I have witnessed occupation. I know how people can hate each other. I've been there. They were my friends.
This quote reminded me of a co-worker at the University of Chicago named Olga who, with her husband and son, had left Czechoslovakia in the late 60's, moving to Chicago. She had grown up in Bohemia and later lived in Prague. Her memories of the Nazi occupation as well Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia were vivid and penetrating to me, a child of the Cold War. Olga was amazingly athletic -- skiing well into her 70's and chic -- wearing hand tailored suits her mother had made for her. She retained her Slavic accent; for instance, she would say ducks were swimming in the pond and I heard dogs were swimming. No matter, she always had my rapt attention which sometimes got us both some managerial glances. Her experiences were truly a world and lifetime away from mine. I gave Olga my copy of My Antonia which opened up more delicious conversation about her own Bohemian childhood. So, one day Olga saw me knitting during lunch which reminded her of the time she was in a rowboat with her son, Jan, paddling around. She had brought her knitting along with her hoping to finish a sweater she had started for herself. Being a curious child, Jan's enthusiasm eventually tipped the little boat. At that moment, she and Jan watched the yarn and needles float away. She laughingly admitted that's why the stylish sweater she was wearing when she told me this story only had three-quarter length sleeves!