Commentary: We support Ukraine because we did not oppose it in 1968, writes Klaus

August twenty-first was a day of our national shame, a day when our fall from Europe and the developed world deepened, a day that radically changed the destinies of many of us. Some lost jobs and life prospects, others had family members move abroad in protest, and others suddenly stayed on the other side.

The process of renaissance and democratization was interrupted, many of us had our own opinion about its outcome and prospects and did not expect a miracle from it, but to trivialize and caricature it is completely wrong – especially on the basis of very dubious actions. After November 1989, a significant number of “sixty-eighters” remained in the ideas of the time.

Then it was about something important. There are not many periods like this in our history. The 1960s were no small feat, no small step forward.

As a small country, lacking strength and inner confidence, lacking courage and political leaders, we inevitably proved to be the subject, not the object, of history. Having played the cards like this, we had no choice. Despite the disappointing month of August, I dare say we were satisfied with what we had achieved in the period up to August 21, and deep down we felt that we could not do more. It already “warmed” us and it still warms many people today.

We support Ukraine beyond our strength and importance

I am in no way trying to compare with this statement how the Soviet Union (and its political leaders) behaved, it was bombed and tens of thousands died, because we did not defend ourselves. The situation at that time with today’s Ukraine. The West did not come into play then. Not in the GDR in 1953 or in Hungary in 1956 or here in 1968. The distribution of forces in the world is quite different.

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The fact that we now as a country are so supportive of Ukraine, beyond our strength and importance, is due in part to our conscience, which we could not resist then. The absurdity of our reasoning is best demonstrated by the belated heroization of František Kriegl, the only non-signatory to the Moscow Protocol.

1968 didn’t tell many of us anything new about the Soviet Union and Communism. However, he said a lot about us and our “voluntary” normalization. Even if he told someone that Communism and the Soviet Union were not so good, it was only for those who had not yet realized the unacceptability of Communism from 1948 to 1968. Fallen, chips fly.

Until August 1968, we tried something against the interests of the powerful. Now we nod to the powerful – even if they are on the other side of the world. When will at least one František Kriegel appear in today’s Czech government?

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