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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Where to grasp the country's recent history

WITH the Slovak Communist Party (KSS) winning seats in the new parliament, memories of the bygone communist era have been refreshed in the minds of citizens.
For some, the years under the communist regime were golden times (zlaté časy) when people were equal to each other (rovný s rovným). Others can never forget the cruelty (krutosť) the regime brought, or the fear (strach) under which they lived.
The KSS's return brings the images of that period and its official language back to the political scene after 12 years of absence. However, people never stopped discussing the period, comparing their lives then and now.

WITH the Slovak Communist Party (KSS) winning seats in the new parliament, memories of the bygone communist era have been refreshed in the minds of citizens.

For some, the years under the communist regime were golden times (zlaté časy) when people were equal to each other (rovný s rovným). Others can never forget the cruelty (krutosť) the regime brought, or the fear (strach) under which they lived.

The KSS's return brings the images of that period and its official language back to the political scene after 12 years of absence. However, people never stopped discussing the period, comparing their lives then and now.

In the streets, one could easily overhear a conversation ending with the notorious exclamation: "This would never happen during communism!" ("Toto by sa za komunizmu nikdy nestalo!")

Of course, not everyone thinks things were better back then. You might also hear a deep sigh and, "Thanks God we are not under communism anymore." ("Vďaka Bohu, že už nie sme v komunizme.")

Under communism, the entire Eastern Block was ruled from the Soviet headquarters in Moscow, and its countries lived with the promise of better times ahead. This period is still fresh in people's minds, and although the public talks about it, it has not yet become part of the cultural discourse.

Do not expect any exhibitions presenting this part of the country's past, even though they might help those from the West and younger Slovaks fully grasp the meaning of that period.

Also, since the issue is still "young", there is a fear that public discussion of that time could hurt some people's feelings. Perhaps because of that, museums have not yet collected a significant amount of material covering that part of the country's history. They feel more time is needed.

"We plan to exhibit posters and other communism-related objects in three years," says Viliam Karacsony, the curator of the Bratislava City Museum.

However, there is already plenty of information available on the Internet. You can find dozens of web pages devoted to this issue, just by typing the word 'komunizmus' in the zoznam.sk or google.com search engines. Additionally, one can visit memorabilia shops scattered across the country, which sell old banknotes depicting communist leaders, stamps and postcards showing Slovak towns as they were during the communist period.

In Bratislava, such items can be found in Album at Lazaretská 11, Zberateľ (Collector) at Račianska 17 and Barasa at Májkova 2. In the western town of Nitra look for memorabilia in Filatélia at Štúrova 14. Central Zvolen has Katalóg at Námestie SNP 37 (SNP Square) at Hlavná 21.

Shops are usually open from 9:00 to 17:00 and assistants often speak a foreign language.

Foreign Affairs is a bi-weekly column devoted to helping expats and foreigners navigate the thrills and spills of life in Slovakia.
The next Foreign Affairs will appear on stands October 28, Vol. 8, No. 41.

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