Passing through the rural areas of the old Warsaw Pact countries we saw many derelict collective buildings and were constantly reminded of the depopulation of the countryside since 1989. It was a strong reminder of the inefficiency of the collective system. Fewer people produce more food today, and the living standard of the population is very much higher.
In the cities, we went to exhibits on the Soviet occupation. The most striking museum exhibit for me, just showed: a toilet, a public phone booth, and a food store …. all from the Soviet era. Striking for me because I had seen exactly the same things in Russia itself (but not in a museum). The command economy, political repression, and the collective structures made for a miserable life for those who lived under Stalin and subsequent Soviet leaders.
As is often the case in our travels, I am reminded how lucky I was to be born in ¨The West¨. This time, however, I came to realise that I owe a huge debt to those who supplied England with food during the early years of WWII, especially the merchant seamen who risked their lives in the North Atlantic. Without them, and the food and armaments they delivered, I suspect Stalin would have ended up controlling all of Europe. My life would have been very different.