I have learned a lot about communism during my stays here. Each time I learn something new and more interesting to me. The history books in the US talk about it of course from one side. It's just interesting living in a post-communist country where people still remember communism and can talk about it and the differences. It's also interesting living here where there still are some people, although few, who liked it better under communism, which is something you'd never read in an American textbook. As I was sharing this all with my mom on the phone last night, she said I should blog about it, thinking that many others would be interested, too.
For instance, our heat kicked on the other night. We had never set it originally and assumed that it must have gotten cold enough below whatever temperature it was set at. (By the way, still working on learning Celsius, so I have a little conversion chart I wrote down so that I know the temp in our house!) I had said something along those lines to someone, and I discovered that under communism, people didn't turn on their own heat. The buildings were set to come on automatically after three days below freezing. Some friends here who were missionaries in Lithuania were talking how they would go to bed with coats and hats on, just praying that it would stay cold enough so that the heat would eventually come on. They couldn't set it or regulate it.
Also, a Hungarian was sharing with me that she remembers thinking that the dictator was such an awesome man that everyone looked up to. She said that she remembers being mesmerized by everything he did and said, thinking he was just the most wonderful person. It wasn't until after communism fell that her parents informed her of all the bad things that he did and said. They couldn't tell her before because you just never knew who was around and could hear what you were saying.
Part of this new-found knowledge is due to the 1956 Revolution holiday next Tuesday in Hungary. I had asked some Hungarian friends what the day is about and what it means. It was when communism almost fell. It took almost 35 years after that for the communist regime to actually fall, but because of the uprising in 1956, Hungary was on its way to being a "free" people much sooner than some of their neighboring communist countries. One Hungarian told me that it was because of that revolution that Hungary is doing so much better after communism than its neighbors to the east, who are still greatly struggling with the aftermath of it all. They were ready and prepared for this all much sooner.
Every time we ride the bus into Budapest, we pass Szobor Park (literally "statue park"). After communism fell, they took down every statue, banner, plaque, etc. that was a remnant or reminder of the communist regime. They wanted to preserve some of the key statues and monuments for posterity, realizing that there would eventually be interest, so they set up this place, just a few kilometers outside of Budapest. It is quite interesting to visit and learn about. There are stories posted as well as pictures of Lenin and Stalin. Again, it's so weird to read and hear things from a different perspective. It all just fascinates me and makes me see why my brother is the biggest history buff ever!
Perhaps some of you remember reading or hearing about all of the riots that took place here last year at this time. I know I do because my ears would always perk up to any news about Hungary. It was also because at this time last year that Kevin and I were seriously praying and considering coming over here. But those riots were because it was the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution. Currently, everything downtown near that area is barricaded with policemen patrolling. They are just prepared in case the same thing happens this year. I really don't think so, but by law, I must carry my passport and visa with me at all times, just in case.