Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Does the World Need the Opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize?

Do you remember when Ronald Reagan first declared the totalitarian Soviet Union an "evil empire?" Many citizens in the Soviet Union cite that moment as the one that caused them to really think about and question their own system.

"How could that be?" I wondered,  "Everyone could see it was evil, why couldn't the people who actually live there? Why would it take an American President to make them stop and question something that was so obviously not working for participants and outsiders alike?"

Reagan said:
...I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
President Bush tried to create the same effect of waking foreign citizens out of their denial by demanding Iran, Iraq, and North Korea end their "axis of evil."  Unfortunately, President Bush seemed to be in his own self-delusion regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the time so it didn't quite have the intended effect. And it also didn't accurately reflect those three nations diplomatic actions.  They weren't in a tri-part pact.

If people get delusional, it makes sense that countries and societies can get delusional too. They are just a giant collection of individual people.  Indeed, there are delightful books written about economic self-delusion such as Tulipmania:  The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused. Another well-known form of personal delusion is addiction as described in the fiction bestseller A Million Little Pieces.

What could some national delusions be?  How about:
Debt loads?
Ethnic cleansing (World War II Germany and the Balkans and Rwanda more recently)?
Environmental degradation?
Hatred? (Middle Eastern attitudes toward Jewish People and European attitudes toward Roma)?
Extreme Paranoia and Societal Militarization (North Korea)?
Extreme Paranoia and Thugocracy? (Iran)
Nationalization of Property? (Soviet Union)
Non-Acceptance of Election Results? (Ivory Coast)
Extraordinary Corruption? (Afghanistan)
Extraordinary Use of Resources (United Arab Emirates and the United States)
Censorship and Lack of Free Expression (China)

What if someone with more credibility and less baggage than President Bush, a disinterested organization with a track record of caring, credibility, and leadership toward uplifting humanity gave the national equivalent of a 12-step intervention to a nation?  A diplomatic call to "snap out of it!"

I propose that such a yearly intervention exist. Coming from the Nobel Committee, this yearly-awarded challenge could go to the country most needing a loving intervention and reminder that your fellow humans wish the best for you and think you can and should do better.

In order to let a nation know it needs to change, this intervention could be labeled not the Nobel Prize, but the Nobel Challenge. The Nobel Challenge would be the very classy national equivalent of friends and family sending an addict to rehab. Detox, please!

 Even if countries go behind "an iron curtain," if the citizens have known about the prize beforehand and find out that their country has won the award, it becomes a kind of shorthand meaning "look long and hard at the direction your nation is headed.  We, orignators of the award, "challenge" you because we think your nation is the one potentially endangering the peace of the world. It forces debate among citizens that can't be so easily dismissed and ignored.

The Nobel Challenge could be the sort of thing that seeps change into a country at the grassroots level.  How can any one story in the media reach the North Korean people and give them the message "the entire world thinks you need a change."  For all I know, the North Korean people know that better than we do.  But do all the people of Iran? What seeps into the minds of the oppressed at the grass roots level? One big call to action might not only bring people to discuss change, but be empowered to create change.

Here's another example from my own culture where a society fails to recognize its own delusion.  There were recently stories in the news that America and the United Arab Emirates consume electricity and water in huge quantities.  The United Arab Emirates used four times as much water as Europe and four times as much electricity as the United States. These stories may have been noted for about 24 hours when they came out but most citizens of those countries would just yawn in indifference.What if the world, in the form of the Nobel Committee, said through the Nobel Challenge, "your use of resources is unsustainable, please change, your behaviour could create potential conflicts." First, my country would have a hissy fit, then we would get down to business and exceed whatever benchmark was given for change. 

So how can humanity create change rather than yawning indifference to a long-term story? Think instead how the announcement of a Nobel Prize is treated.  The tradition is institutionalized so journalists are prepared for the announcement and make sure to cover it in a significant way.  It's a tradition that is highly anticipated around the world.  It has a track record that people can discuss and debate.  It has a meaning deeper than one particular year or person or organization. Instantly, when a Nobel Prize is announced, book clubs around the world read the works written by the author cited in the literature prize, for example, and think about the author's ideas and discuss what has been held up to the light by the prize.

Why even a totalitarian nation might have a hard time keeping that news from it's people no matter how hard it tried.  It would be the equivalent of when an addict is confronted by all their family and all of their coworkers and the ability to "excuse" is stripped away. I recognize that defiance (one of the central hallmarks of an addict), may be the outcome of a dictator being challenged in this way, but the world has to shut him down sometime.

 In George Orwell's "Animal Farm," it's when the pigs take the milk and apples from the other animals and the other animals notice and don't say anything that the abuse of power continues and increases. Orwell calls it the turning point of the story.  When Chamberlain appeased Hitler with Czechoslovakia, same thing.  Indeed, an  ignored Nobel Challenge to someone like Saddam for the way he treated his citizens might have given George Bush some legitimacy for later intervention (I can't believe I just said that, I didn't believe in that military intervention one whit).

As the history of the Nobel Challenge built up, it might begin to have a preemptive performance effect before it is even given.  Jack Welch, the CEO of GE chosen by Fortune Magazine as the "Manager of the Century", was famous for the performance he got out of his company (when he took over as CEO, revenues were $26.8 billion - when he left they were $130 billion). He had a rule that he would eliminate the bottom 10% of nonperforming staff every year.  Can you imagine how extremely motivating it must have been to people to not be in that bottom 10%?  Can you imagine how motivating it would be to not have your country ever receive a Nobel Challenge?  It sounds cruel, but actual conflicts are crueler.  Just read my previous blog post for a reminder.

All managers of any sort of human enterprise know that there is an entire emotional cycle to implementing change with all kinds of foot-dragging and noise by those who hate changing.  The Nobel Challenge could be helpful in prodding those who love the status quo because it's the "devil they know." The world may have to absorb change at an even faster pace in the future.

If our species doesn't find a way to challenge the ever-expanding global abuses of power in a cost-effective, non-military way, could it be the turning point in our story?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WWII was worse for Central Europe than even our histories and memories tell us

Sometimes reading about the evil of the Holocaust it seems so over-the-top that it's all one can do to take in the enormity of all of the killing and dehumanizing that went on in the concentration camps.  Try to imagine this though, it's even worse than everyone thought.

Anne Applebaum, writing in the New York Review of Books, in an essay called "The Worst of the Madness" says that the camps may be the predominant preserved historical artifact of carnage. but much worse carnage occurred elsewhere, for example, in the killing fields of Central Europe. Those killings are less likely to be officially commemorated, remembered, or written about [probably because there is nothing to look at like photos or an actual camp].

Ms. Applebaum also argues that with two dictators, Hitler and Stalin, operating ruthlessly in the Central European theater, it accelerated and exacerbated the carnage of the other. The author argues that each side should expand their notion of guilt of what deaths they may have caused.

She says even the United States can't walk away from revising our notion of participation.  That we weren't involved in just a "Good War" as Americans like to think of it.  She suggests it was more morally ambiguous because Central Europe and the East were left to experience 45 years of totalitarianism.

I found that hard to take because I think Americans would have loved to liberate to the east of Pilsen, but deferred to the Soviets in thanks for their help.  It's true that we Americans would probably never imagine an entire region of the world getting walled off and it's inhabitants being treated like prisoners.  As an American of the next generation, reading about it all just increases my respect for all of those in Central Europe that coped, and perished, due to "The Worst of the Madness."

Thanks to David Brooks, opinion writer for the New York Times, for alerting me to this magazine essay.  He chose it as one of the best of 2010.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Journeys of Captain Oddsocks

When you decide to move to a country and want to learn all about it, one of the best things you can do is read the blogs of expatriates who are already living there.  Today I want to give a shout out to an expatriate blog about the Czech Republic that I have loved reading and that has introduced me to parts of the Czech Republic beyond Prague.

The Journeys of Captain Oddsocks is such a well-written blog.  Here's one of the posts I appreciated the most: "What and Where was the Sudetenland?"  For example, one of the things I learned from Captain Oddsocks' post that I didn't know before about the Sudetenland was the role reversal of German-speaking citizens governing the country at the time from a majority position and then all-of-a-sudden becoming the minority.  There's a similar parallel today with the Sunnis in Iraq who used to govern the country and are now getting used to a new role.  I hope it turns out better than the Sudetenland did!

I will know that I know the Czech Republic really well when I start winning Captain Oddsocks "Where the Czech?" photo contests.  Haven't won one yet!  Have you? Another post he did I totally love is "100 things about the Czech Republic."  How many items on the list did you know about? What makes you smile?  What would you suggest to him as an addition?

Yesterday, Captain Oddsocks started a series on Czechland architecture with an initial post: Baroque for Beginners.  Who can resist a name like that?  I didn't want you to miss a single entry! I recommend signing up to follow Captain Oddsocks on his blog or through Facebook.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In Karlovy Vary, Pact With Russians Raises Old Specters

The Streets of Karlovy Vary
in Western Bohemia, Czech Republic. 
It's a spa town so popular with Russians
there are direct flights.

Old memories die hard.  The New York Times asked the citizens of Karlovy Vary what they thought of the treaty signing in Prague and the building friendship between America and Russia.  It was an inspired choice since there are no communities in the Czech Republic who have more interaction with Russians on a daily basis.  Click on my title to read the article.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In Prague, you can enjoy reading the "Cafe Europa" at the Cafe Europa

Slavenka Drakulić continues her look at life after communism in the book "Cafe Europa" her sequel to “How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.” It's a great read and an honest read that rings true still 14-18 years after she wrote it.

If you think regular consumers in the West sometimes have trouble recognizing that TV advertisements and media showcase a fantasy, unobtainable lifestyle, imagine how hard it was for people exiting 40 years of communism to know what’s real and what isn’t.

Croatian novelist and essayist Slavenka Drakulić says that every Eastern and Central European formerly-communist capital expresses their longing for the perfect Europe of their imagination with a Cafe Europa.  There's one in all the major capitals; indeed, the one in Prague is spectacular.

One of the most powerful parts of her book discusses the complicity that citizens of fascist/communist countries feel having worked to sustain a system that is now on the dustheap of history. As countries like Croatia tossed aside old street names, square names, and place names to reflect the change in power from communism to democracy, citizens saw their own personal history erased at the same time as everyone glossed over how they participated. She discovers that nations as a whole, don’t look back with probing insight. When the author went to Isreal and was questioned by the citizens there about Croatia's role in the Holocaust, Ms. Drakulić realized with shock that people there were asking her questions about history that went unexamined back home. It’s hard to take responsibility, on a personal and a civic level if that isn’t part of the civic culture.

I enjoyed this book because the author beautifully explains that many of the emerging democracies infantilized under communism are actually stuck in feudal behavior as much as communist behavior. The political system may have changed for the better, but it will be years until citizens know how to work the system, rather than subvert the system (the old way of surviving) and also how to look to themselves as personally responsible.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Need for Mythic Narrative

Scratch any American and you'll find someone in love with the mythic narrative of his or her own country.  That's why I could never understand George Bush's invasion of Iraq.  He was depriving the Iraqi people of the opportunity to create their own mythic narrative to cherish as we cherish ours.

That love and nostalgia of one's story is a deep human need.  I read this New York Times story about an underappreciated photographer of Eastern European Jewish life pre-WWII with the full knowledge that I have this same need as much as anyone for romanticized mythic narrative about my own people.   

Scholar Maya Benton studied the photos which represented her parent's past and wanted to know more.  She began to look into the photographic narrative of Roman Vishniac, known for his pious poverty-stricken pictures of Eastern European Jewish life taken pre-WWII and she wondered at the specificity of his photographic focus.  As she researched, she discovered that Vishniac's view of shtetl life was too narrow and much of his best work was unpublished because it didn't fit the requirements of the mythic narrative being constructed.

Who knows what romantic notions I hold about the mythic narrative of my own country that may be selective rememberings?  But as Ms. Benton says, "the fuller picture is so much more interesting." She continues, "Even the selection of what Vishniac chose to publish now seems, broadly, like a distortion. “It’s as if we took pictures of homeless people in New York and then the city fell into the sea, and 50 years from now people looked at those photos and thought, That’s what New York was.”  Click on my title to read the whole article and to see a selection of Mr. Vishniac's photography of Eastern European Jewish life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Forgotten Transports of Czech Jews

Deported Czech Jews
working as conscripted laborers
in Estonia
I haven't yet been to Terezin, the concentration camp that is frequently visited by Prague tourists as a day trip out of the city.  If there is one experience that tells the story of Czech Jews, visiting Terezin and seeing it for oneself has been the single event that most people interested in Czech history have experienced.

Now a new and intensively-researched film documents the little-known stories of what happened to Czech Jews during the Holocaust.  Filmmaker Lukas Pribyl, is a project obviously close to his heart due to his family's history, has culled photos from survivors and relatives of both sides of the story to create a photographic narrative of what happened for us to see almost as if we were there.

To read more about his new film, click on my title to access the story in the New York Times. Does anyone know if it's been shown in Prague yet?  Have you seen it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Discovering a Prejudice Against Germans I didn't even know I had

The Czechs had a pretty horrific 20th century. First, it was the Austrian-Hungarian empire, then the Nazis came, and the Soviets. You'd think Czechs would harbor a grudge. Not so. While every Czech I met knew their history, Czechs seem not to devote a whit of space in their heads to grudges against Germans or Russians.

Conventional wisdom says the opposite of love is not hatred but apathy; that would describe the Czech attitude toward Russians. The Russians left only 20 years ago but they're just never talked about much. Sometimes it seems the Ruskies were never there, and evidence of their being there can only be found in traces, such as the Czech habit of not smiling on the subway for fear of giving your neighbors something to report.

I was surprised though to discover Czech open hearts toward German people. But "how can you trust them?" I'd ask. "Don't you worry the same thing could happen again, where Germany tries to take over all of Europe and make everyone miserable and/or dead?" "Nah," my Czech friends and students would say. "They're not like that."

I always wondered how the Czechs could say that with such confidence. How could they be so sure? Didn't my country have to come over to Europe twice and bail everyone out because of how the Germans behaved? If it happened not just once, but twice in the last 100 years, didn't that mean that deep in the heart of every German there was a blustering Imperialistic Nazi hibernating inside? Over and over again, I heard Czechs negate that thought.

It wasn't just Czechs who had an open mind and heart. While I was living in Prague, I entertained some friends from Israel. The lady discussed making her first visit to Germany to make her peace with the German people. She was content with moving on. What? A Jewish person has such incredible capacity to forgive and trust? Incredible!

I never understood what people were seeing and feeling about Germans that I wasn't until I went to hear Andrew Bacevich, an American professor of international relations at Boston University and the author of "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism" speak at the Wisconsin Book Festival. He and two other learned professors were describing how countries that pursue empire are doing so rather than look inward and reforming themselves. I don't know if he meant this, but I got the idea while listening to his talk that pursuing empire is a country's version of addiction, a non-conscious expression of pain and harm toward other populations so as not to feel or reform ourselves.

After the talk, I asked all three professors separately, "Okay, if the way we Americans are living now is all about Empire building, who then offers us the model of how we are to live?" Each professor commented on what an interesting question that was and that no one had every asked it (yea me!). Andrew Bacevich then answered without hesitation that "the Germans are our example. They have no interest in empire building whatsoever."

Bacevich made me realize I was operating on 65-year-old information. It wasn't fair to judge the Germans of today against the Germans of yesterday. I needed to update my vision of them as a people and open my heart as countless Europeans and my Jewish friends had already done.

When I went to Berlin, all those monuments documented a dark past from which the nation was recovering. Building monuments and talking about the crimes that had been committed in their name is an acceptance of responsibility. They are choosing to deny denial. One of my friends from Italy told me, "if only my country had learned as much from its mistakes as the Germans have."

It made me think. Is my country accepting responsibility for the things that we've done wrong? Are we ready to discuss them out-loud? Are we able to discuss our past mistakes? One of my U.S. Senators told me if Americans thought the Abu Ghraib photos were bad, the ones not shared in public were much, much worse. If we don't prosecute the alleged abuses and torture done in our name, doesn't that make every American responsible for them? If we choose not to talk about them or acknowledge them, it means we approve, cause we'd rather live in denial. I don't want to live in denial.

I also don't want to operate on 65-year-old information. Heck, if people didn't update their visions of each other, we'd all be worrying about Scandinavians looting and pillaging ala the Vikings!

Look at Iranian leadership. They are operating on a paranoia developed from 55-year-old information when the CIA overthrew their leader and they've been overreacting ever since.

I vow to open my heart to German people and look at them as people completely and wholly new to me. I know nothing about them and my mind is now an open slate.

You may be interested in these other posts:

Understanding Iran: The Power of One Graphic Novel called Persepolis 

Recommended Reading for Thoughtful Americans: "The Limits of Power" by Andrew J. Bacevich

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jeden Svet: One World '09

This is the 200th post on my blog! Since what I like to blog about is cross-cultural issues between America and the Czech Republic, it seems appropriate to devote my 200th post to celebrating the Jeden Svet '09 Film Festival now occurring here in Prague and outlying cities.

You know how there are some things you only do when you're out of town and aren't so harried? I realized there was a perfectly exciting film festival near my home in America and I never got around to going. By all reports, the fledging Beloit International Film Festival in Beloit, Wisconsin was fantastic. It was only 17 miles from my house. Here I am, out-of-town, so to speak, and I finally got off my butt and went to see some movies!

This is the 11th year of this film festival devoted to human rights. There are 120 documentaries from over 40 countries. In 2009, the festival has a wonderful subtheme celebrating 20 years of Eastern and Central European democracy in film. Indeed, the festival trailer (which you can link through by clicking on the title of my post) shows former Czech President Vaclav Havel helping in the maternity ward as a new generation of Czechs, born in freedom, arrive in the world. The Velvet Generation comes of age. What will they do with their freedom?

And as I looked around at each venue, it was the young people who had shown up for the films. The first movie I attended, directed by a Canadian, was called "Letters to a President." It showcased the cheap populism of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. People in Iran write him over 10 million letters a year asking him to solve their problems. Every letter is answered, which on the face of it, sounds like responsive government. It came across though as him setting himself up as a Messiah-like figure and the people, many of whom are lacking a decent education, being grateful for any little crumb. Not educating the populace is quite often in the interests of world leaders.

I also went to see "The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia" and "Paper Heads." "Paper Heads" is an especially useful movie for expatriates and young people to see because it shares what life was like under communism in the Czech Republic. Watching the movie, you can see how if you were a Czech back then, when the West had sold you out at Munich, and the Soviets were the ones that liberated you from the Nazis if you lived in Prague, communism just didn't seem like the threat we saw it as in the West. The Soviets probably saved your life.

Once communism was in place though, it was completely inhuman to those who objected. It's hard to look back and think of all the angry, nasty history that occurred here. It just doesn't square with the beauty I see around me every single day.

The festival continues until March 19th.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Three Hours in Berlin

No, I did not tell them it should read "Welcome TO Berlin."

The Brandenburg Gate
In the strange logic peculiar to governments, several of my TEFL classmates and I needed to go to the Czech Embassy in Berlin to do paperwork to allow us to stay exactly where we are in the Czech Republic.

"Don't get into any trouble," our guide said,
"since your passports are all back at the Embassy.

It seems odd to ask thousands of foreigners such as my classmates and myself to help warm the planet by requiring a drive out-of-country four hours each way all in the name of filling out three forms. But I, for one, am willing to put up with quirky governmental requirements if it allows me to work in the Czech Republic, plus go on a delightful trip to Berlin with my compadres.

Actually, being in Berlin was a bit sobering. We had three hours of "liberty" while our paperwork was processed. The Czech Embassy is in old East Berlin. We set out on foot to see the sights from there.

In three hours, we saw three commemorations of shameful acts of the German government. If someone comes to my country's capital and has three hours there, please dear God, I pray that it will always be inspirational.

First, we saw the Brandenburg Gate. That's the inspirational part of what we saw. If it looks familiar, it's because it's probably one of the most recognizable symbols of Europe. President Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton have all spoken at this site. Reagan's words were probably the most powerful:
"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
We walked over to the Tiergarden and realized where we were standing was exactly where the wall had been. It was so obviously insane that this large united city was divided there for decades. I found it unfathomable. Yet when the wall was up, I found the idea of it ever coming down unimaginable.
We noticed a giant new memorial and wandered over. None of us knew anything about it so we started to explore. It's called The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It went up in 2005. We learned later that there was a museum underground to explain it. We missed the museum because we came from the Brandenburg Gate (like I assume the majority of tourists would) and the entrance was in the opposite corner.
I couldn't imagine a more solemn theme but the design of the memorial at first brought out the playfulness in everyone. I know that's not the reaction the architect was seeking - but all of those blocks of stone cried out for tag or hide-and-seek.
The stones get larger and larger
as you enter, eventually engulfing you.
But as we spent time among the stones, the feeling of being buried underground, beneath layers and layers of ash was overwhelming and oppressive. The memorial made it's point.

It's not everyday you see the word homosexual
in a street sign.

We assumed this was
pointing to a memorial for

The Murdered Homosexuals of Europe.

I felt my usefulness
since none of these young people
would have known what the giant banners
with the word "Stasi" all over them
referred to: The German Secret Police!
It was a museum in the actual headquarters
of the Stasi describing how the
East German Government
continually spied on it's own citizens.

Before coming to the Czech Republic,
I did not realize it wasn't just the Soviets
who invaded during the Prague Spring.
It was all of Czecho's neighbors, like the GDR, too.

Trying to escape meant death.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"An Iron Curtain has descended"

Driving through Missouri is a pleasure because the glaciers did not make it down this far from the North to flatten the earth. All the county roads are hilly and curvy. Walt, my Couchsurfing host, told me about a terrific one, Road WW, that I should use to arrive at my next destination. I felt like I was in a car commercial, such was the pleasure of the drive!

Just 30 miles from Columbia, Missouri, where daughter #2 goes to university, is the charming small town of Fulton, Missouri. It looks like the kind of community that would be terrific for raising children. It's small enough to be safe for riding bikes all over town but with intellectual stimulation for the community from the local college.

The Winston Churchill Memorial

It was here that the local institution of higher learning, Westminster College, took advantage of having a Missouri native son in the White House, to see if they could finagle Winston Churchill as a speaker for their annual address on international relations. President Harry Truman wrote a handwritten note on the bottom of the invitation telling Mr. Churchill that he would introduce him. Winston promptly accepted.

In 1946, in this small town in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill named and described what was happening to Eastern and Central Europe after WWII. It was forever to be known as the "Iron Curtain" speech.

This is the actual hard copy of Winston Churchill's speech describing "the iron curtain" that had descended over the ancient capitals of Central and Eastern Europe. It's impossible for me to look at the page without reading it mentally in my best Winston Churchill imitation. How about you?

Winston Churchill's life experience is shared through the exhibits. A recurring theme is the ability to foresee what would happen before others could.

The exhibit makes the point again and again that no Czech was present
when the Munich agreement was negotiated
between Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler.

Which immediately begs the question: what if one had been?
Would the outcome have been different?
Or would that poor Czech and his descendants have had to live with that?
What do you think?

It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway --
this was not the West's finest hour.

What is that quotation?
"Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it."
The museum described that when Churchill assumed leadership of his country,
it was exhausted by war and broke.
He had to decide if he could afford troops on the ground in Iraq
or mere influence. He accepted reality and chose influence.

To commemorate this important speech, Westminster College administration and trustees, pursued importing and reassembling an English church designed by the great Christopher Wren to memorialize the wisdom of Winston Churchill. There were so many churches damaged in the Blitz that the English could not restore them all and were happy to let this one go.

The stones, while marked, became all jumbled when they were used as ballast in the ship's hold coming over (using them as ballast lowered the shipping cost). Then they were jumbled a second time when they were transported across country. Walt's uncle was the lead stone mason on the project. He had the job of puzzling which stone went where.

Winston Churchill's granddaughter created an additional commemoration entitled "Breakthrough" utilizing a segment of the Berlin Wall.

The West German side

The East German side lacking any individual expression

Winston Churchill is my hero so I can't recommend this visit enough. I'm excited to know that I haven't read everything he has published. His writing gives me strength and inspires me.
Great leaders who have followed Winston Churchill to this site include Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, British Prime Ministers Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and Sir John Major, Polish President Lech Walesa, and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Touring this site takes about three hours. Admission is $6. I would like to recommend a lively restaurant downtown with great value. A local told me about it. It's called Bek's.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My History with Czechs (part three)

One of the delights of knowing Czechs back in 1992, was hearing stories about Czecho love for Americans thanks to Patton's Third Army. An American man who had the pleasure of being one of the first Americans representatives in western Czecho after the Velvet Revolution gave a speech at my Rotary Club about what a privilege, an absolute utter privilege, it was to be one of the first Americans accompanying the American ambassador into Plzen when truth could be spoken for the first time.

All the Czechs greeted the official party with fantastic enthusiasm along the roadside waving flags and smiling. It was a love fest. All sorts of hidden American souvenirs came out of hiding from Czech attics and garages, even Jeeps and tanks, because the Czechs were not allowed to say that the Americans had done the liberating of Plzen in WWII -- not the Red Army. Here was the proof!

Little Lenka said Czechs knew it was a lie but that is what the Soviets demanded new generations be taught. She said one thing that proved to young people that it was not the Soviets who liberated Plzen is that the Soviets could never provide a decent explanation for who all the black people were in pictures from that time (American soldiers).

I love those stories. All of it makes me reverently proud of my country.
Travel Sites Catalog All Traveling Sites Expat Women—Helping Women Living Overseas International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory expat Czech Republic website counter blog abroadWho links to me? Greenty blog