THE VELVET REVOLUTION: A MOMENT IN TIME

 

CONTEMPLATING THE CHANGES IN THE CZECH TOWN OF CESKY KRUMLOV DURING THE BREAKDOWN OF COMMUNISM IN 1989.

 

THE STAGE MUST BE SET TO MAKE THINGS SACRED

 

This series of works looks at the moment in Czech history, 1989, when the country threw off communism. 

 

The velvet revolution was a bloodless coup. That moment of frozen emotion when people looked around at what they had done.  Is this the future? Was the past so bad? 

Elation at destroying your oppressors... but where they oppressors? were the people mislead and where are they now?  Sentimental for the past and staring at the future.

The domino effect of revolutions - In Poland the transition from Communism to Democracy , lasted 10 years, in Hungary 10 months, in Czechoslovakia 10 days. It began with a peaceful student demonstration and ended in violence on the streets. The  first domino began an avalanche, as everyday afterwards brought more protests with more people participating. A general 2 hour strike involving all the citizens of Czech was held on Nov 27, 1989. On Nov 28 the communists sensed its defeat and agreed to give up their monopoly on political power. The first democratic elections since 1946 were held in June 1990 and bought the first completely non communist government to Czech in over 40 years. So there were over 6 months before they were officially a democracy.

 

THE LOCALS SAID

The river that runs through the town was so dirty because of sewerage and the paper factory upriver, that it would be impossible to sit by it because of the horrendous smell. It would be covered in greasy lumps and foam and an oil like slick covering it. This was only fixed because of the building of the nuclear reactor which needed clean water to function. The dirty water problem was ‘fixed’ by diverting it away from the town and dumped in a series of lakes outside the town. The sediment was then allowed to settle out. Its hard to image what state these lakes would be in the future, though they look clean enough from a distance. 

Also to clean the water in the town river , pollution caused by the paper factory, the officials built a huge pipeline bypassing the dirty water from the factory past the town and dumping it down river.

 

There is great controversy with the reactor here as it is built in the ‘Chernoble’ plan. The communist government used the excuse that coal fired stations were too dirty and nuclear would be cleaner. They built their reactor but did not shut down the coal fired stations, keeping them going to sell the excess power abroad.

In fact the Austrians hate the reactor being where it is , just over their border, where if another Cheroble type meltdown happened would shower them with nuclear waste. The Czech government finds this quite amusing, and use the threat of melt down to gain funding from Austria for maintenance of the reactor.

 

The local officials would herd the population of the town into the central square, barring the way with barricades and armed police. there the officials would deliver long boring speeches to the trapped crowds. they would speak of 5 year plans and how many weapons they had sold to Iraq. Also the great benefits of Chernoble type nuclear reactors they would be building in their neighborhood. Nobody believed the officials though, they were empty words.

 

They also told me that the last communist leader was an object of fun. he espoused such a hardline doctrine that he was mercilessly ridiculed. It was made illegal to record his speeches in an attempt to hide his ineptitude. People went ahead anyway and communism fell soon afterwards. In the squares of each town there are big ugly buildings, all the same, with restaurant plastered on them. these were built by the communists for the people. The people looked on them with disgust and amusement.

A BEAT POEM FROM CESKY

 

Jet trails sky traces dozen absent aircraft

a naturalised record of the passing

drifting slow hard moving lines

become the sky again.

Bit of a moon sliverhook

unaffected in its place

film of air column of water

floating in x’s

new europe new sky.

 

A town with a new multitude

so close but a world apart

blind to one another, even

they vanish from the view finder.

Czech women love their camel toe and

Czech people love their dogs,

like they love their children

not so many cats though.

 

Ghosts moving in a different time

occupying places talking to each other

always on a bow wave looking back.

 

Sun slowly sets, last day

shadows on the chimney stacks

reaching for the roof line

moving onto the next

even the tower is being eaten

by the shadow.

DARK LAND

Never ever remove the shackles from the dragon

a modern day meltdown

a modern St. George

gathering the beasts together,

mining the metal,

burning the sickness.

It is strange to have a Chernobyl type reactor in your backyard. hidden from sight, like an angry demon, crouching there, with I.V.s in its veins, tied down with technology. But one slip, a restraint pulled from a wrist, and the beast would roam the world,

a glowing grim reaper,  just over the hill.