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The Russian Invasion of Prague in 1968

December 30, 2012
Prague Invasion 1968

Russian Invasion, Wenceslas Square, Prague 1968

As many of you know I am originally from Prague, Czech Republic. On the nights of August 20-21, 1968 the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia in order to stop Alexander Dubcek’s Prague Spring political liberalization reforms. The invasion did stop the the liberalization reforms and it strengthened the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

In 1968, when this happened, my parents were in their early 20’s and I was 4 years old. We fled Czechoslovakia leaving our house, family, and life as we knew it for the unknown in order to be safe and free.

My parents managed to get us out by pretending that they were going to the South of France to pick wine grapes on a temporary visa, which was a known program at the time.

4:00 a.m. August 21, 1968 - the lead Soviet tank rolls into Prague

4:00 a.m. August 21, 1968 – the lead Soviet tank rolls into Prague

But instead of boarding a plane for France, we took the plane to Switzerland to meet with a colleague of my father’s who had fled Prague 3 months earlier. He had found work and an apartment near Bern (the capital of Switzerland).

My parents and I had arrived in Switzerland without speaking a word of German and were kindly allowed to stay with my father’s colleague until my parents found work and we found a home of our own.

Soviet soldiers invade the streets of Prague, 1968

Soviet soldiers invade the streets of Prague, 1968

Timing was everything because 24 hours after we had fled what was known then as Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), all borders were shut and remained shut for 20+ years. My father was sentenced to life in prison in absentia and we never looked back. The Czechoslovakia border did not open again until 1989 and only after 1993 did I finally go back to Prague and my parents didn’t go back until 2000. I know that I am very lucky to have been able to escape that dark age of history.

To give you a little more insight to the event, below is a video I found with an original radio broadcast from August 20, 1968 as the Russians were rolling into Prague. Towards the end of the video you can hear shots being fired and tanks ramming the radio broadcast building.

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