Sunday, November 9, 2014

When the wall came tumbling down....

It was the ultimate sign of the Cold War, and a living monument of what happens when nations divide the spoils of war.

From the time I was born it was there and to be honest, I never believed it would come down.

And while I had seen the tapes of Kennedy's famous speech that included "Ich bin ein Berliner", I remember clearly watching Ronald Reagan's public demand "Mr. Gorbachev, take down this wall."

All that fall of 1989, we watched the protests grow ever stronger.

It's funny to think of those days now.  I was just beginning to work for the Government of New Brunswick.  I went to New York City for the first time in October with a bunch of university friends I was doing with my Masters Degree with.  Earlier that year, we had seen David Bowie in concert.

Barry and I lived in small apartment a block away from the first house I'd ever lived in.

The potential fear of nuclear war that had hung in the air in the early 80s seemed to be dissipating, that is, until the protests began.

How would the USSR react?

We were glued to the television in the days leading up to November 9th.  Each day brought a new story of courage, a swelling demand for freedom.

Their hope was infectious and we all believed that they would succeed, but at what cost?

We'd just seen the Chinese government crack down the previous Spring in Tiananmen Square - would the same thing happen in Berlin?

And then it was over.

Gorbachev capitulated and we watched in awe and through tears as East and West were joined once more.

Those are distant days, distant memories.

We hear a lot about the decadence of the 1980s, typically painted as the me-me-me decade.

And yet I think of things like Band Aid, Live Aid, Tiananmen Square, the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, The Romanian Revolution.  The dying months of the 1980s were a turbulent time but seemed a portent of better things to come, even if the nearly final images, of Ceausescu and his wife Elena on Christmas Day, were the bloody footnote.

There was a sense that higher ideals might be rearing their heads once more.  Would we say the same of this decade?  I think of other places around the world where freedom is not yet available....

Today I will say a prayer for the many people who didn't make it over the wall.  

But most of all, I will say a prayer of thanks for the people who stood firm in their belief that a government should not be able to hold its own people hostage.

Twenty five years.  A lifetime ago.

Stay safe out there.  xoxo wendy


  1. I remember it well and shed more than one tear when it came down.

  2. Gosh it was a lifetime ago and I agree, the 80's get a bad rap but in many ways they were a hopeful, generous time.
    Lovely post Wenders.

    1. Thanks Dani! Plus, Barry and I threw some amazing parties in the 80s...

    2. I so agree, 80s were far more hopeful times. I still remember when the wall fall... It was unbelievable... All that era was so surreal...

  3. No way, was that 25 years ago? I remember sitting with a date, and talking about how we would always remember where we were when it happened.
    Poppy day here today, mum lost 5 male family members in the war, maybe that's why she was such a snarler today, she can't express any feelings like that.

    1. And you did remember! How romantic! Our poppy day is Tuesday! I can see why this would hit your mum so hard...

  4. I can't believe it was 25 years ago. I was in my final year of high school and it all made for interesting social studies classes. I remember the late 80s as very hopeful too.

    1. I bet! I mostly recall Idi Amin in Social Studies! Guess that dates me!

  5. Gosh that does seem a lifetime ago. Gorbachev was such an enormous figure back then and oddly so insignificant now. Putin was a minor KGB operative then and is now the most powerful man on earth. These collapsing oil prices will make him desperate and he'll cause more mischief to spike oil over $100 barrel....just watch!

  6. I've been thinking about the Wall coming down a lot, recently.
    I was living and studying in a remote part of the (then) Soviet Union at the time, and we didn't hear about it for a couple of weeks.... the World Service was patchy and often not available, so no way of getting any news. It wasn't widely reported in the local press....Crazy times

  7. Hi Wendy, I was living in Germany at the time. That evening I was babysitting for my boss and his wife. I was watching tv after I put the children to bed and saw it all happen. I remember when they came home - we were all so excited!

    Ruth, that is crazy that you didn't hear about it for weeks!

    1. It does seem strange now, doesn't it? but at the time, there just wasn't that much access to information in the Soviet Union....
      I used to have to book a phone call to the UK, go to the Post Office communications area and wait for the call to be put through. Even then the lines were sometimes down!

  8. The most surprising thing for me was that the wall hadn't been there that long! I was in junior high and had always known the cold war- it was an incredible time. But then, we still have walls and barriers in other countries...sigh...let's hope that the atmosphere of hope reminds people that maybe there are other solutions!

  9. This was a great post -- I was 11 when the Wall came down and was not at all tuned in to what was going on in the world -- I remember watching the coverage on television and not really getting it at all. By contrast, my husband was living in Austria then and remembers driving to the border and seeing huge crowds of people pouring in over the border. It is pretty incredible living in Germany now to think how different things were -- different in a way that is nearly incomprehensible to me now.


Kindness is a virtue...