FUNERAL OF YOUTH
UNWANTED MEMORIES OF AGA'S GRAVE
Seven Winters after the Prague Spring of 1968
The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
I think somebody has already written that.
I did! But I was wrong about the title then. That title was supposed to
belong to the novel I'm writing right now.
- Milan Kundera
In spring of 1975, my faith and the faith of my family came under
attack. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Tato having tea. Tato
just made me laugh. No one could listen to Mamka's angry voice and roll
his eyes as Tato could - upside down, inside out, back to front. 'Jozo,
don't bring your dust into my kitchen!' Mamka said it in a voice
reserved for talking about those who don't take their shoes off when
she just swept the carpet. No matter how much or how often Tato was in
trouble from women who cleaned the house for his habit of wiping the
sawdust from his overalls on the kitchen floor his wide palms just kept
rolling up and down his overalls out of habit. This would be the last
time Mamka would ever nag him for bringing sawdust inside her clean
Mamka and Gitka sat on the divan in the family room knitting jumper and
embroiding a tablecloth, a stunning design from a German magazine the
Burda, for Aga's engagement to the love of her life, Peter. My Mumka
and sister were addicted to knitting and sewing. Just one more row.
Into the night. Until their eyes almost fell out of their heads. I
remember the comforting click-clack of Mamka's No 7 needles and the
birth of my first German design jumper. A conservation about how hard
it was to find a good wool in Czechoslovakia lead to what I wanted for
my seventeenth birthday. Only that I never finished saying what I
wanted. We heard Aga's footstep on the from verandah and our normal
family life was about to transform into years of grief.
Aga walked in that evening in tears. I looked at Aga's salty eyes. I
saw something inside I had never seen before. Fear. My heart squeezed
in the cage of my chest. She had not been feeling well ever since she
started working in a new laboratory in Svit. In the last three weeks
she told us, she had felt so lethargic and without energy that all she
could think of was sleep. We put it down to the European spring.
However we soon found out it had nothing to do with the seasons. Aga
went for blood tests which soon revealed the horrific truth - she had
leukemia. As Aga announced an abbreviated version of her illness, an
eerie silence swept through the room like a fog. When Mamka walked to
embrace Aga and to say something, her eyes seemed to swim out of focus.
"Oh my God," she said. "Oh God." An uneasy sensation of foreboding so
overwhelmed me, I could almost taste it. I didn't realise at that
moment that Aga, at age 22, had received her death warrant. There was
disbelief, anger and my life was in a freefall.
Next day, I opened the giant wooden door leading from the main square
of Kezmarok to the reference shelves of the town library. I remember
thinking that I had been one of the most joyous boys in the world.
Sadness had its long claws deep inside me by the time I walked out of
the Kezmarok library. The whole world above me was no longer a festival
of warm colors. The verdict was the most confronting thing I have ever
been told by medical dictionaries and journals. The houses in Kezmarok
of Count Imre Thokoly no longer stood securely fastened to the ground.
Everything in town looked unsteady and black. Suddenly, I wanted to put
my books down and pick up a rock and toss it right through the glass of
the town hall building. The future direction of my inner life was
decided that week of my seventeenth birthday.
When I came home, Aga was sitting on the bench supported by pillows in
our garden. One tiny human figure under an enormous sky. The birds
still played music in our garden, but never against my Aga asking me to
sit next to her, "And hold my hand Jozo, I am afraid." The words
hovered a chilling presence in the air between us, but we didn't speak.
We were at the mercy of a God. We went through the best and worst
things together - skiing, skating, visiting Pilhov, Tatranka,
Within days, Aga stopped doing all those things that I used to think
were so cool. Aga used to automatically reach for her divine hair,
patting both sides of her head to push down any strays. She used to
sing and hum all those Karel Gott's songs. She used to notice when my
eyes were laughing and beg me to tell her, "So what have you done this
I no longer felt safe to look Aga in her eyes. I was flooded with the
overwhelming instinct to cry. I saw that Aga was in excruciating pain.
I sat next to her, put my hand on her hand and listened to the silence
of the universe. I still remember that sad, sad silence. Every emotion
was new to me. I wished it was my pain. When I was a child, I was
walking barefoot in our garden and stepped on a rusty nail. It went
right through my foot. It hurt. Ouch. And . . . here words fail me. I
experienced my first sensation of trembling.
Which hurts more: stepping your foot on a rusty nail or stepping your
heart on a broken glass?
Once I believed my Tato was made of steel. My Tato went from greeting
the morning from "Good morning, God!" to greetings which were more
like, "Good God ... morning?"
In Tato's workshop one afternoon he tried to explain something
difficult about Aga's pain to me and was confused when I did not
understand. I found at the end of the explanation that I was looking at
a broken man, though I could not remember making an image of a broken
man or even having decided to accept Tato's loss of authority.
Aga began to see specialists. Lots of them. They tested her blood. They
tested her urine. They put a scope up her rear end and looked inside
her intestines. "We need to check this further," the doctors said,
looking over their results. All summer, Aga's blood counts had been
less than one fifth to one tenth of what a normal person needs in order
to breathe adequately, absorb enough food, and move his limbs.
We would never talk directly about death. Even as Aga's 172 cm frame
began rapidly to shrink to 43 kilograms, we lived with a kind of
wordless understanding that it was better not to understand. We danced
around the subject, talking instead about Gott's latest songs or the
book Aga was reading or my friends and teachers at college. Then one
day ambulance took her to hospital. My Tato who learned to ask, "Have
you seen my glasses, or shirt, or shoes?" had stopped asking for help.
That week Mamka left the house to go shopping without a list. Mamka was
nothing without her lists.
No one accepted that Aga was confronting the end of her life. It was
hard to believe that such a thought could have even entered anyone's
mind. It was denied by all in the beginning. No one ever expects that
they might some day find themselves with a dying twenty-two-years-old
sister, daughter, schoolfriend, fiance in front of their eyes.
Aga, tall and radiant, had turned heads and broken more than a few
hearts. Within weeks of the diagnosis, Aga's rosy cheeks were gone. She
looked five years older in her hospital bed, ashen-coloured. She
endured spells of increased bloating, most noticeable were her puffy
feet and legs, as well as her shallow breathing. In the stark white
room, she felt constantly nauseous.
When I sat beside Aga's bed at hospital, watching her life slip away,
my thoughts ran back to our childhood when Aga was the strongest rock
in my life. There she lay, an unrecognisable girl, unable to
communicate, her eyes seemed withdrawn and had an air of someone who
had learned too much of life to indulge in smiles, but with a heart
still full of sister's love. In that split second between my lips
whispering the "Hail Mary" and "Our Father," an eternity went by in
which my mind was falling over in pity, panic, and most of all some
Everytime I said goodbye to Aga I felt taller and tanner than the last
time, and when she held me, I felt awkward, older, as if I was her
older brother and she was my younger sister.
At home, torrent of tears came without warning. Once our wholesome
kitchen echoed with the laughter of family sharing funny stories. From
that time on our meal times proceeded in silence. No genuine laughter
would be heard for a long time to come.
Over those next six months, Aga suffered intense and growing pain
throughout her body as a result of swollen bones. There was no medicine
available to treat her due to lack of the foreign currency. My parents
appealed to the authorities to let us obtain the drugs such as
Interferon directly from our aunties in Germany or France. Auntie Ota
and Zofka sent drugs to us, but every time they were confiscated. The
official reply was: 'it is illegal to bring in these drugs without
permission.' My parents never completely stopped feeling responsible
for not getting the appropriate medicine for Aga. The only thing they
could give her was raw liver. Not a good thing for Aga who couldn't
even stomach a pate. In the end, Aga begged us not to give her another
spoonful of liver or she would vomit again. For all that was happening
to her, Aga's voice was strong and inviting, and her mind was vibrating
with a million dreams. There were days when she was intent on proving
that one day she will sit at a cafe in Vienna.
Then, her condition had worsened to the point where death was
inevitable. One sad spring morning, Mamka awoke, confused from sleep,
to answer the telephone. "I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but
there is nothing more we can do," whispered Aga's doctor. Aga came home
from the hospital to die. 157 sunless days, a grey smear of time,
without colour and without end. Leukemia is like a lit candle: it melts
your red blood cells and leaves your body a pile of white wax. It
begins inside and works its way out. By the end, like something from a
science fiction movie, Aga's flame of life froze inside her own
As the Vrbov sat down to breakfast on 21 September 1975 the bells of
church struck death. The strokes were borne on the Tatra mountain wind,
"There's a girl whose soul has been taken to heaven."
Most fear death and some welcome it , but all are afraid of death when
it takes away one's loved one.
... St Servac church overflowed with mourners who spilled out into the
autumn cool breeze. No song, just simple organ music began the service.
The sobbing started before the music but grew louder and stronger when
Farar Glatz approached Aga's coffin. The funeral march rubbed salt in a
wound that already hurts too much. Father Glatz, our neighbour and
friend, was supposed to lead us in prayer, but few people could follow
his voice scorched with grief. The funeral service was a blur to me. I
remember little of my Mamka's pain-clouded eyes or my Tato's shaking
hands. I was not aware of the world around me. I felt what a
transcendental force the air had after the service. Did I place a stone
on Aga's grave, offering whatever it was I was supposed to offer?
Did I hear Father Glatz and his half question half fact?, 'You know, we
are all dying, not just your sister.' 'Is not doubting God a part of
Did I say, 'I doubt that God can get me through this.'
Did I hear my Tato finish his sentences?, 'To outlive a child is the
cruellest thing. A life sentence ..."
My heart failed me each time I tried to return to my daily routine.
Aga's absence made less and less sense. I made less and less sense to
others, as time went by. Much less and less sense to myself. It is hard
to believe that six months had gone by since I stopped measuring myself
against Aga. I'd do anything to row the time backward against the
ripping tide to hear my ancient words plead again, "Aga, Aga. You just
wait. I'm a going to be taller!" What was over was my faith in divine
benevolence as the fundamental tone of my existence. I no longer
believed in gravity. Each day I grew taller and taller and I assumed
less and less that my feet would hit the floor when I got up in the
morning. Each dawn and dusk, I clenched my hands in fists of rage. For
the very first time I found myself not caring whether I would grow as
tall as my uncle Paul who used to boast that girls had to climb up me
him to get a kiss.
"Why is God punishing me, Mamka? I was up ten times," I asked not
realising that she did not sleep at all. Privately, in the recesses of
my heart, I took a vow of revenge, a vow of retribition.
A life sentence for my misty parents and grandparents and Aga's fiance
and brothers and sisters and me. Growing up in communism was hard
enough without having your sister poisoned by chemical laboratory. I
had experienced uncontrollable feelings, consuming hatred and grief.
The layers of grief had been building up for months. I knew it was
manly not to cry! Madness lay in all directions. The thousand shades of
blackness bit me down like a sore tooth. My world went black. I felt my
insides leave me, lungs, stomach, heart all rolled up into a little
ball. No one could understand the deep hollows in my body, let alone
myself. I was sick of people repeating stories about the nature of life
and death and about the threshold between endings and beginnings. The
world deflated like a pair of lungs unable to inflate back again. And
feld a cold emptiness after each prayer.
I knew that words were not enough. I could only think there was a
self-preservation mechanism in us which allowed us to see just the
smallest glimpse of the sadness that lied ahead. To be confronted with
a sense of loss of sister was so heart-wrenching that I felt I could
not possibly take it all in.
That night the tyranny of loss and anger left me weeping in a foetal
position in my attic room. I gave myself up not to dream but to death.
In the dream I made my way with some difficulty to Aga's grave, finally
speaking with Aga after all the others around her. We wondered through
our favourite places. The dream replayed moments from our lives, times
when Aga told me a story of hoping to be a nun, or taking me to Tatra
Mountains or when she woke me up to eat my breakfast or the time in
church when we sang psalms and practiced folklore steps in the
It was a week before I realised that I didn't say a word to anyone. By
then I understood the meaning of the shortest sentence in the Bible,
"Jesus wept." The author of the psalm wrote that "my tears have been my
food, day and night." "Don't cry," Jimmy Cagney once said. "There's
enough water in the goulash already." While I cast my salty eyes on
black letters, the pages watched my great gift for turning water into a
spiritual wine. I almost became blind from excessive crying, but that
didn't not bury my grief. Only when my little niece Janka said, "Jozko
smells," I understood why Mamka was losing patience with me. But I
needed time. Time to smell. Time to study photos of Aga dancing,
smiling, studying me.
Some dreams one never tells anyone, because one does not want to be
ridiculed. Although rarely did I hear Aga speak to me. Once she said,
"If you become a father, don't name girls after me. Name them after
Dubcek." And another time Aga reminded me of Chamillova, "Remember what
Stara used to say, 'Now tell me what nice things happened to you
today.'" But, each dream seemed to have the same ending: Aga walking in
Father Glatz's meadow while I was running after her. I was never able
to catch up with her because Mr Rambacher never cut the long grass
which was between us. My feet were moving, but I was on the same
The mood surrounding the dreams stayed with me during the day. Awake or
asleep, I suddenly doubted my own senses. Ghosts and mediums were very
big in the middle of the day. Dream felt like a reality: it kept me in
suspense and consumed me with a sense of anticipation. Aga's absence
was too strange. I saw her or I heard her moving about or humming to
the rhythm of Tato's hammer.
I could not understand how our house could be filled with sweet
memories and be simultaneously so achingly empty. What did I grieve?
For the loss of a sister whose presence in my life made me laugh and
love. Grief for a wasted life. Grief for my own loss. The possibilities
of dying young had never crossed our minds.
Since then I measure my life by Aga, not by calendar, Before Aga and
After Aga. There is no end of missing, loving and longing. I was
seventeen and life seemed finished. At that point, I switched off
emotionally, from friends and family, and retreated into my aching
heart alone, not caring what happened around me.
A month after Aga's burial I was not ready to return the Agricultural
college. Of all the pain in human heart, the strongest must be the
feeling of grief. I became overcome by the strange feeling like I was
living in a country where the sense of north, west, east and south
disappeared. One think, therefore one is. Alas, but when one feels an
unbearable pain, somehow one can't be. I found myself in an environment
in which almost everyone became a stranger. As far as I could tell,
nothing had seemed real since Aga's death on 21 September 1975. I
refused to look life in the face because I could not envisage a life
without Aga. Kundera talked about life being an experiment only run
once. I thought about it many, many, many times. Experiment so unique
and so painful. But is there a God, is there one?
I believed that if grief alone could bring a loved one to life, Aga
would be back in holding my hand. The strangest stranger of all was
God. My strange God. I found myself shouting at the stranger who had
forsaken me. "Why art thou so far from helping me?" (Psalm 22: Aga was
22) ... Answer me when I call!" (Psalm 5: I was 5 years younger than
My activities became more vague and impulsive. The air was infected
with closed society. One way to tolerating existence was to lose myself
in reading censored articles about the relationship between control
over information and political power. Stories about faceless agents of
authoritarian state denying uncensored material and dutifully erasing
hints of rebellion and allusion to unpalatable truths tucked within
reams of propaganda.
Another way was to find myself pleading to the loving universal energy
that mystics said could be accessed by going into a deep, meditative
state. I learned about the gift of sublime mystic stories. My mind
began to use the language of positive visualisation and I started to
become aware of many faiths inside me. Nothing said more about the
changes in the way I tempted fate than me walking up and down the busy
corridors of the local communist town hall with a samizdat magazine in
I rehearsed my grievances every time I saw a cross. Cemeteries did
nothing for my mood. To hear a song that Aga used to enjoy was like
seeing a torn photo album. Has anyone danced with Aga with the wind in
his hair? This time I broke windows not in mischief, but in anger. One
day I was about one centimeter away from slapping the picture of St
Servac on the top of my study desk. My family and friends began to
grumbled and said all sorts of hurtful things but I remained
indifferent. Villagers who adored me beyond what seemed reasonable
began to shun me.
I gained a certain visibility when I became more-than-occasional
prankster. One of my stunts was to wear a wig to church on Sunday.
Another Sunday afternoon I was in a friend's car supposedly to teach
him how to drive, at 17 I was the first to obtain a driving licence,
then I opened a door and let myself fly out. For a ghastly 17-year-old,
I did a good imitation of James Bond's facial expressions and his
seemingly permanent lucky escapes. The sound of my head hitting
pavement in front of the pub no one who saw me do it was surprised to
find several blood spots. If Dr Rusniak told villagers to pop pills,
they would do so because he was like God. I put his painkillers in a
I let the steepest slopes wash around me and I dared my friends to come
and ski with me. A friend later confided that he had cut me out of his
life as I had become insufferable.
Windowless, I began to see God's fingerprints in the cigarettes and
vodka. Cigarettes and vodka became a way of forgetting death, skiing
meant to hasten its passage. I laughed at the suggestion that great
faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer. I was
told to drink the suffering by John at 8:11 'The cup which my Father
hath given me, shall I not drink it?' I was unable to do something
expressive that wasn't physically painful. God was punishing me by
killing my sister Aga. I sought to replace God with myself. How could I
believe in the next world when I could hardly believe in this
I started to carry about within myself rebellion and mistrust. I can't
escape the notion that those months after Aga's death when I was
doggedly searching for answers I found that the little black letters on
a white page were far less stiffer that ever before. I began to see
details in paintings which included figures of people scratching
themselves, men having nosebleeds, and the matchstick shadows inside
waves as drown bodies.
I would not have believed that I would ever disregard Father Glatz's
warning: "Stay away from any mysticism!" Whenever mysticism was
mentioned among the highlanders, remarks were tossed about such as: One
can go mad studying Kabbalah; it is safe to study mysticism only after
the age of forty; a man must be married and have at least three
children before embarking on its study; young aged and women are
forbidden to study mystics which often border on the psychic.
I found my way to mysticism when I was no longer satisfied by the bible
and hoped studying mysticism would provide answers, clarification and
new enthusiasm. The bible texts were Kabbalah texts. They were texts
Kabbalists wrote to one another to exchange ideas and to assist each
other in learning. Just as in scientific research, they pass along the
knowledge they have attained to future generations.
Long before I had a clear understanding of what had actually happened
in the mystical 1960s, I sensed that the 1970s represented a turn for
the worse. Denied the opportunity to transform the social order, people
turn their attention to transforming their personal lives. They give
themselves the "makeover" they can't give to society. But these
attempts at personal transformation are shadowed by the prospect of
what could have been. No matter how many underground movements they run
through, no matter how many samisdat articles they read or how many
western items they purchase on the black market in order to remake
their identity, they can never completely escape the political tragedy
of the past.
It took me twenty years to find out that Kabbalists also wrote novels
and songs. Kabbalists that we love haunt us for ever. One writer, Josef
Kafka, became more real to me than my family and friends around me. A
band called the Eagles' with an album Hotel California was more from
the communist castle than from the American hotel.
'Hotel California' tells a story that is only half the story. The
song's first-person narrator is driving in the desert. He sees a
building in the distance. It turns out to be a hotel. He decides to
stop for the night. Once inside, he experiences a series of disquieting
encounters, culminating in a hideous banquet. When he tries to leave
the hotel, he is told that it would be futile to try: "You can check
out anytime you like, but you can never leave." With this horrifying
statement, the song's lyrical content comes to an end. But the music
carries on, with minor variation, for a few more minutes, though not on
most classic rock stations, which cut it short.
Someone once said that, "Kafka's stories were Truth's elder sister."
Metamorphosis certainly made me feel less alone. Kafka was writing
everything I was trying to make sense of in my head. It was very sad
yet uplifting. Kafka's words were a constant stream in Czechoslovak
society, a current that gave shape to our thoughts in all kinds of
context. If we slow down and look at Kafka's stream more closely we
seem to find words that are like pebbles in the water, full of mystery
and interest. Kafka's unsparing self-examination somehow enabled him to
foresee so much of what was to happen in the political world. Kafka's
nightmare , his conviction, as Klima puts it, is that "a dependable
world of dignity and justice is what is absurdly fantastic."
Kafka prefered not to know. Kafka prefered the mystery. A mystery that
he might never be able to answer. That might not even have an answer.
The uncomplicated pleasure and agony of mystery, words, love,
loneliness, pebbles and ghosts. Kafka took out from Sam Johnson the
concept that the two most engaging powers of an author are to make new
things familiar, and familiar things new. His stories don't need to ask
what were the reasons for the sufferings which filled this world, and
whether it was possible somehow to prevent them. I began to appreciate
why Kafka's type of Kabbalism was told in such a way that an unworthy
person would not understand him. Who cared that the secret given to
Kafka might itself represent an understanding of a black joke? I went
from what Kafka meant, to what Kafka really meant, to what I mean when
I read Kafka.
I remember my shock when I began to reread Kafka's writings which were
representations of the kabbalistic conception of the world: a hint of
the Absolute that broke into pieces. Father Glatz did not like Kafka's
God who was the judgmental and punitive God of the Old Testament.
Father Glatz did not preach an eye for an eye sermons. I no longer
wondered why the pivotal conversation in Kafka's novel The Trial took
in a Catholic cathedral. Everything that happened on earth was a direct
consequence of a cyclical oscillation between the divine poles of
justice and grace. Human life was nothing more than a pendulum swing
between acquittal and judgment, between arrest and its postponement,
between separation and union, between ego and its sublimation in
Oneness of God. To Kafka dogs and other living things were not
In Tradesman, Kafka writes, 'Fly then; let your wings, which I have
never seen, carry you into the village hollow or as far as Paris, if
that's where you want to go."
I no longer dreamed of auntie Zofka's Paris, nor of girls, nor of motor
cars, nor sunbathing, nor jazz. The world was bleak and the essence of
death ever more mysterious.
There is a moment when grief melts one's sense of reality and I entered
a zone that was deep in nightmare territory. My nightmares, the most
horrible especially: the screams of Svit chemical factory was
unbearable, screeching loud machines!
Then things really got eerie. Night after night I fantasised about
breaking into the Svit textile factory. Like Red Indians coming down
the hill to attack the troops, Svit factory arrived from nowhere.
Svit is Dicken world come to life. It smells of death. Whenever I asked
about the smell, I heard others sounding like the citizens of
Auschwitz: "We didn't know, we didn't know!" We did not know chemicals
could kill. In Svit one is reminded of cities that were created by
communists - it had identical shade of grey concrete buildings in every
suburb. It is the ghost of the Communist state, which created the
market for biological warfare. To tell the story of Aga is to tell the
story of Svit. The tale is complex. However, today everyone agrees that
Svit has been a mistake, an ecological disaster tainting the whole of
Tatry. The river throughout Svit is posted with signs warning people
not to swim, the chemical sludge there is sure to kill the unwary
After one endless hour after another, I could not swim in my melancholy
any longer. I could not bear sitting or standing in one place trying to
read books or making conversations that I wasn't in the least
interested in. So I spent hours of walking in Svit in a state of
complete misapprehension in my murderous thoughts and searching for the
right question to ask. I didn't need anyone telling me there was
something wrong with the enormous rage I was feeling. My sister died of
leukemia after working for three year in a chemical factory, and I am
not supposed to feel anger? . . . Of all the emotions I have felt since
Aga's death, anger was the best. Rage gives me sanity. Rage made me
"Look, I am not blaming you for anything, what happened to Aga happened
I just want to know what project she was working on," but I felt that
people walked a safe distance from me. Was my anger staring from my
face? Was this a bad question? What was I going to do? Walk through the
town for ever?
However, one day before Christmas I made the first of what became
hundreds of inquiries about that chemical factory where Aga had worked
in Svit. I spent sums of money I could ill effort on buying drinks to
helpful factory workers.
"There's still a link," I said and no one argued with me.
I suppose I was perhaps the last customer to leave the Svit pubs, but
then again I saw no reason to hurry to the boarding school. The
director of the boarding school gave up on his threats to throw me out.
Somehow, I had tapped some hidden well of bravery inside myself. I had
steeled myself to ask any question. Some people who I talked to were
terrified to answer, but I learned all I could about the Svit complex,
some information gained through strategic late night drinking sessions
in the nearby pub. I heard that other people who worked in the Svit
factory had died of leukemia, over-exposed to the chemicals that were
destined as weapons to kill others.
There were incidents and connections too obvious to doubt. Guilt
descended on my parents who suspected that Aga had been exposed to
radiation or some kind of chemical reaction at the research laboratory.
To this day we are not sure what biological research she was involved
in. Some people tried to convince me that this was only foolish
conspiracy. Where did the respectable chemical manufacturing end, and
the manufacturing of chemical weapons begin? As Stasi and KGB archives
have revealed, we know that the feared police service in East Germany
and Czechoslovakia tracked political suspects with radioactive tags
sprayed on their clothes or coated on cars. The James Bond-style
tactics involved labelling suspects with high doses of leukemia-causing
The insanity of developing and manufacturing large quantities of
chemical weapons at a time when each side had enough weapons to destroy
the other a thousand times over seemed insane. To a regime on a brink
of bankruptcy, the low cost and ease to manufacture makes these
chemical weapons easy to make. That is why we refer to certain weapons
as 'the poor man's atomic bomb.'
Many suspicious details have come to light since her death regarding
the way managers of large chemical factories sold chemicals to eager
arms dealers who were interested in chemical weapons. This trade had
immense global significance. For instance, few reports indicate that if
Saddam Hussein is a monster, he is a monster that the Czechoslovak
communists helped to nurture and protect. He was their most prefered
buyer and those on the know knew that Iraq was never going to be enough
While on a diplomatic mission to the United States in 1990, Czech
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jaroslav Sedivy was asked by the US
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to 'please help us' with the
looming crisis in Iraq. The Czech Army sent an anti-chemical unit to
the Persian Gulf War in 1991, because Czech troops were familiar with
the product. They had sold it in the first place.
Svit to me is a smaller-scale Chernobyl. It frightened me that people
cared less and less about the environment. It frightened me that I
could do nothing significant about that.
Even after all these years, I still have such a hard time writing about
Aga. I was and still am numb about her loss.