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Where were you when the Wall came down?

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Ask any American where they were on 9/11, they will know. On 9 Nov, 1989, I was physically absent, was on a 2 weeks' vacation playing golf in Tunisia by myself. I was also mentally elsewhere for the months leading up to the events because I had life changing drama going on in my own little world. We were on the cusp of emigrating to Ireland in early 1990. A decision favored and initiated by my then husband, me only willy-nilly supporting the idea and undergoing therapy to get used to this involuntary change in our lifestyle. My now Ex and his mother stayed back in Germany minding our 2 and 5 year olds so that this mother could recharge her batteries and find some peace in herself.

The resort of Port —El-Cantao provided enough distraction, sun, beach, food, and golf. My hotel didn't have a TV in the room and this was during pre Internet days. What I gleaned from the news in the noisy lounge bar was unfathomable: Hungarian and Czechoslovakian borders had opened to let Eastern Germans leave their country. Calling my husband back in the Fatherland, he was equally doubtful. We both watch developments anxiously. Mrs. Thatcher will rather give up Northern Ireland and let it reunite with Ireland than that the Soviets would tolerate this insurrection and not intervene, was our reasoning. They had done that before in Prague in 1968 and suppressing Hungarian liberation attempts in 1956. Another evening, I fearfully suggested to come home directly to have the family back together at least.

"Let's watch Russian troops movements on TV. You from there in Tunisia and we from here. If they are sending tanks west, it's time to reconvene in Ireland", our new home where we had bought a farm a few years back and to which we would move soon in 1990. Maybe sooner now...."The Americans won't just stand by and watch on." It had all the trimmings of an escalation. In the 80s, we felt like living on a powder keg during the armament race during the Cold War anyway. That had led us into buying the escapist farm.

In autumn 1989, growing unrest among the population in the GDR and Lutheran church goers became widespread. People openly dared to protest- something hitherto unheard of that had never gone unpunished. Stasi spies would get and incarcerate dissenters in time.

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With Gorbatshov as leader at the helm, trying perestroika and glasnost, and the Cold War came to an sudden end when the Soviet Union was on his knees financially already and first new travel regulations were announced on 9 Nov, 1989. The border crossing (Bornholmer Str.) was opened and in its wake others simply overrun by masses of people trying to reach freedom.

The feared escalation had not happened. The world saw sense for once. Germany was on its way to reunification after 28 dividing years, officially sealed a year later 3 Oct, 1990, The Day of German Unity.


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Ursula Siebert, originally a German teacher & lecturer turned businesswoman, lived in different European countries before coming to the USA. She is now a free-lance writer. Often tongue-in-cheek, she sees life and politics in the USA from the (more...)
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