Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of 1968
Photo: Ladislav Bielik aqui
At Wenceslas Square at the center of Prague, below the bullet-scarred facade of the National Museum, tens of thousands of people with transistors to their ears milled around in streets filled with crushed automobiles and pieces of masonry that had been shot down from the surrounding buildings. Walls were covered with painted slogans. Trucks draped with Czechoslovak flags rammed into the Russian tanks and the air rang with the sound of intermittent gunfire.
Standing in the crowd, I felt that this was the supreme moment of our lives. During the night of the invasion, when we lost everything, we found something that people in our world hardly dare to hope for: ourselves and each other. In all those faces, in all those eyes, I saw that we all thought and felt alike, that we all strove for the same things.
Prague resisted in every way it could. Street signs disappeared or were turned around so that the invaders were unable to find their way through the city. License plate numbers of Soviet Security cars were painted in large digits on the walls. Radio and, later, television broadcasts were transmitted from makeshift facilities that were moved from place to place, eluding the Russians. At the same time, the train carrying Russian radio station-detector equipment was lost on its way to Prague. For days it was shunted from siding to siding by Czechoslovak railwaymen. And throughout the city, hungry Russian soldiers who could not get a crumb of food or glass of water from the population wandered through streets where all the traffic signs pointed in one direction: back to Moscow.
Heda Margolius Kovály
in Under a Cruel Star – A Life in Prague 1941-1968
Translated from the Czech by Franci Epstein and Helen Epstein with the autor
Holmes & Meier, New York
© Heda Margolius Kovály, 1986