– 7 – Prague

Monika always thought she had straight hair, since every night her mother spent hours brushing her long pony tail*. During the day she did not concern herself with it and, as it didn’t bother her, she never gave the subject much thought. 

Not long before she turned 17 years old and was already established in Prague with her mother, Ata, who currently spent little time at home, busy with the organization of the political agenda of the recently formed Civic Forum**, Monika had decided that her commitment to happiness did not involve her engagement in the political destiny of the country to a greater extent than it had during the previous year.

While the mother travelled between Prague and other cities every week, Monika wanted to learn new things, to get to know her new city and fell in love with the life that life had given her and so she ended up entering the Univerzita Karlova*** in Prague to study Sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Five years after entering the Campus at Krize Street in the Jinonice quarter, the pony tail had been replaced by splendorous curly hair that fell down her back. 

As it turned out, her hair was not straight and the 17-year-old girl was now a 22-year-old woman with a maturity that made her look like the mother of her course mates, especially the boys.

* Ponytail – a hairdo in which all or most of the hair is pulled away from the face, gathered and tied at the back part of the head with a hairpin, hair tie or similar, where it hangs down. Its name comes from the similarity to the tail of a pony or a horse.

** Civic Forum – a group that defended a reform of bureaucracy and civil liberties. Its leader was the dissident and playwright Václav Havel. Intentionally avoiding the label of “party”, a word with a negative connotation during the previous regime, the Civic Forum rapidly won the support of millions of Czechs, as well as its Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence.

*** Charles University in Prague - the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe and is also considered the earliest German university. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe in continuous operation.

Her Master’s in Sociology enabled her to explain why she had started to study in one Country and finished the degree in another*. 

Nevertheless, no one was interested in knowing the reasons or motivations of recent History. Advantage had to be taken of the opportunities created by the changes in power and by political crisis.

At that moment, the youth were looking in the same direction, as if they were equipped with a laser maybe replicated from some Hollywood film that now came on the cinema circuits with no problem. 

Everyone constantly attempted to answer to the same fundamental question – how to earn more money and faster, and if possible with a lot less effort than the generations left behind. 

What was old smelled from a distance of sweat-soaked humbleness, a life of hard physical work in which lives and also rough and coarse hands could never disguise what they had been through, no matter how much cream they used. 

Monika seemed to be displaced from all this gold fever** that had spread into all the countries of the now former Eastern Block. 

She felt profoundly that happiness could not be found in something exterior to the human being, it could not be more money or a better job which would make the difference at the end of each day. 

Six months after finishing her studies, she sent her CV to all the companies and bodies that might have some interest in acquiring her services. The few replies she obtained were only a polite way of telling her they didn’t need her.

* One becomes two On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

** Gold fever or gold rush designates a period of sudden and mass migration of workers to areas in which there was some spectacular discovery of commercial quantities of gold. The best known took place in California in 1849.

Curiously, few miners got rich, while their suppliers and other traders made fortunes thanks to these dealings.

They were tough times, even for a beautiful woman like Monika. Intelligent, but above all, rational, she knew that at the end of the day she was just another Sociologist adding to the queues of the unemployed. 

She needed a deep-reaching decision to solve a deep-reaching matter. When she opened her purse, she realised she only had some Czech Korunas, not even enough for a meal. 

She had to adapt her needs to the possibilities and between a not-so-good situation and a soon-to-come better one, she accepted an offer to wait tables in a small restaurant in the district of Mala Strana. 

Days became weeks and weeks became months.

Outside working hours, during the middle of the morning and the afternoon, she would make an effort not to go home and lie down to rest her exhausted legs. Instead, she put on her smile no. 5, her best smile, and went back to walk the streets, institutes, and companies always wielding hope as her irresistible weapon.

As for the months, they became years.

At the end of each day, after the restaurant closed, she liked to walk to the Lennon Wall*. 

It was there that so many like her, who believed the force of love is capable of everything, met to sing and listen to others singing, recite poems or just stay there reading the messages on the famous wall. It was the best part of her day, which had already gone to sleep many hours ago.

 

*The Lennon Wall - is a wall in Prague, Czech Republic. Once a normal wall, since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles songs.

In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge.

The movement these students followed was described ironically as "Lennonism" and Czech authorities described these people variously as alcoholics, mentally deranged, sociopaths,and agents of Western capitalism.

The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of youth ideals such as love and peace. The wall is owned by the Knights of the Maltese Cross, who allowed the graffiti to continue on the wall, and is located at Velkopřevorské náměstí (Grand Priory Square), Malá Strana.

One night, among so many others, while Monika listened to a small group near her playing and singing, and repeating to exhaustion the Lennon’s planet-wide success – Imagine – …

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today…

 

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…

 

She looked at the sky and saw a star that shone brighter than any other.

At that moment, it seemed to be a star only for her and she started imagining.

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