by SEAN BURKE – THE misery of communism infects almost everything it touches.
From degraded lives to industrial inefficiency to cooked-up crop reports and daily bread lines – the list is almost endless.
Apart from the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions, there’s perhaps no greater reminder of the devastation of communism than the wholesale decay of its urban landscapes.
Once filled with beautiful residential boulevards, Europe’s communist-captured cities soon resembled baron valleys; unsightly and sad. Their often bullet-riddled buildings remained unpainted, un-repaired and unloved.
Their streets and the vehicles moving upon them were just as bleak.
The Soviet auto industry managed to progress two models past the horse and cart – then stopped. Their car factories chugged out a choice of one model in three colours: grey-white, grey-cream and grey-grey.
There’s good reason communist regimes built walls with inward-facing turrets and signal jamming towers – to hide their failure and their lies.
Top selling 1980s Eastern bloc car – Lana Riva.
Western Europe’s equivalent – 1985 Mercedes Benz.
It’s been three decades since the Eastern bloc fell and central Europe was freed from its Soviet overlords.
And although recovery has been occurring, it’s become clear 30 years isn’t long enough to repair 70 years of communism. The healing may very well take longer than the disease.
Walking through Budapest, the recovering capital of Hungary, is an experience of contrasts.
From one city street to the next, the city morphs from the world’s most beautiful capital into a dark, almost frightening experience.
From jaw-dropping to eye-sore within a few steps. In the space of a city block an exquisite residential avenue transforms to a street of crumbling, unpainted apartments – all with their trademark bullet holes encircling upper floor windows.
But, street by street Budapest is coming back to life. For 30 long years the greyness has been lovingly replaced by pastels – building by building, sidewalk by sidewalk.
Corner buildings often provide the starkest comparison of life during and life after communism. With the street on one side of a building designated for repair, the other facade awaits its turn [see picture].
One day, if socialism can be kept in check, both sides of all buildings will be restored. And the scourge of communism can be removed from daily view.PC