and the hearing the voices of twenty years ago. Memories cannot be relied on not to filter, but I can recall the annual influx of tourists from East Germany to holiday by Lake Balaton in Hungary, many in order to meet up with friends or relatives from West Germany, and then the unprecedented build up of those people, many simply camping out in August and September to see what would happen – whether the rumours of a change of heart by the Hungarian government regarding access to Austria via the border crossings would materialise.

It did, of course, and the cavalcade of Trabants and Wartburgs in Hegyeshalom to Nickelsdorf was the moment at which the tightly-laced Iron Curtain unthreaded itself. The Hungarians already had much more liberal and frequent travel opportunities West, but for most other citizens of Warsaw Pact countries, this was forbidden.  For some, such as those suffering the lunacy of the final years of the Ceausescu regime in Romania (where the State had created a pathology of paranoia and schizophrenia at various levels of society) even travel to other communist countries was out of the question.

The Hungarian Communists simply voted themselves gleefully out of existence (well, actually, they re-branded themselves) and set in motion constitutional reform which would see the the digging up and veneration of the leaders of the 1956 uprising, the first democratic elections in eastern Europe, in the spring of 1990, and the packing up and taking back to Russia by the Soviet Army of all traces of occupation (including, literally, the kitchen sinks from the barracks). At last, Hungary could aim properly at being just like Austria!  In those months, its neighbours all did the end of communism in their own ways, and for some it almost did them in. December is the month of remembering the organised chaos of the Romanian revolution, and of the revelations about just how mad that regime was. Then the Romanians were free to aim properly at being just like Italy.

For all that it was an exciting period of history, my personal December 1989 revolution began on the 18th in a maternity clinic in Budapest’s soon-to-be-fashionable 9th district, with the birth of my first daughter, Amy.

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