Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in East-Central Europe

By Vladimir Tismaneanu | Go to book overview

THOMAS W SIMONS, JR.


Eastern Europe between the USSR
and the West: Reflections on the Origins
and Dynamics of the Cold War

Where I Came In

I was actually born in 1938 during the Munich crisis, so I could almost say, with the 17th-century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, that fear and I are twins, even if the Cold War and I are not. But I did come of age during the mean early years of the Cold War, from the Berlin Blockade to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I am of the generation that learned in school to get under door jams to survive a Soviet nuclear attack. So when I entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1963 I hoped to work in and on the Cold War.

I also brought with me into the Service an interest in Eastern Europe that was unusual at the time. I had studied in Paris and Vienna, and in Vienna the East is near: there is an old saying that Asia begins at the Landstrasse, and I lived two blocks away. But even before that, as a 7-year-old in Calcutta with my diplomat parents in 1945, I had been gripped by a film about the destruction of Warsaw six years before: Chopin mixed on the soundtrack with the whine of Stukas. When I was a student in Paris in 1956 crowds of French youths vented their outrage at the Soviet reconquest of Budapest by storming the Communist Party headquarters at the Carrefour de Châteaudun. The next spring a friend and I drove around Austria's Burgenland looking for James Michener's bridge at Andau where the Hungarian refugees had come across the previous fall, and I was warned off my first minefield by Hungarian border guards. So when I entered the Service I wanted to work not just on the Cold War, but on the Cold War in precisely this part of the world.

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