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Picnic at the Iron Curtain: A Memoir: From the fall of the Berlin Wall to Ukraine's Orange Revolution Kindle Edition
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Ms. Viets' story starts out in London, with the presentation of an opportunity. Then moves to Hungary, where she witnesses a mass exodus of East Germans to Austria just before the border rules changed. Next she moves to Kiev while it is still a part of the USSR. So she has the opportunity to know that city, and the Ukraine quite well, and thus be in a position to fully appreciate the changes that took place after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During this period, she has the chance to see Chernobyl, visit the abandoned city, and meet some villagers in a seemingly idyllic place. She also managed to get to Chechnya during this time so we get a peek at what was happening there. Ms. Viets also spends time in Sarajevo during the war, and is able to return to Kiev for the Orange Revolution. While the political events themselves are interesting, it's the relationships she has with the local people and her daily interactions that provide the most interesting context for the events she describes.
Ms. Viets was very lucky, in my mind, to have been able to live and travel in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, especially at such a pivotal time in history. She sets a great example of exploiting an opportunity, adapting to different world-views and maneuvering through oppressive bureaucracies.
I recommend this book! You might ask why only four stars if I liked it so much. I personally reserve the five stars for those books that are above and beyond.
The writing is sublime, the stories fascinating and the character Ms Viets reveals challenges us to be more, dare more, and make a run for it.
Buy this book. Read this book. It's better than the gym, better than dinner out, better than almost anything you might have done with the time and money. I consider it a life-changing book and I plan to read it again and then get ready to fly.
If she publishes another book, I'll be the first in line.
I do not thrive in environments like this, I prefer things relatively safe, no one shooting guns on a daily basis. As far as the historical aspect it was interesting but a bit over long.
When an accident left Susan Viets with time on her hands and a strong desire to visit Hungary, at the time behind the Iron Curtain, a BBC journalist suggested to her that she get herself accredited as a journalist so that she would have better access to see for herself what was going on first hand. Susan spent much of the next two decades living, working & traveling in former Communist-bloc countries from Hungary to the Ukraine, Sarajevo to Tajikistan, at a time when many of the places she visited were nothing more than a spot on the map to most Westerners - if they had heard of them at all.
Susan's memoir is fascinating - and her sources are well documented in the back. Along the way she helps an East German girl escape to the West in the days before the Berlin Wall fell, visited Chernobyl, went shopping at bazaars along the Silk Road, siphoned gas, and ran into her share of characters - shady and not so shady.
These are not the stories that Susan filed over the years with the various news organizations she reported for, but the stories behind the stories. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes triumphant, often amusing, Picnic at the Iron Curtain: A Memoir: From the fall of the Berlin Wall to Ukraine's Orange Revolution will keep you reading from the first page to the last.