IN OUR LAST ISSUE, we said not a word about the freeing of Eastern Europe; our production was too far advanced when the uprisings began. Now, only two months later, communist regimes in Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Rumania have been overturned.
IT IS SOMETIMES necessary to work on a problem for many years without results. Then, instantly, the outcome manifests itself. Many heroes of Eastern Europe exercised their democratic rights for decades, at great personal cost, in defiance of a tyrannical regime. Today their contributions are being realized.
We honor all who are the source of these changes, including Mikhail Gorbachev, whose respect for human rights helped the others. We salute those Rumanians who dared to shout "Timisoara!" instead of the chants demanded by the dictator, and who were slain for their daring. Before them, Polish activists had created Freedom and Peace. Hungarians had been samizdat publishers, conscientious objectors, and environmentalists, performing civil disobedience to keep a dam from being built. Lutheran pastors in East Germany had turned their churches into meeting places for protesters. Inspiring Czechoslovakians, as "Charta 77," had lived in truth, year after year, and paid dearly for their honesty.
We are especially delighted by the triumph of one member of Charta 77: Jiri Dienstbier, the new Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia. Two years ago PEACE published an interview with him that has been widely reprinted in other publications; it eloquently called for the reuniting of Europe. And sure enough, on the day after he took office, Dienstbier could be seen on the front page of the Globe and Mail, gleefully applying wire-cutters to a barbed fence at the Austrian border!
THANK HEAVENS, journalists will no longer have to be furtive about interviews in Czechoslovakia! In '87, it didn't pay to phone ahead for an appointment, lest the secret police prevent the visit. I remember doubling back that day and looking over my shoulder to be sure I wasn't followed to the Dienstbier apartment. It turned out not to be his after all, but Vaclav Havel's; they had traded apartments. Havel's brother, who was replastering the walls, directed me onward and finally Mrs. Dienstbier gave me an appointment. Her husband was a stoker, she explained with dignity, and needed to sleep before his night shift. He had been interrogated by the police all day.
This fall when a PEACE staff member visited Prague, we sent along a list of questions for her to ask Dienstbier, but when she arrived, he was again rushing off to his furnace. If he approaches his new career in the conscientious way he approached stoking, Dienstbier's future will be illustrious: Time reports that he arranged for a friend to cover his last shift while he went to be sworn in as Foreign Minister. Good luck, Your Excellency!