A Great Day For Freedom
"On the day the wall came down
They threw the locks onto the ground
And with glasses high we raised a cry
For freedom had arrived
On the day the wall came down
The Ship of Fools had finally ran aground
Promises lit up the night like paper doves in flight."
- Pink Floyd, A Great Day For Freedom, 1994
November 10, 1989 is one of those momentous dates, when one remembers exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news.
I was 11 years old – not old enough to grasp the full significance of the events, but old enough to realise that something very imporant is happening.
I have a clear recollection of the evening of November 9. We were having dinner in the kitchen, watching the news on an old black-and-white portable Russian TV set “Yunost”. The national television was broadcasting footage of East Germans jumping over the Berlin Wall, wrecking it with sledge hammers and running through the gaps. I don't remember what they said on the news, but from the reactions of my parents, I understood that the events in Berlin that night were good.
I knew that Germany was divided into Eastern and Western and I have been told in school that Western Germany was “the enemy”, though my grandmother had nieces living in Fulda. They were sending me nice presents for Christmas and my birthday – everything from brightly coloured clothes and toys to chocolate, candy and chewing gum. They were calling on the phone every now and then and were sending us postcards and letters, so I couldn't quite comprehend how can they be “the enemy”.
My parents quietly and secretly explained to me that not everything I am told in school was true and the West is not “the enemy”, so I could only sympathise with the East Germans who finally made it to the West.
Then, on the next evening we were watching the news again. I remember the utterly confused Todor Zhivkov, sitting at that table on the podium, blinking behind those funny spectacles, not seeming quite there and comprehending. (In later years, looking at those photos, I would think Zhivkov must have been stoned.) Another guy (Petar Mladenov) was reading something, which I didn't quite understand. I remember my parents cheering and my grandmother hushing them to be quiet.
She was a prudent woman, always worrying someone might “overhear something”. Listening to BBC and Radio Free Europe always worried her and she was trying to argue with my parents that someone will hear what they're doing and tell the police.
Then the phone rang. My aunt was calling to ask if we had heard the news. “Yes, we have,” was my mother's guarded reply.
My parents went to a party at my aunt's place to celebrate the end of tyranny.
I stayed at home with grandma. I was confused and a bit upset, not sure what all this meant and what was going to happen next. - In my child's mind Todor Zhivkov was going to last forever. Yet there he was – ousted by an internal coup.
The rest, they say, is history. I grew up in the tumultuous period they call “The Transition”.
They said The Transition is over now. It may be so – there is already a generation of adults who have no recollection of those events or what it was like before. Many of them are not sure who Todor Zhivkov was or what fell on November 9, 1989. They think communism was great.
Well, it wasn't.
Enjoy your freedom! No one said it was going to be easy.
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