Do you ever wonder how many people actually managed to escape from communist Czechoslovakia? Was it 10,000 people? Or 100, 000? Or a million???? The first immigration wave came after the unexpected communist coup in February 1948. The borders were partially opened for a couple of years and a lot of desperate (and also smart) people took advantage of it. There are no specific data about how many people actually escaped but it is guessed that during the period of 1948 to 1968 approximately 60,000 Czechs and Slovaks left. Most of these fugitives targeted those Western countries closest to their former home – countries like Germany (Bavaria) or Austria. What most people don’t know however is that Austria wasn’t as safe as it seemed. It actually had a lot of Russian soldiers on duty who would end up capturing some of these pure souls and deporting them to Russia or back to Czechoslovakia (if they were lucky). Many Czechs also ended up in Western Berlin – the Berlin Wall wasn’t built yet (it was finished in 1961) and the entrance route to the city was quite easy. Of course, there was the last option – the option of the “Never-ending vacation”. If you were “lucky” enough to to be out of the country during the communist coup, you just stayed where you were, nervously clutching your one toothbrush you had, and you were safe… but neither your wife nor your kids or your parents were..
The second emigration wave spread over Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring in 1968. Once again, the exact number of those who left the country is not known, however, it is now known that both emigration waves caused about 220,000 Czechs and Slovaks to leave their homes behind. So, what is the difference between those 2 waves?
- The 1948 emigrants left for political reasons. Their dream was to become part of an anti-communist resistance group that would operate from the outside
- The 1968 emigrants left for personal reaons. They had lost their hopes as far as overthrowing the communist government and just wanted to live a free and happy life somewhere else on this earth.
How did the Czechoslovak government react to these fleeing masses? Right after the February communist coup in 1948 the government didn’t care. Even Gottwald himself said, “If they want to go, let them! At least we won’t have to pay those oldfarts any retirenment money..“. That kind of “whatever” attitude changed quite abruptly, after the Czech government got scolded by Russia for their uncaring attittude. Just a few years later Czechoslovakia looked like a one big concentration camp, surrounded by barbed wires,fences and minefields. Not only could people not travel to the West but it was difficult to travel eastward as well. “If there was a case of a confused hiker who happened to walk in the Krkonose mountains and also happened to accidentally cross the Polish borders, then he was in a big trouble. The Polish border patrol would arrest him, deported him to Poland where he would have to work as a construction worker for a while”. (now that’s something!)
How many exiles actually stayed in Europe and how many of them traveled over the Big Puddle? The 1948 exiles didn’t want to stay in Europe as most of it was destroyed into pieces by the World War II anyway. Most of them longed to go the the Dream Country – the United States of America. Also Canada and Australia vere popular destinations. The legal entrance to many of these countries was many times dependent on particular (and sometimes cruel) conditions. In Canada, for instance, the Czechoslovak immigrants had to work first work either in agriculture or in the Insane Assylums for couple of years before they could get a real job. The 1968 exiles were treated differently – in a much nicer way. Western Europe was doing great at that time so most the emigrants just stayed in Austria, Germany or France – in countries closer to their real home. What is interesting, however, is that the 2 emigrant groups (1948 and 1968) did not get along very well. The article suggests that the 1948 exiles were suspiscious of the latter group of being involved with communists, therefore they saw them as a reason for which they had to flee from their home country.
CZ: Premyslite nekdy o tom, kolik lidem se vubec podarilo utect z komunistickeho Ceskoslovenska do zahranici? Deset tisic? Sto tisic? Milion?? Prvni povalecna exilova vlna nasledovala po komunistickem puci v unoru 1948. Od tohoto roku az do poloviny 50. let byly hranice castecne otevrene, a lide toho take vyuzili. Presne statisticke udaje z teto doby sice neexistuji, ale predpoklada se, ze od roku 1948 do 1968 odeslo z Ceskoslovenska kolem 60 000 Cechu a Slovaku. Smerovali do nejblizsich zapadnich zemi jako bylo zapadni Nemecko (Bavorsko) nebo Rakousko. Co mnoho lide ale nevi je, ze Rakousko bylo okupovana take Sovety, kteri mnoho Cechoslovaku bohuzel zadrzeli a vratili je zpet do “pekla”. Mnoho Cechu take utikalo do zapadniho Berlina – Berlinska zed byla postavena az v roce 1961, nebylo to tedy tak obtizne. Samozrejmne ze tu byla take posledni moznost, a to zustat na dovolene (tzv. “40 let prazdnin”), kde jste travili cas v dobe prevratu. Problem byl v tom, ze jste tuto “dovolenou” ale musel travit sam, bez rodiny.
Druha emigrantska vlna prisla po Prazskem Jare v roce 1968. Nevi se presne, kolik Cechoslovaku odeslo pri teto prilezitosti, ale odhaduje se, ze dohromady s prvni emigrantskou vlnou (1948) opustilo Ceskoslovensko kolem 220 000 lidi.
Jaky je mezi temito dvema vlnamy rozdil?
- Exulanti z roku 1948 odesli z POLITICKYCH pohnutkach; chteli se v cizine zapojit do odboje proti komunismu
- Exulanti z roku 1968 odesli spise z OSOBNICH duvodu; neverili, ze by se komunismus dal porazit, a proto jednoduse chteli zit ve svobodne zemi, kde se budou mit lepe
Jak se Ceskoslovensky stat snazil branit tomuto odchodu ceskoslovenskych obcanu do zahranici? Po unoru 1948 jim to bylo pry jedno (sam Gottwald pry rekl, “kdyz chteji jit, at jdou, aspon tem dedkum nebudeme muset platit penzi”). Tento lhostejny postoj komunistu se ale po case zmnenil, a to zejmena diky Sovetskemu natlaku. Na podzim toho sameho roku zacala KSC jednat o uzavreni hranic, a v polovine 50. let byl z Ceskoslovenska jeden velky koncentracni tabor, ohraniceny siti dratu, dratenych plotu, minovych poli a ruznymi vystraznymi zarizenimi. I na Vychod se nesmelo! Jak dejepisec pan Parnes sam vysvetluje, “kdyz se stalo, ze nepozorny turista v Krkonosich presel na polskou stranu, tak ho Polaci zatkli, odvedli do Polska a tam byl potrestan treba praci na vystavbe Varsavy” (no to je sila!!).
Kolik exulantu zustalo v evropskych zemi a kdo pokracoval za ocean? Toto tema je velmi zajimave; Exulantum z roku 1948 se v Evrope zustat nechtelo, protoze byla po druhe svetove valce naprosto znicena; lakalo je to do Zeme Snu – do USA. Take Kanada a Australie byly popularni. Mnoho statu si v teto dobe ale kladlo dosti podminek. Kanada si napriklad porucila, ze tito lide musi nejdrive pracovat 2 roky v zemedelstvi, nebo jako osetrovatele v psychiatrickych lecebnach. Po roce 1968 tomu bylo jinak – uprchlici byli vitani s otevrenou naruci. Zapadni Evrope se vedlo velmi dobre a ceskoslovenske uprchliky prijali se slavou. Mnoho jich proto zustalo v Rakousku, Nemecku a Francii – v zemich pobliz jejich pravemu domovu.
Je ale velmi podivuhodne, ze tyto 2 emigracni vlny spolu dobre nevychazely. Pan Parnes si mysli, ze 48.rocnik exulantu videl v mladsi exulantske “sestre” (68. rocnik) byvale komunisty, tedy lidi, kteri meli na svedomi, ze museli utect z republiky.
http://krajane.radio.cz/cs/article_detail/1446If you liked this post buy me a coffee! (Suggested:$3 a latte $8 for a pound) Thanks!