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Do It: Remember and experience communist past

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Iron Curtain fashion show in Budapest (courtesy)Iron Curtain fashion show in Budapest (courtesy)

The non-governmental and non-profit organisation Opona (The Curtain) was established last year by a group of various people who came together through the strong urge to commemorate the approaching 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The people involved include David Gaydečka, founder of the United Islands of Prague music festival, Marek Vocel, film producer and event organiser and Martin Kotas, a coffee house owner and a well-known activist. The majority of the people involved are in their 30s and therefore remember the events and the atmosphere. Nevertheless, they have also come to notice that the younger generation, people who are coming of age now and were therefore born around the time of the revolution or later, often lack basic knowledge about our communist past.

Opona’s aim is to celebrate the anniversary, support the active dialogue concerning Europe’s communist past and raise awareness about this era, especially among the youngest generation. Besides this, they would like to introduce projects that would help advance human rights in countries where the totalitarian regimes still prevail.

Opona exhibition in Brussels (courtesy)Opona exhibition in Brussels (courtesy)
Though the main celebration should take place this year in November, the organisation has already travelled to a number of major European cities, including Bratislava, Budapest, Warsaw, Dresden, Brussels and Prague with a pilot version of their project called The Totalitarian Circus. This included an exhibition entitled Some of Us that follows the lives of a group of people affected by the communist coup in 1948, a fashion show from behind the Iron Curtain and a medley of concerts and performances.

The final version of The Totalitarian Circus will travel around 10 major European cities from March to October, stopping at each location for a fortnight. It will consist of a mobile circus arena that will offer exhibitions, creative art and multimedia spaces including music and film, which should all serve to remind and warn people against communist totalitarianism. The main part of the Circus will be the Totality Simulator, which will thrust the visitor back behind the Iron Curtain 20 years ago for 90 minutes. He or she will need to react to various situations that used to be everyday reality. This programme is being prepared with the help of prominent experts documenting totalitarian regimes and will therefore offer an interesting and important insight into the things we have already started to forget.

The Circus will also be accompanied by calendar panels documenting the important events of the era starting in 1948 and ending in 1989.

In January a website called Don’t forget! (Nezapomeň!) should be launched, inviting anyone to post photos, videos, texts and comments connected to the communist past. Also, discussions will be encouraged in which individuals can commemorate and celebrate the anniversary on a personal level.

On 1 May, the fifth anniversary of the Czech Republic joining the EU, a special opera performance will be held at a still unspecified island in Prague to link EU accession to the end of communism. It will be the first ever performance in the Czech Republic of Ça ira written by Roger Waters from Pink Floyd.

The main event, however, will be held, of course, on 17 November. A pageant is planned to follow the revolution’s route starting at Albertov and ending at Národní třída. There, as has become the tradition, the event will culminate in a concert, this time, though, it will be leading young Czech artists performing the songs of the generation who took active part in the revolution, thus showing their thanks to those who helped make the transition to democracy.

The project is supported by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Václav Havel and the ambassadors of Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the US.

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