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Old 10-04-2012, 09:56 PM
 
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I am interested in first hand accounts of travel and expereince in Soviet Block countries by foreigners from the West. Anybody?
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Old 10-05-2012, 01:57 PM
 
Location: Chicagoland
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You might be interested in the case of Gene Deitch. He is an American animator who moved to Czechoslovakia in 1959 to work on, among other things, the Tom & Jerry cartoons (no kidding). He has remained in Prague ever since, and wrote a book about his experiences as "the only free American living in Communist Czechoslovakia." His site is here:

Occasional Deitch 2010
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Old 10-05-2012, 04:38 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josef K. View Post
You might be interested in the case of Gene Deitch. He is an American animator who moved to Czechoslovakia in 1959 to work on, among other things, the Tom & Jerry cartoons (no kidding). He has remained in Prague ever since, and wrote a book about his experiences as "the only free American living in Communist Czechoslovakia." His site is here:

Occasional Deitch 2010
Nice. Thanks
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Old 10-06-2012, 01:08 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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I spent three months in Romania, in 1968, which was the early years of the Ceausescu regime. I had very little money, so little that I had to learn to sneak into the youth hostel at night. Life then was not so bad. There was no homelessness, no hunger, no crime. Everyone had a job and had more income than the availability of anything to buy, so leisure activities were common, like holiday travel and dining out. But the currency was non-convertible, so imported goods were non-existent.

As a visitor, I was left alone, I had a renewable 30-day visa, and as far as I know, I was free to come and go and do what I pleased. My Romanian acquaintances were free to associate with me, without suspicion. I did not detect any particular fear among the people I knew, concerning any police state brutality, and I rarely saw any kind of police presence in the streets. People were as well educated as their talents allowed, and were free to change jobs and move about, and could get visas to travel to neighboring Soviet Bloc countries. The large Romany population seemed to fly under the radar, relatively free to operate cottage economies outside the official sanctions, and would bring produce into town to compete with the market.

Part of the time I was there, I had access to a car, and I traveled to every corner of the country with my Romanian girl friend, as well as getting to know her family and the circumstances of their lives.
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Old 10-06-2012, 10:15 AM
 
Location: Chicagoland
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Interesting. I've been told that the 1970s were the "good period" in Romania (before Ceausescu went crazy).
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Old 10-06-2012, 11:03 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Josef K. View Post
Interesting. I've been told that the 1970s were the "good period" in Romania (before Ceausescu went crazy).

C'mon people.
That's not what Rebel wants to hear.
Not THIS kind of stories.
He wants to hear about the horrors, the slums, labor camps - that kind of stuff.
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Old 10-06-2012, 12:15 PM
 
Location: Chicagoland
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Originally Posted by erasure View Post
C'mon people.
He wants to hear about the horrors, the slums, labor camps - that kind of stuff.
Well if that's what he wants, maybe he should check out this book:

The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia: Tim Tzouliadis: 9781594201684: Amazon.com: Books

The story of Americans - mostly Communist idealists in the 1930s - who moved to the USSR to "build socialism." Most of them wound up in the Gulag. I haven't read the book, but it looks interesting. However, it doesn't fit Rebel's "Soviet Bloc" stipulation (that would be after World War II).
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Old 10-06-2012, 12:45 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josef K. View Post
Well if that's what he wants, maybe he should check out this book:

The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia: Tim Tzouliadis: 9781594201684: Amazon.com: Books

The story of Americans - mostly Communist idealists in the 1930s - who moved to the USSR to "build socialism." Most of them wound up in the Gulag. I haven't read the book, but it looks interesting. However, it doesn't fit Rebel's "Soviet Bloc" stipulation (that would be after World War II).
Speaking about the 30ies..
You know, I was surprised to hear from my grand-mother ( well grand-aunt, really) about Americans working in the S.U. side by side with Russians. She kept on talking about this girl who was barely older than her, (with whom she had very friendly relations) and who worked at the same factory ( or was she a daughter of one of Americans working at the same factory? I don't remember exactly.)
My grand-aunt went to work at the factory when she was 14 ( because otherwise she was not allowed to apply for the University, being not from the "peasant-workers" class,) so working at the factory at that age opened for her the door to the higher education ( she was very good in math and science.)
But that's not the point I wanted to make. What surprised me was that foreigners were working side by side with Russians at the factories - it was something unusual to hear in the 70ies, where Westerners were dutifully separated from Russians for the most part - i.e living in separate buildings, staying in different hotels and so on.
I can only wonder now what happened to that American girl/her family - it all was taking place in Moscow.
PS.I remember Solzhenitsyn was describing in one of the chapters of Archipelago same thing - when he saw Americans ( I believe) on his way from one camp to another.

PS. PS. Sorry may be I've mentioned all that already before, but I still find my grant-aunt's accounts about those times fascinating. They felt so different comparably to the times I lived in, so full of history ( the 20ies, the 30ies, the WWII and all...)
In fact I find my whole family's history fascinating in this context.

Last edited by erasure; 10-06-2012 at 01:16 PM..
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Old 10-06-2012, 01:09 PM
 
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I've read the review now on this book ( The Foresaken) and I really liked this excerpt;

"In summary this is a sad tale, but one which fills in some important gaps in the overall story of the camps. It also clarifies why the reality of what was going on inside Russia in the 1930s was simply not known widely and unfortuantely this did lead to a good number of American emigres suffering horrendously and being trapped inside the abyss."

The "abyss" is a very good word that describes my feeling about Stalin's Russia.
The way I always pictured it, it was like a vortex in the middle of a city, where people live and go about their business, not knowing every day how close ( or far) they are from the sinkhole, until it would start sucking them up. And some would pass this very spot without any problem.
Quite different from Hitlers' Germany in this respect, because that society had far more predictable and well-defined rules.
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Old 10-06-2012, 01:24 PM
 
Location: Chicagoland
317 posts, read 798,868 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erasure View Post
The way I always pictured it, it was like a vortex in the middle of a city, where people live and go about their business, not knowing every day how close ( or far) they are from the sinkhole, until it would start sucking them up. And some would pass this very spot without any problem.
Quite different from Hitlers' Germany in this respect, because that society had far more predictable and well-defined rules.
That fits with my impressions. I've met some Gulag survivors. A couple of them told me they had no idea why they were arrested and/or deported - one day, normal life was going on, and a few days later they were a thousand miles from home slaving away, for reasons totally unclear to them. It was Kafkaesque in the most literal sense (i.e. the fate of my namesake in "The Trial").
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