For too long now, have we been inundated with overly negative news headlines, the “sky is falling” Henny Penny syndrome. Lock downs, escalating Covid numbers, masks, complaints etc. Having just finished reading Ron Mackay’s, The Kilt Behind the Curtain, an engaging and fascinating look into his two years as visiting professor in 1960’s Communist Romania, I have to say what we are going through is a pittance compared to life there under Ceauşescu’s iron fist regime. Ron, then twenty-three, survived with panache, creativity, and unrelenting optimism.
Imagine going shopping where lineups are not followed, pushing and knee-groining is a given and everything is (worse than our toilet paper worst days) in short supply.
Imagine never knowing when you are at work or shopping or (infrequently these days) in a restaurant whom, of your friends or strangers in the vicinity, is working for the Secret Police, watching to see what you might do or say that could be reported.
Imagine never chatting casually with anyone when you are in a line, on the phone (phones are bugged) and certainly not, these days, in a text or email. Big Brother is not only watching but also listening.
Imagine having your home confiscated and having to live in one room only, sharing the kitchen and bathroom with as many strangers as there are rooms.
We scoff and say but we are in a democracy, we would never have to deal with this kind of repression and deprivation.
I would counter by saying Covid has created an atmosphere where isolation and rules and a degree of depravation does exist. The media feeds on this. Whips up a frenzy of personal stories and interviews, many legitimate and heart-breaking.
How do we cope and survive? How did these Romanians? Ron’s students, mainly female, were enthusiastic and positive, focussed on getting an education. The few Romanians who invited Ron into their homes, were stoic and pleased to share their thread-bare interiors with this Scottish Westerner. Rules, there, if broken could have dire personal consequences, labour camp as opposed to today’s possible fines.
We will carry on, then. Be thankful for another sunrise, another meal on the table, another email from a friend. This Covid enemy, as silent and unsparing as it is, is not a repressive regime tracking your every word and move. Is not, as are in many repressive regimes that remain ‘alive and well’ around the world today, unending for several generations.
This enemy will end and we will hug and dance and rejoice once again.
Cheers! Image by Gerd Altman from Pixabay