Memories & reflections

CBC Radio Sunday Edition

Generation Next: Young Minds, Bodies and Souls after Communism

James ColeJames Cole is the stage name of a Czech rapper. (CBC/David Gutnick)

James Cole is 25 years old and one of the Czech Republic’s best-known rap singers. This is an interview transcript from the CBC Radio Sunday Edition documentary "Generation Next: Young Minds, Bodies and Souls after Communism. From Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary"


I was six years old when communism went down. I am a kid of the 90s, which means everybody was talking about America. It was like chewing gum, cigarettes, really dumb stuff you know but people were so excited by the fall of Communism. They wanted to catch up to the West in a sort of funny way. Guys who were hustlers became millionaires. For me it was English, it was rap music, I started reading Bukowski you know, I really loved it, Kerouac and Ginsberg and all of them. Communism is 40 years of slumber; you have a lot of catching up to do after that.

When I think of Communism I see streets with no people, streets with no lights. I feel sadness and depression. I do not really see a place for this kind of ideology in this world you know. It just totally does not match. You were given a way of life. You did not have to be creative. You did not have to hustle for your money, so it is the same thing as in Cuba right now where I read that fifty percent of people would just leave it as it is.

Communists, they really did a nasty job on people. The whole regime you know did a really nasty job, you can still feel it in the air 20 years after. People are jealous.

"My neighbour has got a new car, why? If I do not have it I am going to scratch it."

Because in the forty years most of the people had the same clothes, they ate the same food, they got the same stuff and a lot of people did not get over it yet. They are still really jealous; they are spying on each other. Czech people do not like individuality. They are sort of trying to be friends with everybody and then behind their back there is a lot of talking and I think that is all the work of communism like the 40 years of suppression led to a nation of scared people. Yeah, I think basic trait of it is they spread fear. Police and the interrogations and you never knew who is going to rat on you and you never knew who said what, you had to watch your back, you learned to be careful what you say.

That is where we come in. We are trying to lift this. You can say whatever you want. Be proud of yourself you know. You are gay…whatever you do it is okay. It is really tough just thinking about it.

About the radio documentary

LeninStone cold: statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin looks into a democratic future for Ukraine. (CBC/Karin Wells)

On Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was smashed. That marked the beginning of the end of a dream — for communists. For many people who lived under Soviet domination, it signaled the end of a nightmare.

Almost overnight, capitalism bloomed. Whole economies were redesigned. Free speech flourished. Unemployment soared. So did interest in organized religion. Billionaires popped up. Social safety nets were shredded. Neighbours found out who had been spying on whom. Real elections were held. Here was democracy, or something like it.

Now, from the ashes of the old — still warm, still combustible — the young are building new worlds in Eastern Europe. Theirs is the first post-Soviet generation. They carry the weight of the past, its secrets and lies. And like the young everywhere, they dream about a different future.

This is the first of three CBC Radio Sunday Edition documentaries that bring us the sounds, experiences, ideas and dreams of a special generation in a series called "Generation Next: Young Minds, Bodies and Souls after Communism, from Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary" produced by Karin Wells and David Gutnick.

LISTEN to Part 1 (53:14)