Tuesday, 10 November 2009

1989 - The Berlin Wall

A lot has been written about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of the former GDR on that momentous night in November 1989. I wasn't there to share the jubilation of my GDR friends that evening. I could only imagine the sheer joy, exultation and huge emotion of them all.

BBC News has an interesting and interactive article called "Where is the Wall Now? Well, a small part of the wall is in one of my unopened boxes! Our friend Orv was in Berlin on that historic night and he brought us home a piece of history.

I remember crying buckets the day I first crossed from East Berlin into West Berlin. I almost felt guilty in a way that I had the freedom to go to the west ,whereas my GDR friends were obliged to stay within the walled perimeter, at risk of death. I met a former DDR border guard who explained that he was trained to shoot to kill if he saw anyone attempting to cross the border from east to west. They lived in a state of constant fear and surveillance. Those days are happily in the past now.

My life behind "The Iron Curtain"

One of the best teaching experiences in my whole life took place from 1981-1982 in the former GDR in the city of Dresden. I taught EFL at The Technical University of Dresden. I had just done my PGCE in EFL and I was offered the golden opportunity of seeing what life was really like in a Communist country during the end of the "Cold War" in the early 1980's. It was to be a fantastic learning curve for me. Please click here if you would like to read more about this experience.

My Trabant

I will never forget one of the professors in the English department at the Technical University of Dresden telling me he had no car. It would take 7 years' solid wages to buy a car such as a Trabant or Skoda. A car was indeed a luxury in those days. Imagine my excitement when I had the chance to buy a Trabant a few years ago in Oxford. Browsing through a charity shop I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted a perfect miniature version. I snapped it up at the bargain price of £1. It was found in one of my box openings by coincidence a little while back and it has taken pride of place on the mantelpiece.

Pure nostalgia
I have kept everything from my 1981-82 GDR days. Books, postcards, letters, pay slips, bank statements, social security book, night club entrance tickets, a few stamps, posters, ephemera of everyday life. I knew then that I was living in an historical period. My physical memories reside on my bookshelf and in a box marked simply "DDR". My spiritual and innermost memories lie deep within my heart, never to be forgotten.

My East German Hat

I came across an original East German winter guard's hat for the princely sum of £5. It must have been a young boy's as it was a small size and fitted me perfectly. I bought it in England and wore it for about 2 years until the day I mislaid it in a shop. I was extremely upset. That hat had kept my head warm on freezing cold daily bike rides to work and back during the winter months. In addition, a piece of history had vanished into the proverbial thin air. At least, I still have a lovely picture of Joe wearing my hat.

I haven't been back to Dresden since 1982. Twenty seven years is an awful long time!

Links to 1989
Bits 'n'Bobs, Show 'n' Tell: Breach of the Berlin Wall
Free Technology for Teachers: After the Fall
BBC News and The Night the Wall Fell
The English Blog has also posted some great resources on this topic. In particular I like the collection of amazing photos as found in the Boston Picture.


popps said...

Hey, i have the same hat!!!
That MUST be a coincidence (sorry, i'm looking for them everywhere).
Nice post, nice slide show.
Maybe it's time for a bike trip to Dresden?

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Chris

Thanks for looking in. Now that is an amazing coincidence- having the same GDR hat!! How did you get yours? Do you often wear it?? So many people used to stare at mine and then would ask me questions about where it was from etc.

popps said...

ALWAYS, when its cold, its the warmest hat i've ever had.
Don't know where i got it, Berlin i think, it,s always been on my head!

LLJB said...

Same here. My hat was super warm and the BEST hat I've ever had. I was more than upset when I lost it. I have searched for years to find a replacement without any luck. Schade!