- Posted January 24, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
How did the Cold War shape your life?
By Tiia Nightingale
Author and freelance writer
I was born in the mind-raping prison state USSR. In the 1970s and 1980s I was a schoolgirl with a Kalashnikov AK47 automatic weapon in my arms, just in case the imaginary enemy would attack us. I did not want to have enemies. But if had to think of any then I thought of the bushy-browed leader of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev and his comrades in the totalitarian government.
Nuclear war between the USA and the USSR had luckily been prevented. The USA was at war against communism in Vietnam. The USSR was oppressing any rights of its citizens, including the right to think that life in the USA and Western Europe was better than in the USSR, to the point of doubt that the USA even existed in reality.
We were kept inside the prison state USSR, where the border guards were facing inwards to prevent their own countrymen from leaving the “workers’ paradise”, instead of facing outwards to prevent anybody unwanted from coming in, who would want in anyway.
People on both sides - in front and behind the Iron Curtain - were told scary stories and cold lies about one another. I was not a good enemy at all. I was a friendly child and most definitely did not want to hurt any Americans or Germans, English, French or anybody. I just wanted to be free and to travel the world. All through my childhood and youth I knew that I would never be able to visit the Western world, never have a chance to see Washington or New York, London or Oxford, Paris or Amsterdam, not even our next door neighbor - Finland. I had to dry my tears, keep quiet and put up with the idiotic Soviet rule and abuse.
Later, when the USSR collapsed and the borders opened, I traveled a lot. I made hundreds of friends on my journeys. We talked a lot about life during the Cold War on both sides and it turned out that while I was trained how to kill my future friends, they were preparing for war against me, my new friends had thought of us as “those scary “Russians” who probably eat their own children”, “the evil “commies”” we had been called. But I have never been a communist, neither has anybody in my family or any of my friends.
My travels made me realize that people everywhere are mostly good, but some of their beliefs and truths make it difficult to coexist peacefully on the same planet, especially when they are raised on lies and hatred. How could we change that? This bit I have not worked out yet. We surely should not give up trying.