Paul Goldsmith

Nineteen sixty-eight was a tumultuous year—across the globe, and for me personally. I took a year between high school and college to work and travel. In February ’68, when I turned 19, I was living on a Kibbutz in Israel. In May, the student uprising in Paris blasted into the news. But I also watched with increasing interest the unfurling of the Prague Spring and the reforms of Alexander Dubček. In summer there were ominous signs of Soviet Block troop concentrations on the border of Czechoslovakia. Prague seemed like the place to be, and I decided to go there on my way back to Luxembourg, where I would catch my flight home to California and college.

I left Israel, traveled through Greece and Yugoslavia on my Vespa, camping and taking photographs along the way. On August 20th I arrived in Prague,

parked my scooter and wandered around admiring the beauty of the city—the bridges, the buildings, and most of all the vibrant café and street life. There was a sense of optimism and creativity in the air. I met some university students from Charles University and was invited to stay in a vacant dorm bed on campus, up by Hradčany Castle. Later that evening I visited with the family of a Czech student I’d met at a youth hostel in Delphi.

On the morning of August 21st, I awoke early to the rumble of engines. I looked out the window, expecting to see trucks; instead I saw Soviet tanks wheeling into position on the campus, blocking all entrances and exits. I grabbed my backpack, camera, and film and went out to photograph the invasion of Prague. There was a swirl of activity around the radio station. There were burning buses, overturned cars, and buildings on fire. Tanks blockaded the parliament building and other points around town. There were protests, bullet marks on many buildings, and blood on the sidewalk. Trucks full of soldiers rumbled past the National Museum. A Soviet soldier grabbed my camera to smash it but was distracted by something else. I snatched back the camera and ducked into the crowd.

The next day was a day of protest and marches around the city, culminating in a huge crowd in Wenceslas Square. For a photographer, the experience was magical, with a dramatic shot around every corner. There was also a transcendent feeling of the importance of this moment in history and a sense CONTINUED