I live on a beautiful square in Prague called Namesti Miru:
Each day and night I cross the square between my home to the tram stop.
I have a recurring thought: what conversations has this square witnessed? On its park benches, on the steps of the beautiful church or even between passers-by on the sidewalks. I think especially about the Communist era.
A colleague recently told me how his father’s friend told a political joke only under the condition that my colleague and his father adjourn to the basement to hear it. Imagine the paranoia of living under such a regime.
At Namesti Miru, did people engage in small talk, knowing more controversial topics would put you under suspicion or worse? Did they use the anonymity of the place to pass secrets? Or engage in longer, more substantial conversations away from the prying ears of the Party?
I’m reluctant to ask my Czech friends. I suspect in any place where some unspeakable past events are fresh on the minds of its citizens, there is reluctance to go there. And that the answers will only be revealed to me slowly, on the basis of gradual, growing trust.
And as bad as it was to be a Czech as a Communist subject, consider just the recent atrocities that we witnessed. Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Sudan, Rwanda, the list goes on. These populations are surely traumatized in ways the rest of us cannot know. I can only spend so much time thinking about this before I get too upset and depressed.
On a brighter note, back to my beloved square and the secrets it holds. Any guesses what it wants to tell us?