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The atmosphere in Prague

Last Friday we took a trip to a decimated field in the Czech Republic, to see where the town of Lidice once stood a over half a century ago. You see during the second World War there was a group of seven military trained Czech special ops who decided to assassinate a top Nazi leader, Reinhard Heydrich. Needless to say they succeeded so in retaliation (on top of cold bloodedly murdering the seven nationalists) the Nazis decided to total a town. Meaning they picked a random Czech village and burnt it down, all of it (they even destroyed any trees or wildlife in the area). They rounded up all the men and executed them swiftly in the middle of the village as they watched their homes burn down. They shipped all the woman to concentration camps, where the majority of them died. And last but not least the Nazis took the children to the middle of nowhere to wait out the pre mentioned events, refusing to feed or clothe them. About 8 of them were quickly adopted by German Nazi families and the other 80 of them were taken on a train cart where they were gassed to death, totaling in no more than 15 minutes. You know those stories about Roanoke, it was like that only it was calculated and there was no evidence left behind. It is believed that no one in the town was involved in the war effort.The Nazis accomplished their goal, no one was going to fight back.

As we walked through the once bustling town all it reminded me of was a battlefield, like a war gone wrong. It looked like the perfect memorial site for some kind of human sacrifice, there were almost no trees, wide open spaces, with a monumental cross wrapped in thorns grounded in the middle. The site screamed loss.

Among the newly planted trees there were lifelike statues of the 80 children who had perished. A group of highschoolers stood in front of the statues wearing flags. Each kid had a flag from their nation, there were Colombian flags, American, Italian, Brazilian, and French, it was a real international mix. I realized, as I watched the flagged kids, that 70 years ago this landmark was just a town, in fact we were probably standing in someone’s living room or front yard where a kid used to play with his favorite toy, there were no South Americans coming to visit, no memorials or flowers left in a bundle on the ground…it was just a town, there was nothing to see.

In fact most of the cornerstones in Eastern Europe, the must go places, were nothing 70 years ago. For such a large land area, filled with so many diverse people a lot of what we see did not exist until the modern era. Now I have been to France, where I felt the nationalistic sites I went exuded pride and history, and they are very much living in a past as well (only one filled in decadence and innovation) but in Eastern and Central Europe the past is recent, almost too fresh. Prague is a city that in the pictures looks like a medieval city preserved but that is not the atmosphere here. When I walk down the street and see former communist compounds, now private housing or feel the angst built up among the people, Prague becomes (to me anyway) a city engulfed by last 70 years. Yes tourism is picking up and do not get me wrong old town Prague is the embodiment of every fairytale you read as a child, but there is a definite dark you feel watching the orderly and somber Czech people as you wander the city alone. Granted communism only ended in the region 20 years ago.

Growing up in America you always feel like any history your country has acquired counts for nothing compared to the hundreds of Kings England has had, or the ruins collecting dust on the Italian countryside. Nothing we have done can ever catch up with what accesible history or countless acomplishments Europeans can count on one hand but this trip has made me realize that Prague has really changed in the last 20 years and for as much history as they have these reborn countries, like the Czech Republic, have just as much growing as we do. Like America revolted from England the Czech Republic had to lift the vail from communist Russia,and reshape themselves. They have a journey to independence and autonomy that every new country must experience.

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