In 1978 a romantic young Englishman took up residence in Berlin to see what that divided city could teach him about tyranny and freedom. Fifteen years later Timothy Garton Ash--who was by then famous for his reportage of the downfall of communism in Central Europe--returned. This time he had come to look at a file that bore the code-name "Romeo." The file had been compiled by the Stasi, the East German secret police, with the assistance of dozens of informers. And it contained a meticulous record of Garton Ash's earlier life in Berlin.
The next summer, I drove through all six countries of what was then called Eastern Europe. In Poland, I discovered the spirit of resistance that I had long been seeking. Outwardly poor, dirty and neglected, though still with pockets of ancient beauty, the country was made magical by its people, now super-charged by the recent, incredible pilgrimage of a Polish Pope.
In Kraków, over a beef dish presented as "Nelson's bowels", giggling, indomitable Róża Woźniakowska told me how, as Archbishop of Kraków, the future Pope had ordered that a lecture on "Orwell's 1984 and contemporary Poland", banned by the authorities, should be delivered in church.
In Warsaw, the irrepressible Władysław Bartoszewski, who had survived both Auschwitz and Stalinist prisons, informed me at the top of his voice over lunch in a crowded restaurant: "We count on the collapse of the Russian empire in the twenty-first century!"
What a contrast to craven East Germany.