"And the wall came tumbling down.“
Those words were etched in Karin’s mind; not that she particularly liked the song, but she had been there and done that, as they say today. It was twenty years ago: one of those boring, bleak, grey early evenings. She was doing her homework and the radio was running in the background. Suddenly she heard something that she could hardly believe.
“Mama, Papa, come listen, I don’t believe it.”
And her parents came running. “What is the problem Karin, bad news?”
“No, the best. We are free.”
Fritz and Helga were perplexed. “Free, but we are not in prison. We are free.”
“Mama are we free? Can you take a bus or a go by car and visit your sister in the other half of our country. The border is open.”
Fritz, her father, switched the television on. He saw the politicians of his country talking about free travel and switched to the television canal belonging to the other part of the country, governed by other laws, where people could say what they think and do what they want, without any repercussions. Generally he would not dare to watch the “other” programme. It might be that the secret police were watching them, and then he would find himself and his wife suddenly without work, perhaps even in prison. His daughter would be put into a home never to be seen again. “For her own good” the state would say, but he knew differently. It was “for her own good” that Karin was not allowed to study at the university.
Fritz was a teacher and what he taught his class was not what the state approved. He should have concentrated on the good things in his country and not shown the disadvantages of travel restrictions, marketing strategy in industry and the lack of competition. Above all he was a teacher of foreign languages. His choice of foreign literature was not that of state approval. The writers did not come from the “good” part of the country.
He had been warned, but carried on and the result was that his telephone was tapped, they were not allowed to leave their town and their daughter was not allowed to study for the university entrance examination.
Was this true that he was seeing on the television from the other side? Barriers raised by their border police and people at last being able to cross a bridge separating one part of the country from the other. He was glued to the television.
“Come Helga, look. I cannot believe my eyes.” And Helga came, together with Karin.
“How long do we have to get to the capital by road?” asked Karin.
“Two hours” was her father’s answer.
Helga looked at them both through the tears in her eyes “so what are we waiting for, up and away.”
They packed a few small items and got in their little car; not a luxury model, the same car that all other citizens of their country had, if they could afford it, Fritz expecting to be stopped as soon as they were on the street, but there were no watchers to keep them under control or stop them. They drove off, and soon noticed that the motorway was full with other cars driving in the same direction. The two hour drive took three hours and they arrived at the border around midnight.
“Papa look, there is the other side.”
“I know Karin, but we don’t have passports.”
Helga looked at her husband and said “Fritz, we have waited so long for this, and a piece of worthless paper is not going to be in our way.”
She climbed out of the car and started walking towards the wooden barrier at the border. The guard was standing in a relaxed position and observing her. She got closer and although trembling inside, she knew it was now or never. The guard made a signal to his colleague in the office and the barrier was raised. Helga walked to the other half of her country with no problem.
“Papa, look, Mama is through. Come let us drive over.”
Fritz drove over the border, Helga climbed into the car and with Karin they drove into the capital of their country. They watched the wall dividing the two halves of their capital city being pulled down by the people. They were welcomed and there was laughter and happiness in the air. The family slept in the car, as they had no money for a hotel, but they were happy. Karin of course, joined other youngsters and attended the pop concert given by one of the most well known singers of the country, free of course.
They witnessed welcoming speeches by politicians, and it was the night when two halves of a country became one.
This was twenty years ago, but for Karin it was like yesterday, and a night never to forget. She watched her daughter and son playing together in the garden and was so thankful that they would never have to go through the restrictions she had in her childhood.
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