A recollection of student activism in Pinochet's Chile

During the Communist era, the International Union of Students in Prague played an important role in inviting students from all continents to come and share their experiences and discuss ways of helping the developing world improve conditions. The union was meant to "promote democracy and fight against racism" by joining forces with other students from the world over, Lenka Cossova who worked at the organisation for many years recalls.

"We, from the International Union of Students, or MSS as it was called in Czech, spent a lot of time trying to find ways of helping others who were treated badly or had a low standard of living in other countries, people in need. We sent necessities such as food and medication in the most complicated ways and until today, I often wonder whether our help reached its destination. It was often only several years later that we would find out by chance that our effort actually paid off. It involved a colleague of mine who was from Chile. She lived in Czechoslovakia while Pinochet was terrorising her nation, friends and family. She was worried that her mother and father were in need of money so we decided to send a hundred dollars, which at the time was a lot of money, in a photograph. My colleague had just given birth to a baby girl. I had myself photographed with the girl. Then we had a photographer help us put the one hundred dollar note between the two thin sheets of the photo. My colleague wrote a letter in which she informed her family that she had given birth to a baby girl and wanted to come home but had to wait until the child was able to travel. "I have attached a photo of myself and my new treasure", she wrote, and added "but I have changed so much from the pregnancy that I would prefer if you tear me off and just keep the photo of your new grandchild. Many years later, my colleague found out that her parents understood the trick. They tore the photograph and found the money."