One gentleman I knew spoke of his grandfather. He was condemned as "kulak"-he owned a farm- by the Communist authorities. The grandfather spent a year in jail. When his son, my friend's father, went to serve in the army he was designated as having a "bad class background." Recruits from politically undesirable origins had to serve, but weren't trusted with weapons. They tended to be sent to do work in fields that had a labor shortage, generally coal mining. But they were paid coal miner's wages, which weren't too bad. My friend's father was able to save money and buy a house for his father (the farm had of course been confiscated). He bought one on the western border where there was an abundance of unnocupied housing owing to the expulsion of the Germans that lived there.
One lady I knew told me about her parents. She was six in 1948 when her parents were sent to prison. Her father's crime was being a lawyer. She lived with her grandmother for six years until her mother was released. Her father did a full ten. If I recall corerctly she told me she didn't see him for about eight years.
In 1968 her sister was living in an apartment in Vysehrad, an old part of Prague just south of the city center on the east bank of the Vltava. When the Soviet troops occupied the city they imposed a curfew. One night they began firing wildly at nothing in particular. My friend's sister spent the night cowering on the floor, hoping not to get hit by a stray bullet. When dawn came my friend went over to help clean up and give moral support. They found only one bullet had entered the apartment. It had hit a book of Lenin's writings.
When I was in Prague it was a placid place. It stretched out along the river, busily tending its real estate, its art openings, its pubs (ah, Prague's wonderful pubs). The scars of the past were never too far away, laid on one another like layers. But there was always a fresh face on top looking to somethng new. And grumping about it. How I miss that dear, beautiful, frustrating, friendly, golden city.