It was twenty years ago today, when I witnessed the wall come down. I was thirteen years old then. A normal teenager, born and raised within the confined space that was the German Democratic Republic. A so called democratic state that as it turned out was anything but.
Not that I would have noticed or cared a whole lot back then. After all I was only a kid. My family lived really close to the border. So close in fact that looking out of the attic window in my grandma’s house the next town you could actually see was a small town in Western Germany.
I remember playing in the attic with my best friend and we would look out the window and stare into the “West” and we would take wild guesses at how it must be “over there”. That’s what we called it. “Over there”. Where people drove real cars like Volkswagens and Audis and BMWs and not some cardboard version of a car like the Trabant
We would picture ourselves drinking a can of coke and eating a bar of yummy chocolate. The kind that the GDR exported into the West. The kind that we never got to taste unless some far aunt or cousin would send in a package once a year, along with oranges and Nutella.
As kids we never really missed anything. I could live with or without the Coca Cola, the fancy cars or Milka chocolate. What we did start to crave and could only fathom the older we got was freedom – or lack thereof. I am convinced the GDR would still exist in one form or another, had it’s creepy founding fathers allowed people to travel across the world. But they feared if they would see beyond the walls they would find the grass was greener on the other side and they saw that the only method of keeping them from just wandering off was to wall them in.
It’s like living in Arizona and having family in New Mexico only you can’t visit them. Ever. And you hear all the great stories about New Mexico and Colorado and California but the chances of travelling there, even for just one day, were so slim that all you could do was dream about it.
But as a thirteen year old, living in the rebellious times that was 1989, my biggest fear was that my parents were going to leave everything they had worked for to make it to the west. Thankfully they never did and for that I am eternally grateful. Just as I am for the courage of hundreds of thousands of people who peacefully demonstrated for freedom Monday after Monday and whose courage enabled me to travel the world and live abroad for the most part of my adult live.
To those who cleared the path and lead us to the events on November 09th, 1989 I salute you.For the rest of my life I will get goose bumps thinking back to the night that my parents woke me up and allowed me to stay up late so I could witness that historic moment. If not live then at least glued in front of the television…