Vienna: Peace in the Time of Plague, or Report from the Center of the 4th Lockdown
Dear readers of our website!
Today I want to present to your attention a REPORT from Vienna, from the Center for the 4th lockdown, which I wrote in co-authorship with Bekdurdy Amansaryev, Honorary Adviser of the Austrian-Turkmen Society for Media and Culture, for which I want to express my deep gratitude to him! (Brief information in German about him: https://www.turkmenistan-kultur.at/oesterreich1212-2021-vorstand-teilt-mit.html)
I am sitting in my apartment in the center of Vienna. The authorities do not recommend leaving without an urgent need …
Tired of loneliness, monotony and psychological pressure from the obsessive thought that there will be no limit to terrible lockdowns. They pass, replacing one another, and there seems to be no end. This one is the fourth in a row.
We waited for April 18th like manna from heaven – they promised to ease the quarantine measures, but alas – the restrictions in Vienna, as announced by the burgomaster Michael Ludwig, are being extended until May 2nd. Yet again…
Shopping centers are locked, non-food stores as well. Even visits to beauty salons – traditional stress-relieving procedures for women – are prohibited.
In such a situation, one of the few entertainments is to look out the window. Earlier, before the COVID-19 catastrophe and the uncontrolled influx of refugees, looking out the window was even more interesting than spending time watching TV.
Cheerful, colorful, multi-lingual crowds of tourists, staring out, admiring the endless sights of the Austrian capital, such as the Carousel in the Prater (also called the Vienna Disney) or Kärntner Strasse near the Vienna Opera.
The fact that I live in a place where people from different parts of the world dream of coming to enjoy at least a little what I see every day and every hour made the atmosphere somewhat brighter.
As soon as I looked out the window, I was charged with the energy of the eternal holiday, which Vienna has always been.
Now I glance out the window and immediately want to turn away. A deserted street, like a house abandoned by its tenants …
Indeed, Vienna has always shone like a jewel in the necklace of the world’s tourist centers. And now Vienna can be called the center of the 4th lockdown, where I, looking out the window, sadly watch the deserted streets.
The Vienna State Opera, the pearl of Austria, has been closed since March last year.
The famous palaces and museums of Vienna, the Spanish Riding School, the world’s oldest Zoo in Schönbrunn, etc. are no longer accessible. And this makes it even sadder.
We are already accustomed to constantly wearing masks (special, FFP2 class, with higher degree of protection), by all means disinfecting our hands and keeping a distance of 2 meters. But how does one get used to the sight of empty, as if forgotten by everyone, streets of Vienna?
And even the Cathedral of St. Brigit, built in 1867, which I see from my window, now does not seem as majestic as it used to be.
This temple already seems sad to me, like all of us are prisoners of a pandemic …
Sad memories take me back to the recent past. The evening of November 2 last year appears before my eyes. On the eve of the once again announced lockdown, numerous residents of Vienna, and I, together with my friends, expressed a desire to relax in a cafe, stroll along the streets of the evening city, enjoying the carefree movement along the streets of a cheerful metropolitan.
And suddenly the sound of shots broke the air! Panic! Running! Screams! Tears and groans of the wounded!
I found myself in the very epicenter of the terrorist attack in Vienna, because when the shooting began, we were having dinner in a restaurant. Visitors to restaurants, cafes and terraces hid under tables, while frightened people fled in the street in search of shelter. Everything was like in a horror movie …
Then it turned out that the brutal attacks were planned and carried out from six points. As a result, five were killed and more than twenty wounded.
How so!? A bloody terrorist attack not somewhere on the outskirts of civilization, but in the very heart of cultural Europe! In the center of peaceful and friendly Vienna! How could this happen!?
Chancellor Kurz laid a mourning wreath at the site of the tragedy. And then it seemed to many that this was a farewell to a quiet life …
Outside my window there’s scourge, the fourth lockdown. In a little over a year, four tiresome periods of restrictions and prohibitions. Isn’t that too much for the radiant Viena beauty?
Leaving your apprtment is allowed only for urgent needs. Although this is what I will do now – I will go for a walk. And at the same time, I will describe my feelings from what I saw.
Here I go out into the street. A tired police officer asks why am I here?
I have several legal options in my head: to a doctor, to a pharmacy, a grocery store, a bank, or to the post office.
I choose the first answer I come across. A gloomy, I would even say very gloomy, guardian of order nods his head, and I continue my march.
Vienna’s streets are unsightly empty. From time to time I come across newly-made fellow countrymen – reckless young people from among the visitors, and even then – only occasionally.
But mostly the streets are empty. Even Am Graben – one of the main streets of Vienna, where in the past it was so crowded, is deserted these days. And in other places it is mostly rare cars, too.
Due to the pandemic, the Austrian economy has been hit hard, tourism in the first place. If I am not mistaken, there are more than half a million unemployed in the country. Many firms and enterprises had to close.
Ski regions and hotels are empty without tourists. But at the same time, it would be fair to say that the government, due to the still available opportunities, helps people by channeling funds for social support and economic recovery …
While regular boutiques are closed at lockdown, grocery stores are open. Cafes and restaurants are mostly takeaway, although you can enjoy a cup of the famous Austrian coffee on the go.
This is what I did to improve my mood a little.
Wandering aimlessly through the nearby streets, at some point it seemed to me that rarely met people, exhausted by the monotony of life, became less friendly.
But this is an initial, superficial opinion. In fact, looking closely, you realize that this is not so. Austrians these days are less smiling, and this is true. But at the same time, they did not become harsh. They are as responsive as before, although it is also noticeable that they are greatly exhausted by the conditions of the pandemic.
Looking closely at the rare passers-by, you begin to realize that the thirst for life protects us from (God forbid) unjustified anger.
Friends are trying to support each other with their calls, SMS, messages on social networks and during fleeting meetings. In simple and kind words. And then you also understand that the misfortune that unexpectedly fell on our heads still did not separate us.
… Walking along the Graben street, past the monument, which symbolizes the victory won by people in the 17th century over the plague, I remembered the chronicles of those distant events. And even earlier.
In the midst of the Great Epidemic that broke out in Europe in the middle of the 6th century, in the capital of the Byzantine Empire alone, thousands of Constantinople residents died painfully every day. In total, hundreds of millions of Byzantines became victims of the Black Death.
Eight centuries later, the second Great Pestilence fell upon the people. Some experts believe that the plague claimed the lives of 30 to 60% of Europeans.
At the end of the 17th century, another drama took place on our continent. According to various estimates, in Vienna alone, the plague claimed about 80 thousand lives.
Nobody knew what kind of attack hit the ground? How to get rid of it? How to treat people?
Not only villages, but entire cities almost completely died out. The few survivors fled from there, helped each other and prayed, believing that this was God’s punishment for human disobedience and sins.
And when the plague receded, the then Emperor Leopold I, as a token of gratitude to the Almighty for getting rid of the Black Death at the end of the 17th century, erected the Plague Column in Vienna, which stands to this day.
In our difficult days, the inhabitants of the Austrian capital come to the Column, light candles and pray to God for salvation, as it was at all times.
They cry for Love to our neighbor to reign in our hearts, and Peace around us. Even during the so-called plague of the 21st century.
Let it be Peace even during the plague, and then the plague will recede.I understand that all this is another test of whether we can remain human, decent and civilized.
Therefore, the main thing for humanity is to unite in the face of a terrible threat, abandoning attempts to earn financial or political dividends from human grief. And then we – the people of planet Earth – will be able to defeat any infection.
… With these thoughts I returned home, to my window.
But here’s a surprise – I again met that gloomy, very gloomy policeman.
I barely smiled at him like a good old friend. And he answered me with a smile, too.
I would like to end my report with an excerpt from my poem in German with a slight note of optimism: “Just learn to live”
"Lerne einfach zu leben"
Lass alle Ängste und Sorgen vergessen
Lass alle Tränen und Trauer vergessen
Lass alle schlaflosen Nächte vergessen
Freue Dich auf die heiße Sonne
Freue Dich auf Dein Leben
Freue Dich auf Dein Schicksal
Deine Liebe und Deine Treue
Sie sind immer bei Dir
Sie werden Dich immer begleiten
Lerne einfach zu glauben
Lerne einfach zu lieben
Lerne einfach zu leben
Möge Gott Dich immer beschützen!
ORIENT Honorary Counselor
accredited in Austrian Chancellor press service
Photo: N. Berger; Wien Tourismus