Everybody in the West used to assume the countries behind the Iron Curtain were little copies of the Soviet Union, with sausage shortages, tank parades and unbeatable women’s weightlifting teams.
I backpacked across the former East Blocs the summer after the Berlin Wall came down. After college, I taught English in a Czech school, traveling to Slovakia to witness Czechoslovakia’s peaceful dissolution in 1993. I hung out with journalists in smoky cafes and dreamed of becoming a foreign correspondent.
Today a generation is coming of age that learned about communism in history class. But New Europe is in no danger of getting old.
For decades, the principals at a boxy, two-story kindergarten in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, unwittingly pored over their lesson plans just a few feet above one of the city’s most sacred sites.
Based in Berlin and Moscow, I’ve reported from the former Soviet empire since 1996. I started working as National Public Radio’s Moscow correspondent in December 2016. Before that I contributed to Reuters, Slate, Bloomberg and The Moscow Times, among others.