The AnBlokk Association conducted the „Counter-pedagogy under State Socialism” research&education program between February 2011 and January 2013. The project explored a particular experimental pedagogic space in State-Socialist Hungary. From the late 1930’s to the 1970’s, each summer, Eszter Leveleki, a teacher trained and inspired by the flourishing reform-pedagogic scene of the 1920s and 1930s, organized her private summer vacation in a small lakeside village 60 kms north from Budapest. Attracting children mostly from artist-intellectual families, she created a unique world. Pipecland was a constitutional monarchy with a special mythology which celebrated the values of spontaneity, individual and collective creativity and the community’s power to “form collective experiences”.
Last summer I gave a talk at the University of Oxford, sharing my work on the comparison of childhood and education between Russia and the US. My husband and I decided to prolong our European stay and spent a week in Switzerland. We were sitting inside a small cafe in Bern named “Einstein” on a warm day in late June. Suddenly we heard a female voice coming from the street, saying in a very loud Russian: “Renowned physicist Albert Einstein lived in this house for seven years while he stayed in Bern!” My husband and I burst out laughing, we didn’t expect to hear the Russian language in the heart of Switzerland. Not only that, the woman spoke in that very particular Russian voice, with the volume going up towards the end of the sentence, as if every statement ends with an exclamation mark, to convince the audience even further.
It happened at the end of the 1980s during perestroika or right after 1990, I cannot remember the exact time. My parents were eagerly absorbing liberal newspapers that were full of revelations about the cruelties of the Soviet regime and the hypocrisy of Soviet leaders. Once I picked one such a newspaper – Argumenty i Facti– and read a short article about Lenin. It accused Lenin of ordering the killing of his critics.
A girl, Patricia, joined us in the kindergarten group in a regional town in Hungary. We have never had a child visiting before. Now we had someone from Chile. I remember being full of questions but don’t remember how and when I received answers.