Passing through Moscow and Getting to Know Prague

Luis Rondón Paz

A tram stop outside one of the metro entrances in the big building on the right.

HAVANA TIMES – I left Havana on Friday July 8th at 2:45 pm with a tremendous hysteria, shared with part of the group of Cubans traveling abroad for the first time.

The plane we boarded to Moscow was of immense size. Inside it was divided by two areas: first class and economy, the latter with 9 seats per row, and each equipped with audiovisual technology that would ensure passenger entertainment during the 11 hours of travel.

When we arrived at Moscow airport at nine o’clock on Saturday morning, we moved almost two kilometers to board another plane to the city of Prague in the Czech Republic. This second trip lasted two hours and thirty-five minutes. Airport departure was hardly felt, but the landing was awkward. The duration of the maneuver as the plane descended gave me the feeling of arriving at Santiago de Cuba in the middle of one of those peculiar products of turbulence and bad weather.

The plaza outside the National Museum of Prague.

Finally, with the grace of fate, we reached our destination without further complications.

There we were greeted by one of the staff of the NGO that sponsored the scholarship in Prague. This person worked out our lodging, gave us a card to use in public transport, and a SIM card for each member of the course to be reachable because the workshop exercises are to take place on the street.

In addition, each student received a budget that covers the cost of breakfast and dinner. Lunch was guaranteed by the organizers of the intensive workshop.

As we arrived very tired from the trip, we had Saturday and Sunday off to get used to the time change and to seize the opportunity to explore the city, which we did with the help of a Cuban resident in Prague, who informed us where we could find literally anything at very low prices.

Memorial a los jóvenes que se inmolaron como protesta contra el comunismo: Jan Palach y Jan Zajic en la Plaza de Wenceslao. Praga
The memorial to the two young men who set themselves on fire in protest of the communist regime back in 1969.

The next day we got on the subway that took us to the very center of the city, there we walked around the plaza around the National Museum, a place that at a different time in history (1969) saw the death of two young men who set themselves on fire in protest against the communist regime .

Years later that same building was witness to the greatest political transition in the history of the Czech Republic: The fall of communism in 1989.

I took a ride on the tram, which for me only existed in magazines, movies and countries like England. I was amazed with the architecture of the city and its civic culture: people do not speak loudly, there isn’t a dirty street, the whole area we visited that day was covered with trees. I didn’t see a beggar on the street and felt safe.

Of course the idea of excellent public transport, always on time, is an issue that impressed the Cubans. Another thing that caught my attention was almost not seeing any Police on the street. I also learned about the laws that  ensure the protection of animals and nature, which exceeded my expectations.

To be continued…

8 thoughts on “Passing through Moscow and Getting to Know Prague

  • If you read the wikipedia entries you will find that both of them not only remained members of the Communist Party, but rose to the top positions. They lost these positions solely due to outside intervention, as they had broad support within their own parties.

  • My knowledge of Czechoslovakia commenced by knowing two MI6 agents in the post Second World War years. Both had fled the Nazis (National Socialists) and traveled to the UK where both became fighter pilots in the RAF wearing the Czech shoulder flashes. One, who had been the Czech 100 metres free style champion was shot at in his Spitfire which went on fire, he managed to get back to a landing strip in England and bailed out at only 200 ft. (estimate by witnesses), his parachute ‘roman candled’ and he landed on concrete breaking all the bones up to and including his pelvis. Eventually when as he put it, he had been “repaired”, he was 5’9″ tall rather than the original 6’1″.
    The second one was a man of astonishing agility with a wonderful sense of humour and much joie-de-vivre, he was awarded the DFC.
    Both these agents risked their lives by regularly crossing the Iron Curtain to operate within Eastern Europe and both fortunately survived as they were not caught – the penalty applied by the Russians was to be shot.
    Although both had fled Nazism, they had an equally deep detestation of Communism and the bondage in which the USSR held their original homeland. They had a deep appreciation of freedom and the opportunity to serve both the UK and their native country.

  • and rebelled.

  • The Czech successor to the communist party of Czechoslavakia is called the “Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia”. It has run in elections since 1990, retaining a relatively consistent share of support. In the last election it won 33 seats out of 200.

  • If I recall correctly, the Communist Party is outlawed in the Czech Republic. Funny thing to do for those who claim to value freedom of individual choice. I was in Czechoslovakia for some time in 1986 staying with the family of an Czech engineer my wife and I had met in Egypt. I had only a superficial view, not speaking the language, but it did not seem to reflect at all what I had been taught to expect in the West.

  • exactly:

    The Velvet Revolution ended 41 years of authoritarian Communist rule in
    Czechoslovakia in 1989. It started a week after the Berlin Wall fell
    when Czechoslovak riot police brutally suppressed a student-led
    pro-democracy protest in Bratislava, causing massive public outrage. The
    people of Czechoslovakia came out in droves to call for democracy…

  • Although the imposed communist tyranny in Prague did not fall until 1989 when the Soviet Empire imploded, the people of Czechoslovakia had an ardent wish for freedom and rose up in the revolution of 1968 led by Alexander Dubcek.
    Inevitably Fidel Castro as an opponent of freedom and as a counter-revolutionary had to express his view of the revolution and its purposes saying:

    “certain measures were taken such as the establishment of a bourgeois form of freedom of the press. This means the counterrevolution and the exploiters the very enemies of socialism, were granted the right to write and speak freely against socialism.”

    The fears expressed by Fidel Castro about freedom of the press being a threat to the imposition of socialism refelected those expressed by ‘Che’ Guevara who said:

    “We must do away with all newspapers. A revolution cannot be accomplished with freedom of the press.”

    This fear of freedom of the press led to the Castro regime terminating all private media in Cuba and assuming total control resulting in Cuba being one of the ten most censored countries in the world. It reflects the paranoia of communist regimes that if the people have access to full knowledge they will reject their dictatorial masters.

Comments are closed.