And The Wall Came Tumbling Down

wall

20 Years Ago

It was a great time.  I remember being glued to my TV watching, as German met a German.  And it did turn out that they were Ein Volk. It was amazing.  Unbelievable really, I watched with my eyes wide, mouth opened, almost in shock at what was unfolding.  A great time.  It was the culmination of almost the whole year of  amazing events that changed the world.  The fall of the Berlin Wall was the most visible symbol of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.  Its that one event we can all point to.

Just a few years earlier it was unimaginable to think that such an event could take place.  In December of 1981 I remember waking up to no cartoons, instead, a dour looking uniformed man in glasses was on our television reading a statement that said that Poland was under Martial Law and any and all reforms that the Solidarity managed to gain were all gone.

jaruzelski

General Jaruzelski, under orders from his masters in Moscow, implemented Martial Law.  Solidarity was outlawed, massive arrests were made, tanks and armoured personnel carriers were on the streets.  There was an official curfew.  There were deaths of some who protested.  And here we were, less than 8 years later, Poland already after the Round Table.  Then Solidarity wins the June elections, and Jaruzelski names the first non-communist Prime Minister.  Hungary follows, opens its border with Austria and then East Germany.  And all hell breaks lose.  One by one, Communist Regimes fall.  All sybolized by the fall of The Wall.

I remember a young West German climbing on top of the Wall and offering a very confused East German border guard a drink and a hug.  The gathered crowd roared and applauded.  Such a spontaneous act, such a wonderful symbol.  Soon the Wall itself was full of people, drinking, hugging, dancing with joy, for they knew, a new day had dawned.  One where totalitarian regimes would fall, and a people would be united.  There were more great, and tragic events that would follow.  Czechoslovakia would free itself, and then divide.  Romania would take revenge on its dictator.  Yugoslavia would disintegrate into a civil war.  The Soviet Union itself would fall, it would shake the yoke of communism and let its subject choose for the first time.  It too would fall apart into many different states, some were allowed to leave, some would have to fight.  Communism in Europe would fall into the ash heap of history.

And good riddance I say.

BerlinWallDODEastMeetsWest(320)

I have a piece of it.  A small fragment of a symbol of oppression and division.  The Wall stood for everything that was evil in Europe.  It may have divided one city, but it was a symbol of a divided continent.  And now its n0 more, only small sections are left as a monument of the past that was.  Technically the fall of communism in Europe did not begin, nor end, with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There was the main architect of the fall of communism, Gorbachev, it was he who let it all happen.  There was Solidarity, the Round Table, the first free elections behind the Iron Curtain. There was Hungary.  Later there was the Velvet revolution, death of Caucescu, fall of the USSR.  But its the Wall we all remember.  That symbol of division, of oppression, of longing for freedom.  It was not just a symbol though.

It really did isolate a city and divide its people.  People died trying to get to the other side.  It served a purpose.  Whatever illusions the more naive had about communism were shattered by the Wall.  Its gone now.  20 years, and I look back happy remembering that day, that year really.  And the time that followed.  A Germany united, Europe free.  Soviet Union is no more.  Now life is not perfect.  Old problems were replaced by new ones.  But we all can look back and think that it DID turn out for the better.  And I would not change that day for anything.

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