On August 23, 1939, to the astonishment of the rest of the world, the two totalitarian dictatorships, Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union united to carve up the whole of eastern Europe. As a direct result, Hitler felt secure to attack Poland a few days later, thus starting the Second World War. The Soviets advanced on the Baltic countries, only to be invaded themselves once Hitler's ambitions led him to feel safe to blow up the Pact and attempt the drive on Moscow.
But the long shadow of the Pact did not end in 1945. The USSR strengthened the grip of dictatorship, in Churchill's words, 'from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,' and thus the Iron Curtain enslaved hundreds of millions for another half century.
Black Ribbon Day is now commemorated around the world as a reminder of the pain and suffering of generations—in all the countries of central and eastern Europe. The arrogance of two malevolent superpowers destroyed the national and personal freedom of millions. Refugees from these countries have strengthened the democracies of many countries, including Canada, and many Canadians will be wearing a black ribbon on this sombre day.