Most people try to escape their problems by looking to the future. They try to think about a place and time where their current troubles no longer matter, but Tereza feels a strong desire to go backward, so she and Tomas decide to go for a night at a country spa they went to years earlier, before the Prague Spring and the Russian occupation.
Tereza’s desire to go back in time is another reference to eternal return. Kundera says that happiness is the desire for cyclical existence, and Tereza and Tomas’s trip to the spa is their effort to repeat time and find some kind of happiness.
When Tereza and Tomas arrive at the spa hotel, which was previously named “Grand,” they find that it has been renamed “Baikal.” All of the streets have been renamed as well, and they have signs that read “Leningrad Street” and “Kiev Street.” Tereza also sees “Tolstoy Sanatorium” and “Tchaikovsky Sanatorium,” and the “Café Pushkin.” The place where Tereza wanted to escape her problems has been stolen by the Russians. Tereza and Tomas do not spend the night.
The Russians have completely taken over Czechoslovakia and imposed their Russian culture and language on the Czech people. Because of this undeniable change, Tereza can’t go back to a specific place in time, because that specific place no longer exists. While this passage refutes eternal return, it also underscores the power of the Russians and their oppression of the Czech people.