Shortly after I graduated from high school,I worked with a man who had lived in Hungary before the fall of the Iron Curtain.
I would ask him about his life back in Hungary,probably too much.The things he told me would probably shock most youth today.
He told me of the bread lines,crushing poverty,people living in constant fear,and things like that.
I remember how he told me a story about how he would spend Friday night with his friends.The three or four of them would gather in his one bedroom apartment and huddle around a little transistor radio to listen to Rock and Roll broadcast out of West Germany.He went on to tell me how the had to make sure the radio was not turned up too loud,lest his neighbor turn him in to the police.
Apparently it was illegal to listen to western broadcasts,but they did it anyway.The way his eyes would light up when he would talk about AC-DC or The Scorpions.He just absolutely lit up,you wouldn’t believe it.I think we’ll never understand what something like Rock and Roll meant to someone in his circumstance.He never said so,but I think it was like a beacon of hope to him.
They would do this every Friday,while drinking homemade booze,because they couldn’t afford to buy booze,even if they could find it.When I went over to his apartment one time,he still made his own blueberry hooch.Pretty tasty…
Well,one day I asked him why he left.He looked at me with this expression like I had insulted him.He asked me right back “How would you feel if every time you went to the grocery store,the shelves were empty?”.He then proceeded to tell me of how he would wait in a line that ran around the building in the hope that MAYBE he could find a loaf of stale bread.Not bread like we know it,but something like a hard cake of brown meal.As for meat,forget about it.They would occasionally get some sausage at the store,but never enough to go around.
He told me how he was shocked the first time he went to an American grocery store.Not only did we have bread,but twenty kinds of bread,SOFT bread.He said to me”You don’t know how good you have it here in America”.
He was right,most of us don’t know how good we have it here.
He escaped from Hungary about a year before the Iron Curtain fell,and he never would talk about how exactly he got out.I guess some part of him was afraid of outing his friends that were still back in Hungary.I’m sure it would have been quite a story.
He eventually brought his wife and kids over here,along with his father.I lost track of him since,and I wish I had kept in touch with him.His knowledge would be invaluable in the coming collapse.