For the past week, leading up to the 20th Anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, Doug Saunders is visiting former Eastern Bloc nations to investigate the forces that were at play at that time that led to the falling of the Iron Curtain.
Today, Mr. Saunders looks back at the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Following is an excerpt from the story that appeared in today's Globe.
Every few weeks, a retired Hungarian military officer named Bella Arpad walks across the unmarked stretch of road that separates the border and has a drink with the man who used to be the Austrian border guard, back when Europe had borders and guards.
They reminisce about the time, 20 years ago, when this now-invisible border was part of the Iron Curtain, and Mr. Arpad, one of thousands of men under orders to shoot anyone who crossed it, inadvertently helped it to collapse.
His split-second decision in August of 1989 transformed this once-impervious barrier stretching from the Adriatic to the Baltic into something more like a bead curtain, and likely precipitated the events that caused the Berlin Wall to be opened on Nov. 9, 1989.
Monday's Berlin Wall anniversary will be celebrated around the world, but the real end of the Iron Curtain took place on Aug. 19, 1989, when hundreds and then thousands of East Germans were permitted to pour across the mined, fenced and fortified barrier at the Hungarian-Austrian crossing - in large part because Mr. Arpad decided not to obey his rules of engagement.
Join Mr. Saunders to discuss this and his previous stories in his series Beyond the Berlin Wall