For decades Americans imagined life under Communist regimes to be grim, frightening, and oppressive. Not so, Bulgarian-born Zlatko Anguelov reveals in this eye-opening memoir. For the most part, life was just normal. People adjusted; bread had to be earned; families enjoyed each other's company. If Communist governments were oppressive, that oppression became the norm for most people's lives. Yet in the morally ambivalent world of communist Bulgaria in which Anguelov grew up, everyone was both victim and victimizer. Few dissented; few intended evil. More typical were experiences of compliance, complicity, and informing on friends and neighbors just to get by.
In moving but understated prose, Anguelov describes his own coming to terms with the harm done by compliance and his gradual shift into a more politically active stance. Through the stories of his own family and acquaintances, he illustrates the kinds of moral choices available to ordinary folk. The motives for collaboration ranged from those of his grand-uncle, who cooperated with the government because he believed fervently in communism, to those of his cousin, who cynically embraced the regime in order to prosper.
In this provocative account, Anguelov challenges easy assumptions about communism, democracy, and Eastern Europe. His chilling insights into the costs of complicity under Bulgarian communism raise uncomfortable questions about the moral dimensions of "going along" in any system.
Zlatko Anguelov was born in Bulgaria in 1946. After earning his M.D., he taught anatomy in Varna and worked as a general practitioner in Sofia. He later contributed to western newspapers, worked with Bulgaria's Turkish minority, and wrote extensively on AIDS. In 1992, Anguelov moved to Canada, where he earned a degree in medical sociology. He currently edits a medical journal in Iowa.
"This is a remarkable narrative. I read it in a single sitting. It has bite, pace, and an excellent narrative flow. First person accounts of this quality are rare from behind the former Iron Curtain, rarer still from Bulgaria. The author has a Kundera-like Eastern European quality of introspection, and a searingly honest appraisal of his communist origins and upbringing, which makes the fall of communism and his personal disillusionment all the more poignant. The broader themes of history and politics are skillfully introduced, the turmoil they induced in Bulgaria is vividly represented. Contact with the Secret Police is presented with skill, the travail of Turkish peoples in Bulgaria is masterfully reported in the second section. . . .by far one of the most interesting works I've read from contemporary Eastern Europe."--Frederick Quinn, author of Democracy at Dawn--Frederick Quinn, author of Democracy at Dawn