I was about to enter the boardroom from which the country had been ruled by the communist presidium. There its twenty men, under instructions from Soviet advisors, took the country’s major decisions. In that boardroom, they had decreed in 1949, to collectivise agriculture. As a result, both my sets of grandparents had had their farms confiscated, without compensation.
The presidium had taken the decision, in 1950, to expropriate all private businesses and to punish their owners. My father lost his fashion business. My stepfather lost his textile business and was sentenced to work as a night watchman for the rest of his life.
In 1951, the presidium decided in the same room to purge all Jews from top party positions. They were accused of Zionism and hanged. My Jewish uncle narrowly escaped the noose by resigning his job a few weeks before his arrest.
In that boardroom too, the presidium decided to eradicate the nation’s savings, in 1953, by replacing its currency. The population was impoverished overnight and became beholden to the regime.
The presidium decreed, in 1955, that middle class children like me, would be barred from access to further education.
Ultimately, they triumphantly declared in 1960, that the economy was now fully nationalised. Based on this achievement, they changed the country’s name to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
I was about to walk into that boardroom with the task of reversing all previous communist policies and implementing the economic transformation of my homeland.
Sitting outside, I felt alone. I had a vision of the spirits of the long dead communist leaders floating somewhere in that room.