Durs Grünbein at Literary Hub:
For the most part they were unobtrusive, almost invisible—our occupying power. Their day-to-day life carried on behind closed doors, as if someone were trying to shield them from us, or maybe us from them.
They lived a hidden life in the barracks, behind the crooked fences and walls that were made impenetrable by skeins of barbed wire, like a hedge of rose thorns. But anyway, who would have dared try to climb over, who would have had the courage to infiltrate the forbidden zone on the other side? Not even we children were brave enough to give each other a leg up over the wall, though our knees were sometimes itching to.
It wasn’t hard to imagine what it was like behind the walls—over there with the Ivans—as people called them ironically behind their backs. Or the Russians, as was said, though still sotto voce, since the word was strange and chauvinistic too—and we all knew it. But talking about Soviets wasn’t the answer either. Those who used the phrase on official occasions or at school felt immediately that there was something embarrassing, something not quite right about the hypocritical turn of phrase. The problem was that there was no suitable designation for these strangers in our country. Everyone knew that they were one of the victorious occupying powers at the end of the Second World War; their dominance in our country was such a dirty open secret that no one dared say it out loud. Our own country: nothing but a Soviet satrapy?