This was one of my favorite blog posts to research. Today marks the 49th anniversary of Soviet tanks pouring into Bratislava and this photo, “The Bare-chested Man in Front of the Occupiers Tank” taken by Ladislav Bielik. I have such fond memories of my time in Bratislava and meeting Peter Bielik to discuss his father’s life and work.
The Soviet Union had tolerated the liberalizing policies of Czechoslovakia long enough. On August 21, 1968, armed troops and tanks rolled into Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Shots were fired on the Safarikovo Square near where the old bridge crosses the Danube. A 17-year-old girl died. Citizens screamed, cried, fainted. “Socialism with a human face” was over. A young photographer, Ladislav (Laco) Bielik, did what came naturally. He raised his camera and shot back.
One of his pictures, “The Bare-chested Man in Front of the Occupiers Tank”, became the shot heard round the world–the most renowned of the 187 photos Bielik took that day. The Soviets tolerated verbal stories of their bullying. Word of mouth traveled slowly and could be denied. But within days, Bielik’s photo splashed across the front page of major newspapers globally. This iconic photo produced indisputable evidence…
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