PRAGUE The enormous mass movement that has essentially overthrown Czechoslovak communism rose up with amazing speed. By the last week in November millions of people had participated in demonstrations across the country. Yet as recently as October 28--Czechoslovakia’s independence day--dissidents could bring only 10,000 people into the streets. These brave souls had scarcely unfurled their pro-democracy banners before truncheon-wielding police were chasing them through Prague's winding Gothic lanes. Three weeks later throngs of hundreds of thousands of people were routine in Wenceslas Square.
“Did you see the gas vans?” Claude Lanzmann asks Mrs. Michelsohn, an old German woman, in his film Shoah. Mrs. Michelsohn lived in Chelmno, 50 yards from the spot where Jews were loaded onto the vans at the Nazi extermination center. “No,” she answers at first, with a look of annoyance. Then her face registers the recognition that Lanzmann and his movie cameras will not be deflected. “Yes,” she acknowledges, she saw the vans, “from the outside. They shuttled back and forth. I never looked inside; I didn’t see the Jews in them.
Budapest—On the banks of the Danube, it is quite natural to ask whether the idea of Central Europe has been just a whim of a few intellectuals, or acquires now a new significance thanks to the aspirations for democracy that have been reawakened in many countries. The simple fact is that our perspective, whether we are Poles or Hungarians or Yugoslavs, is different from the perspective of Western Europeans, Russians, or Americans.
1. LONG TO REIGN OVER US Her. (No, not the Queen.) Ronald Reagan changed American politics; Margaret Thatcher changed British life. And she's still here, with no end in sight. But on her tenth anniversary, she is perceived as suffering from folie de grandeur, symbolized by her already immortal announcement of a recent family arrival with the words, "We are a grandmother." Her latest free market reforms of the medical and legal professions are seen as either courageous or reckless (take your pick) exercises in intellectual consistency: giving Tories a taste of her favorite medicine.
"Here once the embattled farmers stood And fired the shot heard round the world." —Hymn sung at the completion of the Battle Monument, Concord, July 4, 1837 The claim in Emerson's line is expansive. Can it be true that the shot was heard round the world—when there were no satellites, no television, no radio, no telephone? Let us see. It then took from five to six weeks for news to cross the Atlantic.
Chernobyl – The workers here called it the Red forest, an ironic political joke and an accurate description. In the months after the explosion at Chernobyl hundreds of acres of pine trees surrounding the power plant reacted to the intense radiation that had showered the area by turning red and slowly dying. All of the trees have been removed now except for one surrounded by red flags. The Nazis to hang Soviet partisans during the war, so it is a shrine and scientists have tried to keep it alive. Nearby that tree workers in huge machines continue to cart away radioactive topsoil.