“Difficult. Because as you can see, I am very talkative and outspoken. The Czechs speak a lot, but they are not open. I didn’t enjoy talking about nothing. For a long time I thus didn’t know where I was and for a long time I was unable to decipher the models of behaviour, gestures, looks, and expressions, which are very specific for Czechs. I think that I struggled with it a little bit more than in other places. But people are people everywhere. It took a longer time for the Czechs to accept me and let me among themselves. I wondered why it was so. Because I am very friendly. But that is the culture. People here are simply more reserved and very cautious in making new friends and in relationships in general.”
“The consequence of the joke was that everybody from the management was imprisoned and in that time of Stalin’s rule nobody knew if these people would ever return home. After two months it was discovered that the cheese began to rot not by their mistake, but they were not released. The suspicion of their political unreliability remained. It was terrible what they were doing to them. They put them to a dark cave without any food; they were only receiving water. For the first twenty days they were not allowed to sit down. Their feet were swollen, and they were threatened and blackmailed to confess what they had done and how. Although it was eventually found out what had happened, the families had to sell everything in order to be able to get them released on bail. Following their release they were forbidden to live in Sofia for several years. They were all to move to remote underdeveloped areas with poor job prospects and bad climate. I think that they were allowed to return to Sofia only after six years.”
“One of the reasons this period was so terrible was that people were afraid to speak to my mom and brother, including their family members, throughout that time. The logic behind it was that if one was a traitor, all were suspected of being traitors. And if they were getting in touch traitors, they themselves would then be traitors, too. It was terrible. They went hungry. It was horrible. I said that they were hungry, but I, as a child, did have some milk. Later they sent me to live with my grandma and grandpa. With the exception of one neighbour, who said that she didn’t give a damn about the communists, and who was actively helping my family, everyone else was afraid to speak to them. The children would not even play with my brother.”
“Rusé is a city on the Danube River, and it is a regional centre, just like Olomouc. The city became victim to some industrial company in Romania that was dumping its toxic exhalations which were carried by wind to Rusé, a city with a large population density. Local children began to be sick, and diseases were spreading there. They forbade the people to move. That was the moment when it started. The newspapers, radios, the media in Bulgaria have always had more courage. People would get fired, but they would be back within a couple of years. This was the more favorable change. The entire Bulgaria united. Why would they sacrifice the people and the children in Rusé? That’s terrible. They could not take their kids and send them somewhere else. All this was being done undercover, but from the human perspective, it was unacceptable.”
“His son was an accountant. He played guitar, and all this, he was such a Bohemian type. He was the village mayor. He had electricity installed in the village and he built a theatre there. It was a small village, mind you. He did this during the period which was politically neutral. It was before the communist take-over of power. Somebody then wrote an inscription on our house, saying that he was a fascist, because he was richer. But he was not a fascist. He was a very active anti-fascist, and within the anti-fascists movement he was among the leaders of the district centered around Velký Tarnov and he studied at the grammar school in Gabrov, which is a neigbouring town, and during the siege, he transported documents from the school archive on bike, where he had them concealed in his guitar and walking stick. But he experienced great disappointment, because he had risked his life when he carried the documents from Gabrov to Trnov. One day he saw one of the other leaders sitting in the pub with an agent of the secret police, and as a result he thus withdrew from political life.”
Gabriela Bairova-Stoyanova was born in 1955 in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Her father Stefan Bairov was arrested there in the late 1950s, and although innocent, he spent half a year in the communist prison. His entire family then had to live in exile in Dobrudza in the Northern Bulgaria for six years, and only after this time they were allowed to return to Sofia. Gabriela graduated from philology at the Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia. As a student she was offered to collaborate with the secret police several times, but she strictly refused. She eventually found a job in Sofia as a proofreader and editor in the largest advertising agency in Bulgaria. In 1984 she married Oleg Stoyanov, who was a sales representative and a diplomat. As the Bulgarian ambassador he and Gabriela lived in Ghana for five years and then in Egypt for another five years. After the fall of the communist regime Gabriela was offered the position of the minister of education or culture, but she turned the offer down. In 1998 she followed her daughter to the Czech Republic. At present she lives in Olomouc and works as a translator and a teacher of foreign languages.