Remembering the StB

Former Prague correspondent Edward Lucas recounts in The Times his last meeting with an StB officer

I remember the StB clearly. The Státní Bezpecnost, or State Security, was a pervasive part of my life in Communist-era Czechoslovakia. As the lone western newspaperman in Prague, I was a prime target. The secret police followed me around, harassed my friends, bugged my flat, cut off my phone, tried to recruit me, and shoved first girls and then boys into my path in the (fruitless) hope of entrapping me.

What I remember especially well was the evening of November 17, 1989. The riot police had trapped a student demonstration in the centre of Prague. I watched as the defiantly sung national anthem quavered and dissolved into screams and cries. The students’ candles, flags and placards were quickly trampled underfoot. Truncheons slammed into heads and bodies.

Next it was my turn. My notebook and tape recorder were ripped from my hands. Two uniformed policemen twisted back my arms. Then a plain-clothes man (an StB officer, I found out later) administered the most painful beating of my life. I particularly remember seeing his fist, clad in black leather, hurtling towards my face, and eventually my head landing hard on the pavement. My family remembers that evening clearly too, hearing on the BBC that I was missing, last seen being dragged away, unconscious, by the police.

So I do not regard Jeremy Corbyn’s dalliance with the London representatives of the Czechoslovak regime as a trivial Cold War curio. While he and other left-wingers were hobnobbing with the emissaries of the Soviet empire, its victims were experiencing treatment — far worse than mine — that would curdle the blood of any true campaigner for freedom and justice.

Change came to Czechoslovakia in the form of the Velvet Revolution, Corbyn openly laments that change to capitalism and freedom. When he says “change is coming”, remember the fist…




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