The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago. A hideous symbol of the suppression of liberty, it should remind us of the ever-present threat to our freedoms. Even two decades later the legacy of repression continues to afflict many people in Eastern Europe. For instance, those in countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain still struggle with the knowledge that their friends and neighbors routinely spied on them.
Stelian Tanase found out when he asked to see the thick file that Romania’s communist-era secret police had kept on him. The revelation nearly knocked the wind out of him: His closest pal was an informer who regularly told agents what Tanase was up to.
“In a way, I haven’t even recovered today,” said Tanase, a novelist who was placed under surveillance and had his home bugged during the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime.
“He was the one person on Earth I had the most faith in,” he said. “And I never, ever suspected him.”
Twenty years ago this autumn, communism collapsed across Eastern Europe. But its dark legacy endures in the unanswered question of the files — whether letting the victims read them cleanses old wounds or rips open new ones.
Things have never been so bad here, obviously, but that gives us even more reason to jealously guard our liberties. Defend America we must, but we must never forget that it is a republic which we are defending.