Thursday, December 24, 2009

Communist Continual Christmas II

Christmas was also accompanied by the unrelieved cold. The communist state had guaranteed heating and electricity for all, just as it had guaranteed universal free medical care, but blackouts were frequent and long, and water shortages predictable: two days off, one day on. Every night the heat was turned off at nine o'clock. I slept in a cold room under a mountain of blankets, sometimes lying awake as my breath rose like smoke in the moonlight. Then I got very sick, but I refused to be taken to the hospital for fear of being made sicker.

Each morning a shabbily dressed population re-emerged on the streets, crouching against the cold, beaten down by hardship, hunger, untreated disease, and the extinction of all human dreams. Walking the streets of a communist city in late December, with the unshovelled snow packed down into a treacherous sheet of ice, shivering because no matter where one went, inside or out, one would still be cold -- this was the reality of a communist Christmas.