Thank you, Museum of Communism

As a refugee from the former Soviet Empire I was overwhelmed by what I found in its former colonies. Knowing that my Cuban brethren are still trapped inside a grotesque relic of that totalitarian nightmare, and knowing that my parents had sent me to the United States so I wouldn’t end up in these places through which I was traveling, I couldn’t help but feel a constant twinge of something I couldn’t identify: a strangely mixed emotion–part sorrow, part envy, part gratitude, and part rage–that drew me inward and made me feel more like an exile than ever.

I must therefore thank you Czechs and Germans who were bold enough to rid yourselves of your oppressors twenty years ago. The legacy of your accomplishment brought me in touch with my own past in a very immediate way, and it gave me hope for the future of the ruined land I was forced to leave behind and from which I’ve been barred, along with my books.

I’m especially grateful to the Museum of Communism in Prague, in which I never set foot. I only saw posters advertising its existence, but that was enough for me. It knocked me off balance just to know that such a museum exists, in which I and every Czech over the age of twenty-one could be at once a visitor and an exhibit. You realigned my thinking and my center of gravity, Museum of Communism, as all great paradoxes tend to do.

~ Carlos Eire, author of Waiting for Snow in Havana, inĀ Learning to Die in Miami, pp. 305-306.