If you follow the media on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the reunification, it seems that everything has now been told. Everyone should have his/ her own memories of the turning point and meanings regarding the current degree of the reunification. It doesn’t matter to me whether people are emotionally touched by smaller or major things or if stories are told by celebrities or ordinary people. But some experiences and résumés shared are really remarkable. And this even more when you know these people personally since years. You literally can commend the “story behind the story”.
I have already reported exclusively about one of these personalities in the blog. The person I am talking about is GDR-fashion designer and „vintage queen“ JOSEFINE VON KREPL. https://www.topagemodel.de/2018/09/08/noblesse-oblige-josefine-edle-von-krepl/
Meantime she is 76 years old, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josefine_von_Krepl
and continues to make headlines. When she reports details from her life (such as on the occasion of a very open interview in August 2019) more and more curious circumstances keep coming up (only available in German language): https://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/staendige-ausreise-aus-der-ddr-eine-scheinehe-die-in-die-freiheit-fuehrte/24866436.html
Not for nothing she says that at some moments in her life she was foolhardy. In that article she also talks about opportunities to leave the country (never to flee), spying, reprisals and false friends, but also about her children, a marriage of convenience and her current partner (who once jumped off a ship to escape from the regime) and of course about the fashion world and her time as fashion editor in the GDR.
On the occasion of a fashion show in Bad Doberan (where I was selected as a model) in 2013, I also experienced her as unconventional, self-confident and spirited and all the more I can understand how limited and difficult her life has been behind the wall. Even if you only observe this petite red-haired woman from the distance, you feel that there is something that distinguishes her from others. No wonder, considering the career: those who have experienced a lot, can also tell a lot. But over times the person also has to mentally deal/ process with those special circumstances, which is not always so easy despite all euphoria.
The figure skating sport quite early (in 1972) gave me some insights into what was happening in the GDR and thus a certain basis for comparison. To be more precise, I’m talking about my long-time coach and World Championships top iceskater GÜNTER ZÖLLER (only in German language). https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%BCnter_Z%C3%B6ller
He was already mentioned on the blog some time ago, because for quite a while he was also the coach of vice world champion and TV-XY moderator Rudi Cerne.
At that time – like much later famous Katharina Witt – he was of course trained by GDR champion maker Jutta Müller. Nevertheless he decided to flee in January 1972 (just 23 years old at the time) during the European Championships in Gothenburg. Why would you do so as priviledged top sportsman, when you could get also everything in the GDR; like a car, western clothing, an apartment, special food etc.? Struggeling with various injuries, Günter (who is a quite different type of person than J. v Krepl) quickly realized how finite these privileges are and that he would soon no longer be able to perform internationally and travel to foreign countries. Of course he knew about the risk, the pressure and the long separation from his parents but yet he decided to flee with the help of his Austrian colleague Günter A. Only with the cloths on his body and his medals he arrived in the West. Also with him were his skates, his only capital to start a new career „on the other side“.
When the news got around a few days later that he got stuck in the Friedland reception camp, my father spontaneously picked up the phone and offered him a coaching job in Ludwigshafen. Only a few days later he was standing on the ice in front of me in his black lift suit and his whiskers. Thanks to an interview with „Bild newspapers“, another dream for him came already true: namely driving a sports car, i.e. an Alpha Romeo. The quick change sounded like a fairy tale, but I know how problematic life was for him afterwards.
Even though all of these athletes in the GDR lived a carefree life, they remained addicts of the system. School education usually existed only on paper. No wonder with separate mini classes of just 2-3 pupills and only 2-3 hours in school per day; the rest was training time. Yes, he once quoted „I got an apprenticeship a car mechanic, but only know where to open the trunk“. For a long time he was worried about his strong Saxon accent, because he could be identified as “Ossi” so quickly. Today it may be different, but at that time he knew that some prominent refugees from the GD Republic were sometimes persecuted and threatened even on the territory of the FRG. Step by step he, after all, had committed some kind of high treason. His fear at times was so immense that he could hardly sleep at night and only felt safe in his girlfriend’s apartment, etc. The encounters with the ex-sports mates from “over there” after the fall of the Wall were not characterized by friendship or even understanding, but rather by contempt.
As a coach, he was not particularly strict, and his Saxon sayings and jokes were legendary. I learned a lot from him and ultimately he shaped me as a successful athlete who finally took part in the professional world championships twice in 1978 and 1979. We rarely meet each other, but when we do, it’s always a big HELLO.
Later in 1982 I had another opportunity to look behind the “Iron Curtain”. As an exchange student, I spent six weeks in Hungary working as an intern for the national hotel company “Pannonia”. The scenary in the head office was sometimes like a movie. I.e. there were really three telephones: a heavy black one for city calls within Budapest, a gray one for national calls and a modern red one for international calls. There I could at least call home longer without interruption, because in the official telephone cabins the calls were often suddenly interrupted or the lines cut all after 9 p.m. – simply because the „listeners“ had finished work.
In retrospect, it all sounds adventurous and funny, but it wasn’t. For those who have gone through it – even as “Wessi” – it has a different quality until today. It appears like having lived two different lifes, nothing which I want to miss.
What matters to me as regards the status of reunification, is not what is spread in the media and what politicians like to interpret, but what each individual makes out of it.
And maybe the 23rd May, the constitution day of the FRG, would actually have been the more identity-creating anniversary date than the 3rd October.