If I would have to sum up all the things that I lost because I spent the first seven years of my life behind the Iron Curtain, I would have to start with one evening when instead of the usual ten minutes of cartoons, the national television had to switch to a different program because there was a vital update on the travels of the Supreme Leader in one African country or another. It occurred to me right then that robbing a child of his ten minutes of daily allocated entertainment was not such a noble thing to do. I asked my parents who was this Ceaușescu that he was allowed to do something so unfair. The fear in my parents voices when they told me I shouldn't ask such questions because people might hear us in our small one bedroom apartment was the first time when I realised something was badly wrong with our world. Keep your head down, be quiet, don't get out of line, don't question superior authority and you might just be lucky enough not to get in trouble today.
It was easy to accept the cold winter mornings when my mother had to dress me up for kindergarten as quickly as she could so I wouldn't catch a cold, or the only two pairs of clothing items, one for every day and one for Sundays or for hospital, or the magical scent of the heavily restricted oranges that we could only smell on some of the more special Christmases, or the milk that my father managed to bring home by waking up at four o'clock in the morning to neatly queue our empty milk bottles ahead of our neighbors' in front of the local shop. But to accept that you can't speak freely even in your own home and that your parents are as small and easy to crush as a cockroach, that was too much to take without turning older but not wiser in a second.
But that was all small in comparison to what I would have lost if there were no cracks in our cruel glass dome. All the countries I have seen, all the books I have read, all the people I have met - too far out of reach to even dream of them. And I, a small gray obedient little ant, toiling away so that only a few could bathe in gold and see the world. Grateful that I am allowed to live for another day.