The two young men at left broadcasting over a Voice of America hookup from West Germany were until very recently Romania's top jockeys. Aristide Cucu (left) rode more than 700 winners, most of them without enthusiasm because since the end of the war he has been waiting for a chance to rejoin his wife and child Paris, where he left them almost 15 years ago. For this very reason the Romanian authorities never let him race outside the country—until Communist leaders in East Germany announced an international meet for Russian and satellite horses at the once famous Hoppegarten track outside East Berlin That was too much for the Romanian racing commissars. They wanted to put on their best show, and Cucu, with his friend and fellow jockey Joan Pall, Romania's second best with 200 victories, were among the riders sent.
With rare generosity, the Communists also issued Russian-type visas to a couple of Western newsmen for the big meet. SI's Dennis Fodor had to swear that he owned no property in the U.S.S.R., among other things, in order to make the trip of five miles to Hoppegarten, but, once there, he was able to watch the race freely. "I found Hoppegarten a dreary parody of its former elegance," he cabled. "On the dirty-white grandstands were large Communist propaganda signs; People's Policemen were searching for hidden bombs. The interest of German spectators was sporadic; most of the horses were unknown to them, although everyone realized that the best German blood lines were bred into them from horses looted after the war."
A Czech horse, Symbol, ran off with the big race, the "Grand Stakes of the People's Democracies and Socialist Lands." Aristide Cucu and Joan Pall took a first and third in the "Prize of Golgjewsko." Then they took a streetcar to West Berlin. Cucu and Pall had "more than enough" and are now headed for Paris—and new jobs "as far from Communism as possible."
Romania's best, Aristide Cucu (left) and Joan Pall, broadcast to their countrymen from West Germany. Both complained that racing attendance and earnings had fallen off in Romania, where the sport of kings is now the sport of commissars.
November 1, 1954
Satellite delegates, with waving banners, make ceremonious entry onto track before the race. Red Chinese are prominent in the foreground. The entire affair included much propaganda and speech making, mostly in Russian which Germans didn't understand.
Children are admitted to Hoppegarten, where they play on grass border in front of grandstand. They and strolling parents gave meet decidedly informal air.
Buns are omitted from frankfurters and bratwurst munched by spectators between races. Food was available at State-owned stands, priced slightly higher than average rationed article.
PAST GLORIES HAVE FADED
In the days of the Kaiser, Hoppegarten was the biggest and most elegant track in Germany. On its manicured track ran some of Europe's best horses; diplomats and aristocrats thronged its luxurious boxes. The Nazis kept up its tradition of top-hat and uniform display (below). All this, however, has now faded into the proletarian monotony of President Wilhelm Pieck's Communist regime: he and the Russian military are Hoppegarten's principal visitors today.