Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today my mother woke me up early. She was crying. Last time she woke me up crying, Olof Palme had just been assassinated. This time, though, my mother's tears were not angry, horrified and sad tears. She was crying with joy. The Berlin Wall had fallen. I went to school that day. My teachers cancelled all our scheduled classes and were bust talking amongst themselves. My German teacher - the great-grandson of Paul Gauguin, by the way - sat us down to watch news reports coming in from West Germany. I still recall another teacher crying in the school yard. She was part-German. Today I suspect her German family might have fled here from the East as they never visited any of their relatives until the early 1990s.

Today it is difficult to explain what life were like before the end of the Cold War. I lived in Denmark, a small country just north of both East and West Germany. Occasionally you'd hear stories about people escaping from East Germany across the southernmost Baltic Sea to southern Denmark. Occasionally you'd also hear about people travelling the opposite direction. Swedes were paranoid about Soviet submarines and Danes were paranoid about East German spies within Danish political ranks. I was just a child when it all changed but I could definitely tell something had changed. At school they stopped teaching us how to react in event of a nuclear war, for instance.

Twenty years ago today.