»Mein Aufbruch war der Auszug von zu Hause. Von Westen nach Osten. Das war im Jahr 2001 und Deutschland seit gut 10 Jahren ein Land. In meiner Wahlheimat Berlin ist ständiger Aufbruch an der Tagesordnung: Eine Sehnsuchtsstadt, die dazu verdammt ist, immerfort zu werden und niemals zu sein.«

Rik Watkinson from Berlin, born 1982 in Wiesbaden, BRD, was on November 9, 1989 zu Hause. Mein Vater fuhr noch in der Nacht an die Grenze nach Thüringen, um dabei zu sein.

Societal transformation means upheaval, but also new beginnings. What was the most important new beginning in your life? What new beginnings do you connect with the upheaval of 1989/90? Or were other experiences of transformation important for you? Share your story here!

  1. »I wish for a stronger consciousness for the differing backgrounds and experiences that shaped us in the East and West, and in so many different areas of life. More attention paid to listening and more courage to tell our stories.«

    Tobias from Jena, born in Bayern
  2. »I absolutely wanted to complete my A-levels. In the years before the Wall fell, my teacher always said to me, ‘You go to church. You know that I can hardly let you take A-levels for that reason.’ My parents said, ‘You have to be the best.’ My teacher said, ‘Be the Group Council Chair, write judgements of your classmates, falsify the Group Council election (naturally she didn’t use those words, but that was implied). I did it all, because I wanted my A-levels. The closer the fall of the Wall seemed to get, the more flyer came into our flat, forbidden books about the destruction of the world in Bitterfeld and the Erz Mountains, the more classmates disappeared into the West, the more unbearable these many little compromises became for me. I was in a quagmire, I was ashamed, and I didn’t know how to get out. And then, the wonderful news of the summer and autumn of 1989! I went to the first gatherings in the Church of Peace in Jena, I was photographer at one of the first demonstrations and knew that the GDR would never give me a place for my A-levels. But then again, I was no longer dependant on that, because the fall of the Wall opened new paths for me to the outside – into freedom, colour and unplanned things. This joy has remained part of my life to the present day.«

    Anne from Jena, born in aufgewachsen in Jena
  3. »Thanks for the upheaval of 1989/90, I was born into a unified Germany, at least on the surface. In my home town in Thuringia, people distinguished between the West and East, ‘Wessies’ and ‘Ossies’, for years after the reunification. I myself grew up in a family where this categorical distinction never played a roll. The biggest new beginning in my life, however, was still moving from the ‘East’ to the ‘West’. I finished by bachelor’s in Jena. My student days in Jena were one of the best and most formative experiences of my youth. During that time, I made friendships for life and met my first love. As wonderful as this carefree and easy life was, it was all the more painful when it and my time in Jena ended. With a broken heart in my suitcase, I made my way far from my family and friends to the ‘West’ for my master’s. The first few months were indescribably hard. Homesick, love-sick, adrift and with a sense of alienation, my daily life was difficult. I now became aware that there really was a difference between ‘West’ and ‘East’. However, the great commonalities still gave me courage during that time: it didn’t where you were in the world, you could always find friends that made the hard times easier. For that reason, my wish for the future is to focus more on commonalities that unite people, to reach out a helping hand to one another, regardless of where we come from. The differences should not be glossed over, quite the opposite. It is essential to be transparent in dealing with them so that they do not become instruments of conflict and discord. And even if I initially felt alien and lost in the new city that found differences disconcerting at first, after a year I can now say: I feel at home. I am grateful for the commonalities that unite us and the difference that make us special. What does the future hold for me? Jena will always have my heart. It is my intention that this city should not only have had a formative influence on my past, but also soon again become the setting for my future.«

    Anonym, born in Mühlhausen/Thür. (ehemalige DDR)
  4. »My most important new beginner was a break out: the Republikflucht [desertion from the republic] in 1957 from the GDP, breaking out of a system of bondage and oppression. At a student festival, an employee of the rector’s office came up to me in the middle of the dance floor and whispered in my ear, ‘I’ve read your personal file. You won’t amount to anything here. As a Catholic, you’ve been assessed as critical to hostile towards our state.’ This assessment was also true. A few weeks later, I was sitting in train to Bavaria, having surprisingly received papers for a visit abroad. Even the strict passport and luggage checks by the border police went without incident. As the train crossed the border, one of the other passengers said, ‘Now we are in the West.’ The whole compartment collectively exhaled. The people who had, until a moment ago, sat there silent and glum because cheerful and started talking to one another. The pressure was gone. My life in freedom and democracy could begin. What followed were 15 years in which Jena was a forbidden country for me. It was only since Willi Brandt’s new Ostpolitik that it became possible for deserters like me to visit the GDR. After the fall of the Wall and reunification had happened, I watched the first changes in Jena with wrapped attention and then saw Jena make a new start in the new Federal Republic. Jena has become a beautiful city. It has successfully made its new beginning and has earn the “Zukunftszentrum – Centre for German Unity and European Transformation.«

    Hans-Joachim Preuß from Erlangen , born in Frankenstein/Schlesien, was on November 9, 1989 In Bonn
  5. »My most important new beginning led me to reunified Germany. Though my childhood was shaped by the absence of my family in Jena, as an adult, I still live every day in deep gratitude for the courage of the citizens of the GDR to take to the streets and peacefully overcome the Wall and the more than 40 years of separation.«

    Elke Preuß from Erlangen, born in Erlangen, BRD, was on November 9, 1989 in front of the TV
  6. »My new beginning took place 4 years ago as I moved from Swabia to Jena. Influenced though I was by west-German arrogance, I came open to the new, yet was surprised by the pleasant way people interacted with one another here. Now I like it here so much that I don’t want to leave…only the distance from my family could move me to make my way back to the West.«

    Anonym from Jena / Winzerla, born in Waiblingen, BRD