Exchanging pigs for people
"It was raining, and all the pigs were clean, but the people were filthy." This line comes from a fable by Lichtenberg from the 18th century. Thirty years ago, the occupying armies brought a symbolic rain which gradually washed the pigs clean and washed the people away.
Gustav Husák's [post invasion] regime made a quiet treaty with its subjects: "Shut up, keep your eyes cast down to the floor, attend First of May parades and we will let you survive." For private peace and a painful public life, people paid with their honor. People lost their faith, believed that heaven had fallen apart, and most of them accepted the whole humiliating business. Tens of thousands of quiescent comrades were working hard to follow Big Brother's example, straining to believe that two and two makes five. Tons of paper were filled with meaningless writings, millions of aimless meetings were called. But nobody believed in it, and only the truly stupid people who were trying to convince them of the lies were unaware of this disbelief.
In November 1989, the communist Dream was destroyed. Pigs are again filthy, and people appear clean. But recent history has shown that Circe [the dangerous enchantress from Homer's Odyssey] still lives in our midst: dangerous forces still exist for turning people into pigs again. So, if today is only partly cloudy, it doesn't mean that we won't have rain again. After the experience of the normalization period, one hopes we would know that bravery has a cost."l
Martin Komárek, Mladá fronta Dnes, August 21, 1998
Memories that cannot be erased
"I was 12 years old at the time, and I was at camp. We heard over the radio that we had been occupied, and our adult counsellors said that we should keep calm, nothing was really happening. I was too young to be able to express any real experiences or emotions. But it has left a big stain on the development of our political consciousness and sense of nationhood, because a violent power cut off our attempt to give socialism a human face. The fact that we made this attempt cannot be taken away from us, and it's a symbol of August 21st. On the one side, socialism with a human face, and on the other, a power which feared it. August always evokes in me the death of young people which were peacefully resisting violence."
Milan Ftáčnik, vice chairman of Slovakia's reformed communist SDĽ party, August 21, 1998