November 09, 2009

The Beginning Of The End.

When we (my family) found ourselves as political refugees in Sweden in 1980, we assumed never to set foot in the former East Bloc again. Never. This was it. We escaped and considered ourselves lucky to be free and the idea of ever returning home was absurd and unreal. The years that followed were the years that any refugee or immigrant would understand. The consuming feeling of never to belong anywhere. Never to feel home anywhere again and yet being home everywhere to a certain degree. While something, somewhere deep inside, would never be complete again.

Therefore the chain of events that unraveled later that decade and brought eventually the end of the Cold War holds a very important place in my heart and soul.
Today is the official twenty years anniversary of the fall of The Berlin Wall. I think we all can remember November 1989, when our television screens were filled with images of joyful Germans, climbing over the Berlin Wall and rushing through the open borders to celebrate freedom. And some would finally be reunited with family members they might have not seen for what must have felt like eternity.
This force to end the decades of oppression spread through out the eastern Europe, even into Czechoslovakia where the Velvet Revolution saw the overthrow of the Communist government later that same year.

And so that, which once seemed impossible, came to pass.
In the spring of 1990, only months after the fall of communism, my family drove into Czech republic for the first time since our escape. I can still recall the chills running down my spine as we crossed the borders. As the guards at the checkpoints required our passports, the look in their eyes and the way they scrutinized our faces brought back memories of times, when these borders used to confine us. Later, I often used to wonder what they really did think of us and people like us; did they think us to be traitors or did they think us to be brave (stupid) enough to venture back? The guard handed us the passports at one point in a aloof manner, confusing my parents. As my father asked is we could continue across the border, the man in the uniform gave us one last look, waving his hand, uttering with a sting of nonchalance "If you really wish..." For a split second, as the gates closed behind us, an eerie feeling enveloped my heart and as we drove quietly onto the soil of my former home, an absurd thought of fear crossed my mind, instigating the feel of being trapped once again...

However, when we reached Prague, the onset of freedom was palpable in every corner of the city. To this day this first visit home was the most significant visit of them all. It was bittersweet in every way and reinforced the fact that one can go home, but one can never ever go back.

Later that summer we drove back to Prague again. We took the night ferry from Sweden and arrived in West Germany on an early summer morning, watching the sun rise as we disembarked the ship. Our plan was to visit Berlin on our way down and gaze at the remains of the Berlin Wall. I recall the drive very vividly. Barely a year after the fall of the wall, the signs of the old regime could still be perceived as we passed the empty border controls at one of the checkpoints that led the autobahn through a sort of no-man zone into the city. The deserted border buildings stood as silent witnesses to an era that has ended, yet was still very much present. On the pictures below that I took out of the car, one can still see the old Trabants, the undying symbols of the former DDR, driving ahead of us on the highway. Seeing one today is considered a rarity.
As we arrived in Berlin early on a Sunday morning, the city was still asleep. We reached the Brandenburg Gate which was empty, completely devoid of people or animals, cars or any kind of sound. I think what I recall the most was the unusual feeling of the place. It was filled with a sense of nostalgia and even a certain sadness. I felt as if we were walking through a deserted city. As we strolled around for almost an hour in complete silence and without meeting a soul, we passed the Reichstag Building and finally reached the wall. This was the first time that I stood face to face with this important structure in our history. I remember touching it and trying to envision the years of oppression and the shed of blood and tears that it symbolized. My parents can be seen on the pictures I post here. My mother stands at the lonely wall in one of them, while my father is seen walking. I wonder to this day what my parents were thinking. Their body language and their silence is maybe an answer in itself. The solitude and the melancholy of the pictures is hauntingly symbolic of what these are all about...

We all took a piece of the wall. I do no longer have mine, as it has disappeared through all the relocating that took place in my life over the years. But it doesn't matter. It was just a piece of concrete. The most important souvenir is the one that I carried away from this place in my mind. The idea that nothing is written in stone. Nothing is ever final and that history, although brutal and cruel in most parts also carries moments of monumental victories.

(Please click the below to enlarge).

48 comments:

Cairo Typ0 said...

Incredible post, Protege. Thank you so much for sharing these memories and photos with us. That last paragraph is so powerful. Thank you

gaelikaa said...

It is hard to believe that you have lived through this. This also clears up my confusion about Blogaire's post today.

You have shared some very touching memories and you have a fascinating insight into a part of modern history of which I know precious little!

maria xxx

Gal Friday said...

I was wondering if you might have an entry today, considering this date in history and you did!
Your personal story and how you described going back to your country-crossing the border freely both ways this time-so intrigued me and I could almost imagine how you felt. And that you were able to experience the remains of the Wall alone in Berlin--amazing(I will proably have some photos I took of the Wall in 1989, later today at my blog)
I watched a documentary until midnight on Saturday--about the Berlin Wall and it was so moving by the end--I DO well remember Nov. 9, 1989.
Thanks for sharing your memories and also impressions, Zuzana.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

What history you have been to, and gone back.... you are indeed very brave. -jayne

Doreen said...

I remember when the wall came down. I was ....... oh never mind that! powerful post Zuzana. Here in the states you only hear what they want you to know. sad but true. your story tells what it was really like for so many. thanks for sharing.

Blogaire said...

What an amazing story Zuzana, I think you should write a book about your experience to share it with the world, not just with us Bloggers.
I vividly remember the fall of the Wall. It is one of the pivotal moments in my life - although I was not there, nor did I live under an oppressive Communist regime like you and your family had to. I remember the excitement, tinged with fear that the dreaded Russian Tanks would appear, and I remember crying with joy as the waves of oppressed people surged forward and became an unstoppable sea of freedom. I had read a moving book about the Hungarian revolution and am old enough to remember Prague - Alexander Dubcek (along with Gandhi) was my childhood hero, but this time the Russian Bear did not appear and the Eastern European countries shook off their chains.
So today lets celebrate that incredible victory and that incredible gift called FREEDOM.
Enjoy your day Zuzana and have a great week.
p.s. Your photos are just brilliant!

Hilary said...

Bravo, my friend. You expressed this event so beautifully. That's never a surprise but always lovely to read. Very powerful and moving.

Lynne said...

What an interesting post. I didn't realise your connection to the wall. As I came onto your blog I was just listening to a BBC radio programme live from Berlin marking the anniversary. There was also a documentary on BBC TV earlier in the week. A very significant time. But how interesting to read your personal account of it. It makes it so much more real.

Brian Miller said...

i felt the chills of that border crossing...a touching remembrance of the time before...

Claus said...

I was 13 years old in 1989, and an avid fan of a Mexican music show. The presenter was married to a German lady, and one entire Sunday show was dedicated to the broadcasting of her going back to Germany and witnessing the fall of the Wall. that's how I became acquainted with such a historical happening. Your story and the pictures you kindly have shared of your experience have only confirmed how I saw the entire situation: happy for MANY, but also kind of dark and sombre. The empty streets can't help but make you wonder - at least for those of us far away - what they witnessed through such hard times.
Thank you for sharing Zuzana.

Keith said...

This is an amazing post. So incredible. I've often wondered what it was like for those who grew up and lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain. I think your family was very brave to seek out a new life.

Nessa said...

An amazing story. I just can't image what it must have been like for you.

Meet My Mates #3 - Quilly

Jill said...

Your history is quite educational for me. Your memories so vivid and I thank you for sharing them. I remember this date in 1989 and the extensive news coverage but you just gave me a TRUE life account that was truly poignant!

Holly said...

Absolutely fascinating (once again)!! I cannot believe what you have been through so far in your life. I really appreciate the amazing perspective that it has left you with and your willingness to share it with us!

Your last few posts have been beautiful!! I agree that November is perfect for Sundays! I adore the gorgous picture on your 'Late Autumn Meloncholy' post. I understand how heavy the impending winter weighs on you. I know that you are a soul that thrives in heat and light and I feel deeply for you with the approaching winter. But,...I have to say that this foreboding sure has not put a damper on your ability to take an amazing picture. I may have to steal that photo from you and use it sometime??!! :)

Have a lovely Monday dear freind!!
XOXOX -Holls

swenglishexpat said...

Fascinating story, and the old pictures are eerily empty. It's a lot busier there today!

Michael Manning said...

Protege: lol! You are young and this is a fascinating post that captures beautifully the feelings you have. I cannot even imagine this wall. It is thank God, consigned to history now. :)

Rosezilla said...

Stunning post, thank you for sharing. We all watched breathlessly when these events unfolded, but of course we couldn't really understand, although we were empathetic for sure. Yesterday we watched a documentary called "The Singing Revolution" about Estonia, and we were trying to explain to our 20 year old son about the events that took place when he was just a baby. I would love to know more of your family's story.

Zuzu said...

I cried and cheered when the wall came down even though I had grown up in America, so very far away.

The world is changing. Blogs are connecting us and we are sharing like never before. Perhaps you may not have felt like you belonged to a country, but there is no doubt in my mind - you belong in this world - and we are all the better for the chance to get to know you and to hear your story.

Cottage Garden said...

A haunting and moving post Zuzana, thank you for sharing your memories and photos of this momentous time and how it affected your family on such a personal level. This really is quite a week in history, all things considered.
Thank you also for your comment on my post today. We all share this world of ours - if only we could all learn to live in peace now ...

Jeanne xx

Shelly's Style Shop said...

Wow! What a very emotional and fascinating story. I can't believe that you lived through all of that. I am sure you will always have that time in your life in your mind. The pictures you posted were really interesting and eerie.

Thanks for sharing this amazing powerful story! ;-)

xoxo, Shelly

staceyjwarner said...

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was very political back then. I use to have the Time and Newsweek that came out at that time but I'm not sure I still do.

Absolutely amazing story. I'm so glad you shared it.

much love

sprinkles said...

What a fascinating post!

I remember hearing about the Berlin Wall on the news back then but didn't really pay much attention to what was going on. I was too busy being self-centered and I figured that it happened so far away that it didn't affect me so why should I care about it?!

Hearing your first-hand account made it all so much more real. Thank you for sharing such an amazing peice of history and educating me.

Thank you also for the kind words you left on my blog. Very much appreciated!

Diane said...

This gave me goosebumps! Thanks for sharing, my friend... xo

Pearl said...

Very interesting post. To have seen such history -- we have nothing like that where I live.

Pearl

Betsy said...

What an amazing story from someone who actually lived through this! I watched with a smile on my face today as the Dominos fell today! :)

Jacki said...

I agree with everyone else that this is indeed very fascinating to read about this part of your life. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! I've said it many times, I know, but your life is just amazing.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news....we had just moved from Scotland and were staying in a hotel here in Maryland waiting for my grandparents to pick us up for a short visit before heading back to our new home in Maryland. We sat in the hotel room glued to the TV.

I have been to Berlin, back in 2004, and it is one of my most favorite European cities so far. Not because the history is particularly pretty, it isn't. But there is just something about Berlin....

Phivos Nicolaides said...

This is a great post. So interesting and informative. We must never forget the history lessons... Have a great day my dear friend Zuzana.

♥Mimi♥ said...

I can't even begin to imagine what your fears, concerns and emotions must have felt like during that time of your life. I was born into and have lived my life in freedom without concern for my physical well being.

God bless you and God bless all those who went through those times. God bless those who lost their lives trying to gain freedom and God bless those who fought for freedom.

You have my sincere respect and admiration.

steviewren said...

Zuzana, hearing the story from your point of view is incredible. You are right to say that nothing is written in stone. Who would have thought the wall would have fallen. It was shocking.

Two of my uncles, who were in the National Guard, spend the better part of the year in Europe on duty the year the wall went up. After one died a few years ago, I inherited his old photos. There are some of the newly erected wall the the Brandenburg Gate.

May oppressed people in nations all over the world find the freedom to come and go as they please, find the freedom to determine their own futures and find hope today in the fact that nothing is written in stone.

Maggie May said...

This was a wonderful account of your life as a refugee and as a free woman returning to your homeland!
I was glued to the post from start to finish and it is no wonder that Hilary from Smitten Image, made you the outright winner in her POTW.
Congratulations!

Nuts in May

Protege said...

=Cairo,
thank you so much my dear friend, your comment means a lot to me, more than I can express. xo

=gaelikaa,
I am delighted to hear that you enjoyed seeing the modern history from my point of view; thank you for your kind words. xo

=Tina,
thank you for your very kind and warm comment and the link; I likewise enjoyed your post yesterday very much. xo

=Jayne,
thank you so very much for your warm words, but it is my parents who are the brave ones. xo

=Doreen,
thank you so much, I am happy you found this to be informative. Always enjoy your visits. xo

=Blogaire,
what a wonderful comment and so much knowledge and passion in your words! Thank you for all the compliments and your interest in my humble writing, it means so much...

=Hilary,
thank you so much my dear friend and thank you for the POTW award, I am so flattered and honoured. xo

=Lynne,
I am glad that you found this personal account to be of so much interest. I too watched documentaries and live transmission from Berlin yesterday. Thank you so much for stopping by. xo

=Brian,
thank you so much, much appreciated words coming from a talented writers such as yourself.

=Claudia,
as always, your comments are very special to me. Glad you were able to take a walk down the memory lane to revisit your own experiences from this special day. xo

=Keith,
thank you so much for your kind words of empathy and for enjoying reading this post; it mean so much to me.

=Nessa,
thank you so much and thank you so much for mentioning me in your comment at Hilary's place as well. xo

=Jill,
I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed my recollection of how the fall of the communism was perceived by my family. Thank you for your very kind words. xo

=Holly,
thank you my dear friend for your never ending kindness and optimism in your comments. And of course please use any pictures you like, I am very flattered you like them so much.;) xo

=swenglishexpat,
thank you. Yes, it was very empty and I really would love to see Berlin today, as I have not been there since 1991. Thank you so much for stopping by.

Protege said...

=Michael,
thank you for your always kind words. Yes, it is all in the history now, amazing how fast the twenty years flew by...

=Rosezilla,
thank you so much for your words of kindness and understanding and for the interest that you show in my story and my past. I am very touched. xo

=Zuzu,
thank you so much for this very poignant comment, your words are very powerful full of optimism. You are so right, hopefully the borders that do not exist here can slowly dissipate in the real world as well. xo

=Jeanne,
thank you my dear friend for the beautiful sentiment in your comment and for your interest in learning about my past. You are so right on every account. xo

=Shelly,
thank you so much, always a pleasure when you stop by. I am very flattered that you enjoyed taking a walk back with me into my past; and so right you are, I carry those moments with me always. xo

=stacey,
thank you for your kind words, glad you enjoyed my personal recollection of this day in history. xo

=sprinkles,
thank you so much for your kind words and your honesty; I too at times pay very little attention to that which is taking place far away from me. And you are welcome, I hope life is smiling at you this week. xo

=Diane,
thank you and you are very welcome, my friend. xo

=Pearl,
I am glad you enjoyed it. I am sure though that your part of the world carries its own account of history, even if less talked about. Thank you for stopping by. xo

=Betsy,
thank you - you and me both. I felt a wave of nostalgia and tears welled up in my eyes as they fell...xo

=Jacki,
your account of this day in your past is fascinating as well. You probably felt so much empathy with the Germans as you were in a foreign country as well. Thank you so much for your kind words. xo

=Phillip,
thank you so very much. Your comments are always so very kind and very wise.

=Mimi,
what an absolutely delightful and kind comment, it touched me deeply. Thank you so much for those kind and heartfelt words, I appreciate it greatly. xo

=stevie,
wow, those picture you mention must hold so much historical value. I spend the weekend searching the net for old photographs of the time before the wall, during the time it was built and during the cold war. Seeing some of the pictures was haunting. I have always been fascinated by the story on Conrad Schumann as well, the guard that escaped as the first one ever over the barbed wire... Thank you so much for your very interesting and kind comment. xo

=Maggie May,
I am so very flattered that you took the time to read through my post and that you show such an interest in the story of a complete stranger. Thank you so much for stopping by; your kind words are much appreciated.

kcinnova said...

Hilary chose well for her POTW award. Your story is very moving, and the way you tell it had me spellbound. Twenty years ago, I was magnetized to the television coverage and watched with tears rolling down my cheeks. Your post, and some of the TV specials this week, have created the same reaction.

You are so right: you can go home, but you can never go back.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

wonderful post at this time....what memories what a life. Congratulations on your POTW winning post!!


saz aka fff

~JarieLyn~ said...

How incredible to have experienced such a monumental moment in your life and in history. This is a wonderful post and very touching. Thanks for sharing expressing your thoughts and sharing your photos.

blunoz said...

Congratulations on POTW. What an amazing story! It must have been so eerie to go back after so long.

smiles4u said...

Wow! This story is amazing. I learned so much in reading this but even more as you told your personal account and thoughts of this. You have made me especially grateful tonight. Thank you. I am thankful that I came here from Hilary's POTW post. Congratulations! Lori

gaelikaa said...

Zuzana - many congratulations on your Post of the Week Award. Richly deserved!

ethelmaepotter! said...

"...nothing is written in stone." That one statement so accurately sums up the entire story. How poignant, and how beautifully you tell it. Congrats on POTW!

Moannie said...

A beautifully written testimony to the power of hope in a time of terror.
Well worth your nomination of Post of the Week.

Protege said...

=Fat, Frumpy and Fifty,
thank you so much for taking the time to stop by, your visit and lovely comment are much appreciated.

=JarieLyn,
thank you for your kinds words, I am delighted that you enjoyed my personal recollection of history.

=blunoz,
thank you so much for stopping by; and you are right, it was a strange and surreal experience.

=smiles4you,
thank you, your kind and empathetic words are much appreciated. I am so happy you took the time to stop by.

=gaelikaa,
thank you, I very much appreciate your kind wishes. xo

=ethelmaepotter!,
thank you for your kind words and for your compliments. Your visit is much appreciated.

=Moannie,
thank you very much for your lovely comment, it means so much to me that you stopped by.

Protege said...

=kcinnova,
what a beautiful and poetic comment, so full of emotions. Thank you so much for your kinds words and for taking the time to stop by and read my post.

julochka said...

i love this story so much. thank you so much for sharing it. it made me remember how powerful a moment it really was. i wonder if there are powerful moments like that at all anymore...

Sumandebray said...

I dream like Lenon ... ..ïmagine

But the world have no intention in that direction .. sadly.

Sumandebray said...

I dream like Lenon ... ..ïmagine

But the world have no intention in that direction .. sadly.

Protege said...

=julochka,
thank you so much for your kind words and for all your lovely comments; they are much appreciated. xo

=Sumandebray,
you are always so very wise in the opinions you post here. I always enjoy when you stop by, thank you...

Mimi said...

Zuzana, thank you fro sharing your very personal account of your feelings as a refugee and of returning to your home country.
Your words were so powerful that I began to feel that "trapped" feeling just before you wrote about it.
THIS is how history should be taught.
And congrats on the very well deserved POTD!

adrielleroyale said...

Wow - I really had no idea... I was only 9 years old at the time and didn't understand - especially being halfway around the world...thank you for giving that piece of history and the meaning behind it to me.