We read about Putin and Russian troops threatening neighbors. It’s enough to remind us of another time when the then USSR invaded the then country of Czechoslovakia. It happened this weekend in 1968:
On the night of August 20, 1968, approximately 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring”–a brief period of liberalization in the communist country. Czechoslovakians protested the invasion with public demonstrations and other non-violent tactics, but they were no match for the Soviet tanks. The liberal reforms of First Secretary Alexander Dubcek were repealed and “normalization” began under his successor Gustav Husak.
It was the second time that USSR tanks under the banner of The Warsaw Pact had crushed democratic impulses in Eastern Europe. It also happened in Hungary in 1956 when Soviet tanks actually fought with people in the streets.
As a kid, we heard the stories of Cuban political prisoners. Our family dinner table was a classroom with my parents telling us about communism or reading the latest letter from Cuba.
I grew up admiring the men and women who risked their lives to fight for freedom. Some of these men were Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary, those who tried to cross the Berlin Wall, the guerrillas who fought Castro in The Escambray Mountains and those who tried reforms inside the Soviet bloc.
On August 21, 1968, the Rascals were riding high with a song called “People got to be free“.
It was a pop hit in the US. It was reality in the streets of Prague.