CHAPTER 14 Life in the Police State

SOMETIMES, while we were living in Prague, I wondered whether the Communists intentionally organized things there so that a foreigner would be permanently involved in dealings with the police, or whether this state of affairs was merely a by-product of Czech bureaucracy. In any event, I found that I had to call on the police for one reason or another at least once every two weeks, sometimes more often.

Tania's and my resident permits usually had to be renewed once a month but at different times, because we had not arrived together. During 1949, I had a special journalist's multiple journey "exit, re-entry visa" renewable every two months; but for Tania I had to apply for a new "exit, re-entry visa" every time she made a trip outside the country. Beginning in 1950, I, too, had to apply separately for each trip. Multiple-journey visas were abolished entirely in 1952.

Furthermore, anyone, Czech or foreign, leaving his residence for more than forty-eight hours had to notify the police of his departure and return, in addition to registering with the police in whatever town he visited.

At the "foreigners' police" there were almost always long lines leading to doors on which were marked the names of various countries -- one for the principal western European and American countries, another for southern European countries, another for the "People's Democracies"' and the U.S.S.R. I saw Soviet Russians standing in line just like the Westerners. Perhaps the Russians were more used to it.

There were no chairs. So you just stood in line in that half-dark corridor and ground your teeth. Every so often a door would open ever so slightly, a glum face would peer out and say, "Next." In a twinkling, two or three people would slip through the door, and then, amidst groans and impassioned protests, all but one would again be expelled from the inner sanctum.

After sweating out such a queue for an hour or more, you would be

-149-

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