No nostalgia among children of former Communist leaders

16-11-2004

Wednesday is the 17th November - 15 years after the huge demonstrations in Prague that marked the beginning of the end for the communist system in Czechoslovakia. So today we bring you a special programme instead of our usual One on One. In yesterday's broadcast you had a chance to hear the children of former dissidents talk about their lives then and now. Today we talk to two different women who used to be on the other side of the fence - their parents were prominent Communist officials before 1989.

November 1989November 1989 The totalitarian regime was brought down to a great extent by students who demonstrated in the streets and created pressure on the system to accept democratic changes. The generation of students from 1989 has now become the leading force in the decision making process here in the Czech Republic.

But how do the children of once mighty communist bosses live today? How has the system change affected their thoughts and lives?

Eva Janouskova, now 49, is the daughter of the former Czechoslovak Communist Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal while the father of Jana Liegertova was a successful communist lawyer and chairman of the Bar Association. Both were brought up with all the privileges that belonging to the party elite brought and to believe in communism.

Eva Janouskova:

"I was born to a family where both of my parents were really convinced about their opinions. I had a very happy childhood and everything seemed to me quite clear and obvious then. My grandfather died in a concentration camp, my mother was from a very poor family. My opinions started to develop only as I grew up, mostly when I was at university, and then later on I learned a lot from my husband. But times were still different then. I think that even better informed people who didn't believe in the regime could not imagine that in the divided world we were living in, anything could change."

So does Jana believe that her father's trust in communism was sincere?

"I know that he believes that communism is a noble system, that it is a noble thought that nobody should go without, that everybody should have house, food, money. Nobody should live on the street...."

Most of the former communist politicians including Eva's father, did not change their views on the basic principals of the Communist system.

"I think that my father will always remain left wing because he was brought up like that and he belongs to a certain generation. But on the other hand, many people would confirm that he has always viewed the world from the economic point of view in a modern way. So even today he still thinks the same way without any rancor."

Jana was only 13 when communism collapsed, and her opinions differ considerably from her father's view. On the other hand she still feels that there is something justifiable in her parents' beliefs.

November 1989November 1989 "Well I think that the idea that everybody should have enough, and have a comfortable life, is a very good idea, and that's the way it should be. Nobody should be poor and nobody should suffer just because they don't have money. But I think that regime was a bit extreme. Totalitarian regimes when people are suppressed can't work, and will never work."

Jana would not like to go back to the old system, but she does feel that the new order has its limitations.

"Well, I don't think that system can make you happy. And I think, if you win a lottery - hell, you know - you can be very happy in capitalism. There are different kinds of people; some people value security; they want to have their life secure. They want to know they will live in their apartment for next 20 years, they will have their 5.000 pay a month and everything will be the same and OK. I like to have my freedom; I like to read whatever I want. You know; freedom of information is a big benefit nowadays. Also, you can do many things. The horizon widened considerably. But at the same time people just chase after money, and life is very stressful under capitalism."

Eva has managed to adjust to the new system with little difficulty, and has become a very successful fashion designer. But she denies that her high-flying carrier might have been helped by her prominent origin.

"Well, my position as a fashion designer is the very opposite of what I grew up with. Of course, my father was prime minister for quite a long time, in the 80s, but I wanted to be perceived as an autonomous person so I had to do something very different. And believe me; no woman in the whole world will put on your dress if it doesn't suit her, just because you are someone. I first studied law and then also taught it, but because I liked fashion design so much I decided to quit my original job later. So I believe that everything I acquired I earned."

So does Jana Liegertova accept the notion that she was one of communism chosen children?

"Oh God, I was not preferred at all! And actually, if communism was still here nowadays, my life would suck. Because I would have to go to university, to the university that my parents would choose, I would probably get in, and my life would be - you know - very boring."

What you've heard are only two examples of children of once prominent establishment figures. But many of their counterparts would probably say something similar. Although they were born to privilege, in the detached and distorted world of the old elite, perhaps it was nothing more than a gilded cage.

16-11-2004

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