Hello Goodbye!

22-11-2003

About a month ago, a number of public opinion polls suggested that the Communists enjoyed second place on the popularity ladder in the Czech Republic. When the results of the first poll were released, they were not given much importance but confirmation from a second poll conducted by a different agency, resulted in heated discussion and public debate. The country's politicians, sociologists and independent commentators were asked to analyse the situation, trying to find a logical reason why ever more Czechs would want to support a party that was responsible for forty years of oppression not so long ago.

Of course, the only calming fact was that the results of public opinion polls are always to be taken with reservation. The sample often fails to represent the population and people do not feel they have to tell the truth in polls. I was convinced that this was exactly what must have happened. Those unhappy with the current government decided to teach it a lesson by claiming they would vote for the Communists should elections take place immediately - something that was highly unlikely to occur. But a recent experience made me think twice. I went to a public screening of the German film Goodbye Lenin. In brief, it is about a single mother in the former East Germany who suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She wakes up when Germany is no longer divided and in the process of unification. Still weak and confined to her bed, doctors warn she would not survive another heart attack. News of the fall of the wall could therefore be a deadly shock to the strongly socialist mother, whose son and daughter decide to keep the news from her to save her life. I personally enjoyed the movie very much but couldn't fail to notice that situations I thought were funny did not amuse most of the audience, who were mainly students. The memories they had of the communist days were positive and they were overcome by nostalgia! A few students later on confessed to me that the movie had left them with mixed feelings. The experience they had was a sad one. "Those were the days when people supported each other and appreciated the little things in life" one of them said.

I then asked them what party they would vote for should elections be held that day and although they named non-Communist parties, their answers were far from spontaneous. It took them a while to think things over, before opting to tell me what I wanted to hear. That is when I wondered whether Czechs have in reality deep in their hearts not said "goodbye to Lenin". Could it be that a large number of them are still reminiscing about the past? You can imagine my relief when results of a more recent opinion poll, said that the social democrats had resumed their position on the popularity ladder.

22-11-2003