What I know about living under Communism I’ve learned from books. I never lived it. But I can’t help wondering how those who lived that life and had relegated it to the past are feeling today. Does seeing orderly queues outside the post offices and the pharmacies bring back memories of waiting in line for food? I read an article recently about the breadlines in the USSR back in the day and how sociable they were. They were part of daily life. An occasion to catch up on what was going on. There was no social distancing, no standing 2 metres behind the person in front of you, no stripes on the floor to mark your place. I can’t help but think that those who thought they’d seen the last of it are wondering if it’s all going to come back,
The 2800 or so people officially quarantined in their homes are marked by a red sticker on their front door. This is so others know they might be infected and know to stay away. A sensible measure as long as people stay calm and know that they could be next. But labels like this give me the heebie-jeebies. I wonder if Jewish residents are reflecting on times past.
With the extraordinary powers that a State of Emergency gives, the government has named140 key companies that will now be supervised by military taskforces. What must the CEOs have felt when they were advised of the change and the military appeared on their doorsteps this morning?
Tomorrow, the soldiers hit the streets with the country divided into seven sectors for defence purposes. They will have to cross the country to get to their outposts. What will run through people’s minds as they see them on the move? As they pass them on the streets? Will it be a sense of dread or a feeling of safety?
In addition to the run on toilet paper (now abated), there’s been a run on legal weapons. And a run on rubber bullets. People fear the unknown. Imaginations are running wild. What-if scenarios are like bogeymen. The stuff of nightmares.
The mayor of Síofok, one of the country’s resort towns on the Balaton, has appealed to Budapestens who own holiday homes not to descend en masse to ride out the storm by the lake. In the summer, the towns and villages around the lake can cope with a doubling of their populations as cafés and restaurants, bars and clubs are all open and operating. Not so in March when social distancing is the order of the day and taking your kids to the playground isn’t the thing to do. Interestingly, the article mentions the village of Almádi and how its playgrounds were full with ‘vacationers’ – and that same village has now reported two people under home quarantine. It ain’t vacation folks… if Italy taught us nothing else, it taught us that.
When you are held for three days or two days or one day or even 12 hours at the airport while your papers are checked and someone decides whether you can get home to see your family, what must that be like? That unknowing. That uncertainty around which rules apply. The fact that your immediate future hangs on little more than how the official you are dealing with interprets the most recent edict from above. What must that feel?
I had lunch with a filmmaker friend of mine last week. They jokingly said that they’d torn up all their scripts. Fiction was becoming reality. If your Hungarian friends (elderly or not) seem anxious and appear to be taking this a lot more seriously than the numbers might merit, perhaps there are underlying reasons, more than just the virus.
But what do I know… I’ve not lived it. I’ve just read about it.