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A Personal Journey Through the Changing Landscape of Eastern Europe

by Peter Laufer

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1991
ISBN: 1-56279-015-3

 Veteran international correspondent Laufer, who covered the Eastern bloc revolution for ABC and CBS, here offers images, anecdotes, and conversations with ordinary citizens that give a fuller flavor of how the prospect of freedom affects individuals. A San Francisco-based journalist who spent much of the last three years covering Eastern Europe, Laufer was present in Berlin when the Wall came down and later loaded up a camper and toured all of the Communist countries in Eastern Europe (except Albania). At pains to help the Western reader see and feel the differences among these countries, he nonetheless finds many common elements: the grayness and dilapidation of once-noble capitals, the tiny cars that take two years' wages to buy, the absence of goods in the stores. The overall obsession with obtaining Western goods is a theme that Laufer reiterates time and again: ``Until Eastern Europeans get their chance at Barbies and Slurpies, Big Macs and Nintendo, and all the other junk the West offers, who can expect them to spurn it?'' His images touch on the political: Berlin punk rockers with purple hair spikes, the extreme of anarchism, who still won't cross the street against a red light. Laufer describes a series of lovable hustlers who find ways to exploit currency gaps between East and West, such as two Polish auto mechanics who work in West Berlin and live in Poland like kings. Throughout, those he interviews ponder whether real change will follow Communism's collapse, or whether only the faces and slogans of leaders will change. Well-crafted travel guide and an informative complement to Anthony Daniels's Utopias Elsewhere (p. 834). (Sixteen pages of photos--not seen).