I grew up during the Reagan era and the dying embers of the Cold War. I remember having bomb drills in elementary school and fearing Russian invasion or a mushroom cloud. I had Red Dawn-like dreams and played Missile Command. Then Glasnost arrived, the cold war ended, the Iron Curtain opened and the Wall fell. I remember how good this felt and only then became aware that it had an effect on me.
Today I'm in Leipzig, the birthplace of the East German peaceful revolution that led to the end of socialist rule and the collapse of the Berlin Wall only one month later. We met with Gisela Kallenbach, currently on the city council, but a former EU MP and an activist of '89. She gave us a personal account of her role that historic fall. Over the course of the past week I've had an amazing opportunity to meet more people like Gisela — 1989 revolutionaries in the Czech Republic and Germany. We've heard first hand accounts of what it was like to live under the heavy hand of communism, the unfortunate successor to devastating Nazi rule. We've heard stories of deception and personal betrayal, unjust detainment, secretive weekly meetings and bold protest. Amazingly the human spirit triumphed over the oppression.
This evening we shared stories about our childhoods in each country during this time, our different perceptions of what was right and wrong. We all feared Russia and though they are not the military threat they once were they still wield power here through control of energy resources. We also heard stories of grandparents that lived during the Nazi rule, or as they say here, The Bad Times and of the suffering they endured.
We were split in two dinner tables tonight and for better or worse I ended up at the table that wasn't celebrating the reunion of the Fellows and this amazing trip. Instead we talked about Auschwitz, the SS, September 11, WW2 and more. It's hard not to in this town. Earlier we had walked to Nikolaikirche and Thomaskirche. We stood in their shadows and learned about the resistance meetings that led to the revolution. They are such inspiring and sobering stories and God forbid we ever forget them.