Fr, 2.12.2022
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Prague 1968: «Long live free Estonia!»

Jaanus Piirsalu
, reporter
Prague 1968: «Long live free Estonia!»
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Photo: pinterest.com

In 1968 as Soviet tanks pushed bask an uprising against communist rule in Prague, Czechoslovakia, as Soviet tank crewman startled locals by shouting «Long live free Estonia!» in English.

The story was penned by Andriy Bondar, a best known younger generation Ukrainian writer. The other authors I know in Kiev think this to be a beautiful legend. Mr Bondar told me he heard the story from the father of his friend (who is dead by now) who was personally in Prague as a soldier in Soviet Army. Mr Bondar is also inclined to think this is a legend.

I like to think an Estonian guy like that did exist. It is my sincere request that you write to me! Others are also welcome to write who have their story to tell from Prague, 1968 – send it to jaanus.piirsalu@gmail.com or to Postimees.

But the story titled «One Beer» by Andriy Bondar written in 2010 is as follows.

«When I am having a hard time, I think of a legend.

In the hot August of 1968, Soviet troops rolled into Prague. Proud and stubborn, the townspeople holed in beer bars to be mad and hate the occupants. So into a bar like that, a Soviet soldier dares to venture. The air turns quiet, electric. The guy steps to the counter and says: «One beer, please!»

Silently, the barman pours him one. Downing it at one gulp, the guy nods to thank and heads for the door. Under the nervous glares of the Prague people. One can’t stand it and decided to enter history books. «Long live free Czechoslovakia!» he yells in the language of the occupants.

For a few seconds, the air turns hotter yet.

The young soldier stops, glances across the room filled with people thinking of Siberia or getting shot, takes cap off and shouts: «Long live free Estonia!»

I can imagine the ease of tension. I can imagine the blonde Estonian for whatever driven to Prague to restore order. And I imagine it could well have been a Ukrainian telling them «Glory to Ukraine!» («Слава Україні!»). But for whatever reason and Estonian feels more likely. Even for the reason that, as it stands, Estonians and Czechs now dwell in a space where uninvited tank crew will not venture. While, at best, a Ukrainian could play a Czech from 1968. What’s worse, a Ukrainian beer bar jus may host a foreign tank driver without anyone even noticing.»

Thankfully, Ukraine has changed. But you Estonian tank driver write and let me know! Unless you are a legend of course.

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