Cold War Conversations

A Cold War Romance (82)

September 28, 2019 Season 3 Episode 82
Cold War Conversations
A Cold War Romance (82)
Chapters
Cold War Conversations
A Cold War Romance (82)
Sep 28, 2019 Season 3 Episode 82
Ian Sanders & Antje Kunert

In 1986 GDR student Antje met a British guy who was installing sewing machines in the hosiery companies in East Germany. Unusually he was given quite a bit of freedom to socialise locally and he eventually asked Antje to marry him. However, with her prospective husband being a citizen of the capitalist West the process was far from simple…

Now talking of the Capitalist West I’m sure you know some of our fans who are helping the podcast monthly via Patreon, so if you’d like to join this select band? Then head over to https://coldwarconversations.com/donate/ plus you get the sought after CWC coaster too.

Back to today’s episode, Antje describes her early life in the GDR and how romance blossomed between East & West, despite the best efforts of East German bureaucracy to thwart the union.  Now the story does have somewhat of a twist towards the end so make sure you keep listening.

We recorded our chat at The Barbican Centre in London, so excuse any background noise, I’m delighted to welcome Antje to Cold War Conversations

Show Notes Transcript

In 1986 GDR student Antje met a British guy who was installing sewing machines in the hosiery companies in East Germany. Unusually he was given quite a bit of freedom to socialise locally and he eventually asked Antje to marry him. However, with her prospective husband being a citizen of the capitalist West the process was far from simple…

Now talking of the Capitalist West I’m sure you know some of our fans who are helping the podcast monthly via Patreon, so if you’d like to join this select band? Then head over to https://coldwarconversations.com/donate/ plus you get the sought after CWC coaster too.

Back to today’s episode, Antje describes her early life in the GDR and how romance blossomed between East & West, despite the best efforts of East German bureaucracy to thwart the union.  Now the story does have somewhat of a twist towards the end so make sure you keep listening.

We recorded our chat at The Barbican Centre in London, so excuse any background noise, I’m delighted to welcome Antje to Cold War Conversations

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/coldwarpod)

spk_0:
00:00
We made a pact somewhere. Sometime in the mid eighties, we said we are going to spend New Year's Eve 1999 2000 but 1919 under the Eiffel Tower Come would main
spk_1:
00:19
welcome to Cold War conversations, threats and go on with Foreign City. Running through Berlin has today become a cement wall, astonishing news from East Germany, where the East German authorities have said, in essence, that the Berlin Wall doesn't mean anything anymore. Wall of the East Germans, put up in 1961 that keep its people in will now be breached by anybody. One who wants to leave German people at work this morning as one nation celebrating the end of 45 years of division and Cold War towns and villages across East and West celebrated the final moment of unification, while in Germany's historic capital, Berlin, a freedom bell pealed at midnight. Fireworks lit the night sky over the Brandenburg Gate. In 1986 East German student Answer met a British guy who wass installing, saying machines in the hosiery companies in East Germany. Unusually, he was given quite a bit of freedom to socialise locally on. He eventually asked her to marry him. However, with her prospective husband being a citizen of the capitalist West, the process was far from simple. Now talking off the capitalist West, I'm sure you know that some of our fans are helping the podcast financially via patriarch. So if you'd like to join this select band, then head over to Cold War conversations dot com slash donate. Plus, you get the sort after Cold War Conversations Coast, too. Now, back to today's episode Answer describes her early life in the GDR and how romance blossomed between eastern west despite the best efforts of East Yemen bureaucracy to thwart the union. Now the storey does have somewhat of a twist towards the ends. And make sure you keep on listening right the way through. We recorded our chat at the Barbican Centre in London, So excuse any background noise, but I'm delighted. Toe welcome answer to Cold War conversations. Okay, I am here with answer hoo! Ah has without doubt an interesting storey that I think the Cold War conversations listeners will be interested in. Welcome to Cold War conversations. Answer.
spk_0:
02:58
Thank you and lovely to be here. I hope I'm not going to bore you with my storey.
spk_1:
03:02
I don't think so at all. So if we could just start off with when and where were you born?
spk_0:
03:12
Well, I was born in 1965 in a small town in the south off what used to be East Germany in an area called the Outskirt Burger. Um, sto bag. It was called Yes. So 1965 stoke
spk_1:
03:29
Okay, on DH, Who was in your family?
spk_0:
03:33
It was initially just my parents. I was the first born. I had a younger brother that was born three and 1/2 years after me.
spk_1:
03:43
Okay, on DH, Your parents? What? What did they do?
spk_0:
03:46
My dad comes from an unusual for acid was quite an unusual background, somewhat privileged. His parents had only his family had owned a factory locally on DH that had bean, um, nationalised in the seventies. But he was still working in it as an engineer, he had studied engineering. Hey was still working in there. It's quite strange because for us it started off a sort of a playground because we also lived within the compounds off the off the company. We had a flat in there in the sort of administrative building. And it turned out for a sort of a playground for us on DH. They gradually scaled that back, and we weren't allowed in there anymore. But my dad was still working in the company, and my mom was the secretary to our mayor, our local mayor. She had done secretarial college and ally. I remember her all my lifetime or my childhood being the secretary to our man. Different mayors, same secretary,
spk_1:
05:04
Right, Right, right. And when the factory was nationalised, Well, you still are now to live in the flat within the complex. So did you have to make?
spk_0:
05:13
Yes, we were because yes, initially, it was partially nationalised. Um, on DH when it got fully nationalised in the seventies, we lost some privileges, like a telephone line which we had always enjoyed, which was very, very unusual for East Germany. Getting having private telephone line was just the privileged few that enjoyed that, Um, but somehow we were allowed to rent to continue renting the space. That was that we were occupying in that administrative building. Not quite sure. Now you're asking me. I'm not quite sure why that wass, but yes, that's what it
spk_1:
05:58
wass you were. You were telling me an interesting storey a moment ago about the factory being shipped, the machinery of the factory being shipped to the Soviet Union at the end of the war, which obviously you weren't around for No,
spk_0:
06:12
I haven't seen. I've only ever seen family photos of that. Yes, my grand parents owned the factory would, which was a hosiery factory initially, Andi, After the war, we got occupied obviously by the Russians, and they dismantled the whole factory. And there are pictures ofthe big crates off machine machinery that was shipped off with said in obviously in career lick letters, Leningrad on the side of those boxes that were shipped out from our A local train station on DH. Rumour has it they never even arrived in learning broad. I don't think they ever were put to any good use after they were shipped out, But yeah, my my grandmother and her brother, they faced like an empty shell of a factory which then got turned into semiconductor business, was partially still privately owned in my grandmother's brother remained managing director for a while. There was also there was also in in in the 70 now. In the sixties, there was actually a play about my grandfather's brother, who was running this fact tree was called a thoroughly modern man or something along those lines because he had changed from being capitalist, too, on helping the Socialist restructuring of Eastern Germany. And he was played by some act or another. I have always looked I've been trying to look for it. I thought in the age of, you know, thie Internet, I would find it somewhere. But I've never found
spk_1:
07:56
that was gonna be My next question is who wrote it and where can I find it?
spk_0:
08:01
You know what? I don't know.
spk_1:
08:02
I'll put the call out to the listeners there. I a diligent bands they might be. They might be a
spk_0:
08:08
tree in that wood. That would be so wonderful if I could ever see that.
spk_1:
08:13
Well, we'll see. We'll see what we can do that the next question I have is what were your neighbours like? But it sounds like you didn't necessarily have any direct neighbours
spk_0:
08:22
way didn't weigh lived in this administrative building. It was my family and then above us. Well, my family and until 1972 next door had my grandmother in a little flat on DH upstairs, her brother who enjoyed a big, big flat because they had basically taken. My dad grew up in a big villa that had been built by my great grandfather to a replica ofthe something he saw in Monaco very tastefully on DH. They obviously got that got taken away from my my dad's family, and they got relocated into this administrative building, and therefore, we all sort of lived in there. Um, all through my childhood until the eighties, when they were eventually asked to move out, Right? Right. So, yeah, that there was no direct neighbours.
spk_1:
09:27
Yeah, Yeah, on DH. What? What was your schooling like? I mean, what was your favourite subject?
spk_0:
09:35
My schooling was I still believe, although some might disagree with me, I still think that schooling in these Germany was actually quite good. We enjoyed quite a broad curriculum. It was obviously it had its limitations. Certain things. I didn't really like teaching and certain things. They talk too much, such as ideological indoctrination. But we got a good general, um, grounding. I think I was a very diligent student. Admits
spk_1:
10:09
that's good to hear.
spk_0:
10:12
And so I always did well in school, and I also got the opportunity to move on to what was called a vital toe over Shuler, which was essentially the fur gymnasium where you could what what in the rest of Germany would have been called gymnasium, which basically gave the opportunity to get to do a levels. And that's what I eventually moved where I am eventually moved to do my A levels.
spk_1:
10:42
Okay, okay. And what was your favourite subject?
spk_0:
10:45
Favourite subject was probably all the humanity's history. German literature, language, art, music. Not so much. I can't think for tough
spk_1:
10:55
on history. Must have had a particular slumber.
spk_0:
10:58
And yes, history did. I very much enjoyed the early history which was not politically flavoured or not as much. Anyway, later on, I mean, history in after the war became or even between the wars became quite tedious because itwas very, very, um very ideological.
spk_1:
11:24
Yeah, yeah. No, I can imagine So So, what were your favourite TV shows? As a child,
spk_0:
11:34
we had the, um for all I can remember, we had the opportunity to watch West German television. There was a period of my childhood when that wasn't possible, but you might have come across this, but the little communities in East Germany would basically club to get her to club together to get a big aerial on some sort of elevation in the community which would pick up West German television.
spk_1:
12:10
I wasn't aware of that,
spk_0:
12:10
you know.
spk_1:
12:11
No, no, no, no, that's
spk_0:
12:13
that's what what happened on D. It was so doof tolerated. Not quite sure why, but West Germany would also specifically send signals across so we could pick it up. And so I guess my favourite programmes would have probably always bean West German programmes because we didn't watch all that much East German television. There were some some films on DH, some programmes that were quite nice. I can totally remember them now, but I think as kids we always watched
spk_1:
12:49
West German television. You must've been a fan of the sand mansion. That's true.
spk_0:
12:54
That's true. Yes, yes, yes, yes, son mentioned And in fact, my Children now when we go to Germany that they've outgrown it. But when they were little at seven o'clock every night, we would sit down and watch a sentiment
spk_1:
13:07
Brilliant brilliant. It was It was magic roundabout in the UK. I think that that was
spk_0:
13:11
our equivalent.
spk_1:
13:12
You're right. You're right. Um, so I would imagine you were in the ah, the young pioneers as well. I
spk_0:
13:22
was. I was both in the young pioneers and thie. Later on, they were called the term on Puygrenier. I believe eso you started off with a blue neckerchief, and then you advanced onto the red one. Um, yeah, it was just it. It was basically I mean, unless you were you came from a family. That was very anti year establishment you just joined. It was a matter of course, and if he didn't, it came with a lot of problems. So yeah, I just I was part ofthe that whole movement. And then later on, of course, the fire go to ume Jefty F D J. Yeah. So, yeah, I progressed to the ring
spk_1:
14:11
on, but did you do any of the military training in the finest? Sure.
spk_0:
14:18
We did it as the pioneer. So much. It's certainly became a big feature later on, when we were in the free German use, Um, we had, in fact, when we were when I moved on to dio my degree course part of that was always devoted to sort of military training. It was called civil defence. Um, but it really was very military. They would stick us away somewhere in a camp where we really had to work under military rules and greet. Then there was some sort of military people there that were overseeing all of that as well. At the time,
spk_1:
14:59
they were probably talent spotting for later life, possibly
spk_0:
15:03
possibly possibly. Although that was that's an altogether different conversation to be had. Word was going on in those camps.
spk_1:
15:13
You can't leave that hanging out.
spk_0:
15:16
Oh, it was a very old experience. Stick a few 20 ord year olds with some of their lecturers because our lecturers would come along with us and be our trainers there in a camp in the middle of nowhere where you are not allowed to go out for, I don't know. 23 weeks, four weeks, possibly. And there was some really very old goings on.
spk_1:
15:50
Okay, Okay. We'll stop. Yes, we'll stop there. It's a family show. Did you have any relatives in the West?
spk_0:
16:00
Yes, I did. My auntie. My dad sister had left in the fifties when it was still possible on DH, had established yourself in West Germany, was married there and had two Children on DH. I I remember being about 10 the first time I ever met them. The first time they actually came back, my dad wanted to leave. I mean, it's actually quite a but coincidence that I'm even here because my dad was going to leave the country and join his sister in West Germany in 61. In the summer of 61 he was going to go camping and not to ever come back. And whilst he was camping, they put the wall up and he just couldn't. He couldn't leave anymore. They had already had some some position for him in the Bundeswehr, from what I gather, but he was stuck. S o my was then eventually born in 65. So obviously he he just, you know, came to the conclusion that there was no way out. But yet his sister stayed in West Germany and they didn't come to visit does until Yeah, I was about 10.
spk_1:
17:14
Right? And did they send you gifts as well?
spk_0:
17:17
Yes, they did. on Dean. Fact, My grandmother left in 72 to join her daughter in West Germany, which was quite traumatic for me because I could never go and visit her after that. The first time I actually went to visit her was after I left in 89. I spend a couple of days over there, and she would come and see us occasionally, but yes, it they would always send thie obviously precious things when little parcels arrived from the west. This coffee and chocolate. And you know, all the little things that they probably bought really cheaply. But
spk_1:
17:57
we really appreciate it. Yeah. No, no. I've I've heard that from other former former GDR citizens of the excitement over the packages from the West. Your grandmother presumably reach pensionable age, at which point she could then go and live in the West because Thie east didn't want to Then be paying her pension. Well,
spk_0:
18:16
yes, state they once you had reached pensionable age, they were quite happy to for you to just take your stuff and leave. Because, as you say, you then weren't a burden on their pocket any longer.
spk_1:
18:28
Okay? Okay. No, thanks for that. Presumably you visited East Berlin at some point in your childhood?
spk_0:
18:35
A lot. Well, my childhood, Yes, with my parents. Occasionally, but certainly when I became a student, a lot of my friends were from Berlin, and I had, um I had quite a lot of friends that were, um Yeah, we're based in Berlin on DH, so I used to go there very regularly. I still have friends there now
spk_1:
18:58
on. How aware were you of the wall and West Berlin? You know what? How did you, Philip, You know, I'm trying to understand how what you thought about it. Did you just try and put it out of your mind and avoid it? We
spk_0:
19:14
always knew it was there, and it was very strange, especially in Berlin, because you could get relatively close and you could actually glance across. Um, and it was relatively odd to think that there was a world over there that we could just never reach on DH. But in the end, it was just a reality that you lived with when I got older. As I said when I was a student, I used to spend quite a bit of time in Berlin. I had some unusual friends. In fact, one of my friends was from Yemen, and he actually kept a Yemeni passport and he was allowed to cross and he we would wait for him wherever we could on the eastern side whenever he came back, and we would give him orders for records that we wanted, and he would come back with basically what? The goodies that we'd ordered from him. But he could go. We could see him go. He could see him come back. And yet we could never go where he went.
spk_1:
20:25
Yeah, it must be really weird experiences. There is. There's this other almost mythical city right next to you that you just calm get to
spk_0:
20:34
Yes, with all the goodies that you could ever want. Yeah, it taught you self restrained. I guess. You always knew that. You just couldn't. You would want it, But you couldn't get to it.
spk_1:
20:44
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you never I mean, did you ever think about how could I get over there or we made a pact,
spk_0:
20:51
this whole bunch of friends that we were quite subversive. There was quite a lot off people that were religious. And you might have come across this, but the church was almost thean official opposition in East Germany on DH. My boyfriend at the time was the son of a vicar, but not just your ordinary village vicar, but somebody who was politically engaged and would preach. And he was on very much on the radar, off the stars. The So we're all his Children. And through that we made a pact somewhere. Sometime in the mid eighties, we said, we are going to spend New Year's Eve 1919 or 2000 but 1919 under the Eiffel Tower. Come what may what we never did because then it didn't really matter anymore. By then, the wall had come down anyway. But that was the sort of that was the ambition for us.
spk_1:
22:03
You know, that's a really interesting and little did you know that that was going to be possible on that? That's that's a great That's a great storey. Um when when did you You talked about being a student? So were you studying in Berlin?
spk_0:
22:20
No. I started in Leipzig at the That still exists. It wasn't the university. It was called the handle Asshole. Shuler H H L. Leipzig. If you want to look it up, it's still exists now. It has got quite a good history. Off economics studied economics. It has a very good history of economics, and even during the East German times, it turned out quite well educated bunch. But it was quite difficult to get into at the time on DH. Yes, I was lucky enough to I wanted to really get into the hotel trade. You know, the Big World and the excitement off international trade and international visitors. But there was out of the 10 seminar groups that they would take in every year. There was only two of them. There were for the hotel business, and you have to be very, very clean and ideologically on. Teo. Get in. Then I didn't.
spk_1:
23:24
Your parents would have to be card home. Very, very
spk_0:
23:28
clear. Yes, and my parents were not members off the S e D. Yeah, the main socialist Communist Party. Because my dad's background wasn't right because he came from a capitalist family. He then became a member ofthe the NDP D. You have to be careful. You say that which which basically was the pool for a ll the ex capitalists that wanted to help build a better Germany if
spk_1:
24:03
you Yeah, yeah. No, I do. I do understand because I think people aren't necessarily aware that there were these sort of almost front parties to try and give the impression that it was a multiparty state. Yeah, CD was pulling all the strings.
spk_0:
24:20
Yes, it was. And they basically thie the farmers had their own party. Then there was the nd BT was basically the Yeah, all the intelligentsia used to sort of be in there is what? There was a liberal party l bt i can't totally remembered. It was called, but there was a liberal party. And look what you're who They were trying to fit into that particular straitjacket, But yeah, and in fact, my dad's cousin became very hi. He became the personal assistant to the leader off the NDB because all these little parties provided thie. They were like a second in command to Monica or whoever was in charge in the Politburo on DH. He, my dad's cousin, was the personal assistant to one of these guys, and we got quite a lot of storeys out of Berlin at times that I think we weren't allowed to repeat,
spk_1:
25:28
so you can't repeat them. Well,
spk_0:
25:29
I can now, but at the time, it was little things like he would sail. They all lived in this sort of it was called Clinica Bomblets vandal. It's that they all lived in bundle it and all them and the ambassador's also had their local their their residences there. And my dad's cousin's boss had his residence right next to the French ambassador, who one morning decided to put a fountain outside his home. And because it couldn't be that a Western citizen would have a bigger fountain that then the East German neighbour, my relative was dispatched to source a bigger fountain that then ultimately got put into the front garden off his boss. So little things like that, which I remember when I heard them, went totally against all this ideological stuff that we were being taught about the working classes and stuff. And I remember that turning round in my head, thinking well, that's a bit petty. How does that really work out with the working classes and all of that? So, yeah, there was a few of those storeys kicking around That's the one I remember right now. But there was a few others like
spk_1:
26:54
that. I think you're right. It probably was clean. Occur because Vangelis was where all the East German leaders used to
spk_0:
26:59
live. And
spk_1:
27:00
then it was probably diplomatic calm.
spk_0:
27:03
It was diplomatic compound. That's right. And it was probably cleaning, if I remember rightly.
spk_1:
27:10
Yeah, on DH, You said you studied economics. I mean, that must have been with quite a socialist slam. Very, very. It's very red. Yeah, it's basically nationalised everything. And so tell
spk_0:
27:24
us that berm they did. They did give us an idea in two Canes and Adam Smith. And so we did learn about thie alternative theories.
spk_1:
27:35
All that's interesting
spk_0:
27:36
on DH, but we obviously we're told that I was was much superior.
spk_1:
27:45
Okay, so So when you finish your did you get a degree and economic progress? I did. When you finish that, where did you go to work?
spk_0:
27:55
Well, I The system in East Germany was such that in the last year of your studies they would they would basically because it was all planned. Everybody that had a jaw everybody that was studying would also get a job so the amount of students that were in the year would this is how many jobs would come to the universe or to the higher education organisation. Whoever you were studying with on DH, they would then be distributed. Obviously, the first choice of jobs would go to the highest achievers I had. Whilst I had been very good at school. Once my parents or I got out of my parent's house and I was become a little freer. I neglected my studies somewhat and I also didn't quite see the point in some of the stuff that I had to study, which was, as as we just established, very idle or ideologically coloured s O. I wasn't quite in the top tier on DH. What I got to pick from was essentially one of the low call on heart yours, which is Thie, which was one of the retail organisations in East Germany. We had consumed her award on DH. They will organised that you had a low core centre on DH. They were looking for somebody. I can't even remember what the job was meant to be, but somewhere locally they were looking for somebody to help them with something and I took the job. But by then I had already met my then my my husband to be and I knew I wasn't gonna work there, and it sort of it sent me down a real rabbit hole off off worries, and I didn't really know how to address it. I didn't want them to think that I was coming and then be disappointed I wasn't going to come. They're gonna have their had to find me a flat. I even had to go through the motions of viewing flats and approving them. And in the end, I actually rang the boss there and said, Look, I'm going to tell you something now that I'm sure I shouldn't be telling you. But I am not going to start with you because I'm going to get married and I'm going to move to Britain.
spk_1:
30:23
Okay. Which brings us on to one of the reasons I found your storey. Interesting. Although what you just told me is equally fascinating detail as well. So how did you meet your future husband?
spk_0:
30:41
Right? I was at, um college in light sick, and I was I came home for one of the study holidays and in the next I come from a very rural area on the next village from where my parents lived. Hod thie head office off the the hosiery industry in East Germany on DH. They would buy in equipment, in this case, sewing machines from the from the West because obviously the east couldn't provide it. And with the equipment came the engineers that would instal it on DH. Usually they were kept under very close observation. They weren't really allowed to mingle too much. And I don't really to this day understand what happened. But the's two English guys turned out locally and they were allowed to just go to local discos. And it was obviously much excitement amongst everybody on DH. Yes, so I met Tim. Um, he didn't speak any. I managed to. My English was probably better than most of the local, most of the other local girls. So I had a competitive advantage, always good and yes, way eventually had, you know, started some something like a relationship. And on DH, he asked me to marry him very early on, but I think he want he asked me to marry him because you wanted to get me out of the country. He felt sorry for me, and I said, No, no, I'm going to finish my studies. If you're still hanging around for that long, then we can consider it after that on DH. So we had a long distance relationship. In a way, Heywood he would come back on, we had to sort of be quite subversive because I didn't want to, um, have any problems at university s O. He would just get invitations from people I vaguely knew that didn't have much to groups and never really stay with them. And I'm sure the local stars e people knew what was going on. But somehow we went through the whole show rods. He did actually book into her tell the first time he came back. Um, so, yeah, he would come back and visit me regularly, and we would sometimes meet in hungry or in the Czech Republic and, you know, could be on holiday together. But we could never go there together or leave together. He could drop me to the border. And then I had to cross my way, and he had to go his way.
spk_1:
33:33
So when When did you first meet him? What year was,
spk_0:
33:37
um, 86 I think.
spk_1:
33:40
Okay. And what did you like about him?
spk_0:
33:44
Well, he was English. Me and
spk_1:
33:49
well, it it was.
spk_0:
33:51
I've always been a bit of an adventurer in my day is I? And he was just the most exciting thing ever. But he was also very handsome, and he was a proper gentleman. And he was just very different to anybody I'd ever met before. He was tall and Andi he travelled a lot because he would not just instal machine. Renee's Germany went frequently to South America, and he was all over the place. Switzerland and I would always get postcards from where Iwas,
spk_1:
34:25
Where the stars. He must have definitely been on your
spk_0:
34:27
own. Yeah, unfortunately, my stars, the files because I moved to England before the wall before East Germany was dissolved. In a way, my files came to the German Embassy, and they still had enough time to shred everything. And they did actually send her the letter in 1990 saying, assuming your something along the lions, assuming your your agreement, we have gotten rid of for your files and at the time. I remember thinking, All right then. But what I didn't realise was that they had basically gotten rid
spk_1:
35:11
of basically, your far was transferred to the East German Embassy in the U. K. And that's what they must have done with any East German citizen that
spk_0:
35:19
I was number 35. If I was the 35th East Germany in the UK, apparently,
spk_1:
35:25
Wow, that that few. I would have thought there'd be more than that. But when
spk_0:
35:30
I got here, because they would also do, um, Christmas parties at the East German Embassy, which was basically just their way of checking in with everyone. Um, but, you know, if you get an invite to your Chris to your embassy's Christmas party, you don't refuse s Oh, yeah. I still got one invitation to the Christmas party 89 at the East German Embassy in Belgrave Square. And there we talked and there was every East Germans in the UK was invited. Not everybody turned up because a few of them left in Scotland, but there was actually somebody who came down from Scotland for it on DH. I was told then that I was number 35
spk_1:
36:16
right? right in interesting. So these East German citizens still felt a loyalty to Eastern to turn out for something like that. They must have felt something. Well, of course,
spk_0:
36:32
you always feel a loyalty towards the country you were born in, educated in and grew up in. Even if you despise it, there is an element off. It's your familiarity. It's it's what you know. It's and and you know, And once you are in London, you know that you're quite free and you can come in there and you can leave again. And that, in fact, if people would have been able to come and go as they please, they probably would have lost a few more. But people wouldn't have wanted the whole country to go wholesale
spk_1:
37:08
there. You might have been number three million and 35 if true, if if if they'd allowed that, I mean, what was that? Really the only contact that the East German Embassy insisted on having with you? Once you've moved to
spk_0:
37:23
well, they couldn't really insist on anything anymore. That also dawned on me much later on, I still had an East German passport, so this was obviously I was still, you know, I was very much still officially East German, but they told me when they handed me the passport in East Germany before I left that I should go to the west. ERM, sorry to the East German Embassy in London to register myself. I didn't know that. I didn't really have to do that, but it was so entrenched in nine. Yeah, I just couldn't even imagine not doing it. And so I did. And I registered myself. And so that's how they kept a bit of an eye on you.
spk_1:
38:08
Yes. Yeah. Okay. No, that's That's a really interesting insight there, but we have sort of jumped ahead a bit because obviously you start this relationship with Tim in 86. It's long distance. He has to go away. You're still in East Germany? He's sending you letters. He's writing to you, and then you decide to get married.
spk_0:
38:32
Yes. Yes. True. I basically went toothy equivalent off the Citizens Advice Bureau in Leipzig at the time. How naive of me to inquire what I would need to do. And I was absolutely terrified because I thought any minute now they're really just gonna take me away
spk_1:
38:59
in the guys in the leather jacket? Yeah, yeah,
spk_0:
39:01
in the max, they would turn out. Nobody ever did from early enough. But the guy didn't Really. Whoever I saw at the time didn't really give me any real advice. But I'm meeting on. I also went to the with Tim to the British Embassy. That was another terrifying moment because I saw it all the men in the max because they hang their hung around. Although
spk_1:
39:27
in Berlin, in Berlin, Berlin, the British, the British in or because it wasn't official embassy,
spk_0:
39:33
probably just mission in Berne in Berlin, in East Berlin on That was another terrifying moment because I thought, I'm sure I'm not allowed to do this, but anywhere did. And they gave some advice. And I remember walking in there, seeing the picture of the queen and thinking how very quaint. And
spk_1:
39:54
we offer you tea
spk_0:
39:55
you must have done. I can't mention that you didn't, but I probably would have refused it because t to this day is not quite my drink. Um, but yeah, So I remember being very excited over the fact that I had actually set foot on British soil effectively So, yes, we did to be made enquiries, always being slightly worried that something might happen. But nothing ever really did what you had to do. Um, was you had to apply for a marriage to a West Western citizen. They had just reduced the period of time it would take to get a response from six months to three months when we did. And that wass in early 89 I finished my studies. And in the march of 80 no, probably January 89 I then immediately applied on DH. Got a response within three months. But you weren't allowed to book, um, an actual, um, date for your in any of the registry offices because we had to get married in a local registry office. But you weren't, and dates were like gold dust. I don't know why they didn't give enough off the mouth, evidently, and you had to book them well in advance. But because I had to wait for my for my response, I did quite sneakily book the date. Provisionally, I had to bribe some people. I was working temporarily in just a local shop and, as you well know, is Germany was always short off everything. Tomato ketchup was a big one on DH. When we got a delivery of tomato ketchup in my local shop, I kept a few bottles to one side to then bribed the registrar to give me a date without officially giving me a date.
spk_1:
41:59
That's brilliant. That's brilliant.
spk_0:
42:02
So yeah. So I got my day before I got the Yes, but I got the yes that I could go ahead. We got married on the Fourth of July 89. I
spk_1:
42:14
I'm sorry. I was just gonna ask you Did you meet Tim's parents before they?
spk_0:
42:17
Yes, they did come over much. Oh, God. My mum will still tell you about the traumatic experience that wass
spk_1:
42:25
we'll have to get your mama. Just speak English. I will tell me The storey.
spk_0:
42:31
Well, and Tim was one of four on DH, his entire and we did live by then. We had moved out of the float that I was telling you earlier they had to give us addict or they had to give us a living space. That was the similar size to what we had before. Because we had a relatively big flat. We got offered for very little money to move into a detached house, which was lovely in 19 thirties. Built It had actually belonged to a family member of mine who had passed away. Beautiful house. Um and we moved in there. So we had quite a lot of space on DH when we felt that we needed to get the families together. And Tim was very. My parents are very German. Everything has to be just so. And Tim's family was very Oh, yeah, you know, his mom is half Spanish, and it was all a bit year. We will sort this out, don't worry about it. And they turned up the lot of them and they all camp out in our house. And my mom nearly lost the will to live. She couldn't really communicate with them. They would make a mess in the balls from every morning. She will still tell you if you would If your German is good enough and you would ask her about it, she will still tell you what what? My door to put me through? Yes, sir. That was they were only there for about four days. But my mom was very much on the verge of
spk_1:
44:03
a mental break Mr Off by their visit. Okay, so let's go back to the wedding. So it's registry office in Berlin. Was this?
spk_0:
44:13
No, no, no. There's a local registry office, local registry office. I was not going to get married in white. I for some reason I did. In my head, I was going to get married in red. We then suggested to all off the visitors, including Tim's family, all the British visitors, including his family, that this was a condition that if you wanted to get married to Western and had to be in red, which is obviously not true. But there are, oddly enough, they all believed it. So, yeah, I got married in red, um, with a hat that came from the local market in high Wickham. From what I gather, this
spk_1:
44:55
gets better all the time.
spk_0:
44:58
I know I looked fabulous on on DH. Yes, so we just We hadn't his old might mind the one thing, the one the one odds. Well, the one unusual thing about it was as well as everything else. My brother had by then joined, had bean conscripted into the army. So he wasn't allowed out. Only for very special occasions on DH. Getting your sister getting married was a special occasion. However, your sister getting married to an Englishman was not a special occasion. So we had to have because my mom was the secretary to the mayor who would have to vouch for him. He actually rode to the army saying, Can you let this young man out? And he admitted to tell them that it was a marriage to an English guy. And I think communication wasn't quite up to scratch on that one. They let my brother out for the wedding, but we all we were all basically told that we had to keep very quiet because he could get into all sorts trouble for this because it was basically contact with the enemy, I guess. Yeah, I am Absolutely, absolutely so, yeah, that was so we did get him out. He was there on day. We got married and spent our wedding night in Kemeny or what used to be called Mark Stud in a hotel. Hotel Moscow, oddly enough, in Karl Marx Stadt. It
spk_1:
46:28
sounds right, doesn't it Must go in curl watch. I have to look that one up. So how soon after the wedding did you leave the GDR?
spk_0:
46:42
I then had to go through Lee. So this was in July 89. And whilst there was already quite a lot off, um, signs that this wasn't going well and Hungary had opened their borders to Austria and quite a few people were escaping. We still I still had to go through the official paperwork to Levi's Germany. So that was my first step. I had to get an exit visa out of East Germany. And for that I had to have their was a checklist. I had tohave every utility company that I'd ever bean somehow in contact with. They had to sign me off that I didn't know them anything. This was quite clearly just a way of making this whole process very difficult. And you had to turn up in person and they really horrible to you. But so I got that. Then you had to list everything you wanted to take. You had to list, and it had to be in five copies. These were the days before. Well, I guess West Germany had photocopying, but East Germany was still very much working on
spk_1:
47:59
carbon power. But
spk_0:
48:01
Andi I had to type everything else on a conventional typewriter on carbon copy and anything that I wanted to take that could have Bean ofthe cultural value had to be given to somebody that was officially able to sign it off and say she can take that.
spk_1:
48:23
Did you have anything of cultural value?
spk_0:
48:25
Well, I did. Yeah, because my parents I had quite a few antiques, and I had been given by my grandmother when she passed away on DH. Other members of the family, some antique bits and pieces that were in my position, Um, I had to basically take them somewhere. Who? A person who had to sign it off and say, That's fine to take out. And also books any old books over. I can't remember anything that was over 50 years old. I had to actually take to somebody to say No, it's not a first edition is she can take it right, right, so and that that paperwork had to be with me as well. So I had to list everything, wait for the exit visa. Then I had to apply for transit visas through because my husband was coming to pick me up in the car. So I need to transit visas through Belgium. And Frantz and I needed an entrance visa into Britain, so I had to apply for them. Um, the end. Eventually I got all the paperwork together on DH we left on with. He came with an old Astra and a trailer on the bank.
spk_1:
49:41
So a Vauxhall Astra with a trailer on that,
spk_0:
49:44
that's how a left East Germany in style. And
spk_1:
49:50
can you just take me through that day and and how you felt that day? Presumably you were just more than excited that you're leaving or or worried about, you know, losing contact with relatives and things.
spk_0:
50:05
I was mainly excited. I was 23 years old. I could got out of this country. I was actually going to cross that border that seemed uncross herbal my lifetime. I was going to see London, which was, like, unbelievable at the time. So, yes, I was very excited. My parents, we're very sad, obviously, but I guess I had bean quite awkward. They were probably, to some extent, a little bit late to see the back of me,
spk_1:
50:37
Your his problem now?
spk_0:
50:39
Yeah, a little bit like that. I was most sad to leave my brother. Um, I remember saying goodbye to them in front of the house. Andi, I sort of It was very, very quick. Goodbye to my parents. Although my dad who didn't show emotions particularly easily, he gave me a a good good luck charm. And he said, Look after it. Yeah, and I found my brother most difficult to say. Good bye to on DH. Then off we went, and then we weren't going straight to the u. K. We were going to come past my grandmothers, who, as I said, I had never visited before. So I spent the next three days with my grandmother in no time. Just fine. Um and yes. Oh, yeah, that was quite a remember, actually. As we cross the border, we got to the border. They looked at my paperwork. They never even took five copies. I was most put out by that. I felt like saying Take them. I have spent hours doing these, but they took one glance of them, waved us through, gave me, gave us our stamps on DH. Then I arrived on the West German side and they just waved us through. And then there was like, um, a petrol station and I could just go in. Then there was a ll this stuff that I had never seen in a shop. And it was quite quite odd.
spk_1:
52:15
Yeah, it must have been. I mean, I sort of heard others sort of mentioned it was almost a bit like a sensory overload in terms of the colours and the choice.
spk_0:
52:25
Yes, it was its colours and choices. I do remember thinking that is just too much choice. Not on this. That was just a petrol station. But as I then who came especially to Britain and I saw the big test coz I remember thinking, Who needs this much coffee or these many varieties of
spk_1:
52:46
it? I still ask that question myself to be honest
spk_0:
52:49
too. So, yeah, and then I spend a few days with my grandmother, and then we set off again. We then went via mentioned Gladbach because Tim's cousin was actually stationed with the forces in mention blabber, spend a few hours there and then set off on our way. This was on the ninth of November 89 set off on our sights. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Yes, but we still didn't know that this was going to happen. But still, nobody in the morning knew what was going to happen that evening. So I remember actually what? Reading the supplement to The Sunday Times and mentioned Gladbach because we were in the forces on DH on the front. Cover it off the magazine. There was big picture of Karl Marx, and at the bottom it said R I P. And I remember asking, what does R I p mean? And I was explained that this means rest in peace. So the writing was on the wall, but we took off our way, were exhausted by then. But we took off through Belgium and it was quite late by then. And we were listening to the world service in the in the car on DH just before, by 20 minutes before we crossed over, or we reached the French border. They announced it on the World Service that they had opened the crossings in Berlin that the wall had come down.
spk_1:
54:16
Well, how did you feel about that?
spk_0:
54:22
I don't know. It was just I couldn't believe it and for me. Oddly enough, the main reaction was God. I went through all this hassle and I could have just walked through. Three days later. It was just mainly really now. And Tim was a bit annoyed. He said we've missed the biggest party in Europe by a few days. Um, so, yeah, it was on DH. Then we reached 20 minutes later, we reached the French border and I needed all my all my paperwork be stand. They needed to see my visa. So I had to actually go and show my passport. And the guy, the French border guard, looked at my passport and he couldn't believe it. And he just said words to the extend of Wow, you work quick because they had obviously just heard what was going on in. 20 minutes later, he saw his first East German passport there. He wanted to keep it as a souvenir. But I said no. I still needed
spk_1:
55:27
Did you know, thinking I'm gonna have to go and be under the Eiffel Tower in 1990 years old?
spk_0:
55:34
No, it had sort of I think we also knew that that probably went out of the window at that point. We once it wasn't once it was easily achieved. It didn't become an issue. And
spk_1:
55:46
he lost the challenge You to you before. And so how How soon did you get reunited with with your family?
spk_0:
55:55
Well, we went back for Christmas, eh? So we left early November on DH. It was always the idea was always that I was going to go back for Christmas. Um, however, because the time frame was very tight on DH because Tim had to apply for visas every time. Um and I had to get it because I had didn't have a multiple entry visa into Britain. I had to get an exit visa in a re entrance visa, and it all became too much for me. In the end, I just went to the West German Embassy in London, and I said, because West Germany had never recognised East German citizenship Assad So I just walked into that the embassy in Belgrave Square, and I said, Can you just issue me with a West German passport? And they lectured me at the time I remember. This was still you still got quite personal service there. Now it's a It's a it's a conveyor belt. But then they took me into a room and said, We have to tell you that this isn't illegal under your law And I just looked at them and I said, I think they've got other problems at the moment and they laughed and said, Yeah, you're probably right. So I ended up. I basically Tim and his brother, who came with us, left without having a visa and just thinking I will be fine and I went with two passports. I basically use my Westerman passport to get through Belgium, France and out of Britain on DH. Um, and then I just used the East German passport when I approached the East German border, and when we approached the East German border for that Christmas, I was really, really nervous because I thought, I've got a Western possible in this car. If they search us, I'm in trouble. Um, but they were so relaxed at that point, everything had already, you know, so that they let it all hang loose. And Tim didn't have a visa and they let him through, which was unthinkable six months before. Yeah, Andre just went Oh, yeah, Whatever. Seems to be open for everybody now, so,
spk_1:
58:03
yeah, just go. Yeah.
spk_0:
58:05
Eso Yeah, we I saw my family that Christmas.
spk_1:
58:08
Yeah, that must have been quite emotional because, you know, the whole fact that they could now come and visit you in London. And
spk_0:
58:14
it was all gods. Yeah, it was. Might the first people, the first person that did come to visit me was my brother. That that spring. And if you look up, the May of 1990 was very hot on DH. My brother turned up thinking this was gonna be foggy and horrible English weather with all his thick clothes. He had to go and buy her shorts and we went down to Brighton and he couldn't believe it. Yeah, so that was the first person that came and visited me.
spk_1:
58:45
Wow. Wow. Was he still in the N B A.
spk_0:
58:47
I know he was gone by then. They had he had had an early discharge as well, because he was actually quite worried because he wasn't in the arm in the N va. As you say during the demonstrations, the Monday demonstrations and they have bean mobilised, and he was close to Leipzig, where the Monday demonstration started on DH. His unit wass on high alert. And he I remember him saying, What if they actually mobilise us? Because under normal circumstances, I would be on that side of the fence and I can't see myself shooting or doing anything. He was really quite scared. But then when it all had come about and the wall had come down, he enjoyed a very, very free army life. Um and he got he left. I think they got disbanded after a year, which usually would have been 18 months. But he left after a year, and that was it, so
spk_1:
59:58
yeah, well, that that's just amazing Storey that you that you just told me, which I'm sure our listeners will be really interested in. I just have two more questions, Governor. You which are what? What are your fondest of memories of thie GDR?
spk_0:
20:00:20
Um, I I think there was the security blanket that we all did have when I first arrived in England, we were actually quite poor. We hardly ever We hardly had the money to pay for our rent on a monthly basis. I didn't have a job and I remember thinking doesn't anybody care. And there was this this sudden feeling. Yes, you're free. But nobody actually cares anymore either. Because there was an element of you felt important when you knew that people were listening to you all the time that made you that gave you a certain feeling off. People actually care what you think on DH. I think with hindsight, that was an odd feeling of security. Um, that might sound a bit bizarre, but
spk_1:
20:01:22
I don't think so. I think you know, you knew that you were going to get a job. You knew you were going to get a wage. There will be somewhere to live.
spk_0:
20:01:29
Yeah, there was never this existential fear that maybe if he didn't get a paycheck next month, the whole thing might be going downhill.
spk_1:
20:01:39
Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. So what was the worst thing about living in the GDR, which you say
spk_0:
20:01:47
having to watch what you were saying? And where there is a another storey off a friend? I was very I came very close to experiencing what it meant to be on the wrong side of the political law if you want. When I was 18 my best friend was was 19. Her parents applied to leave for the West, and she was already an adult. But she had a younger sister who was 13 on DH. There was obviously all sorts of problems with that initially, but her dad one day was ordered into the Ministry of Interior, which was never a good thing on DH. Her mom went with him. I guess she regretted that for the rest of her life, but they never came back. They were basically imprisoned. Andre were There was a trial, and I was sort of very close to my friend, and she then had to manage herself her sister on DH. Eventually her parents released as well. For a 19 year old, I was quite a tough thing to do. Um, and this fear off something could happen to you if you don't toe the line. I think that's probably the worst thing that I experienced.
spk_1:
20:03:13
And I think that's a very good contrast to what you said about the you know, the fondest memory of the GDR that there was that double edged sword that every citizen had to deal with and shirt. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. I really appreciate you sharing your your storey with us. And I hope being on Cold War conversations wasn't too bad for you.
spk_0:
20:03:40
Thank you for listening, Teo and pleasure was all
spk_1:
20:03:42
mine. Thank you. Take it. Well, I hope you enjoyed that storey off the Cold War. I found that really interesting in a different angle that I hadn't expected a tool. If you'd like to see photos of answers wedding, then head over to our show notes, which are at Cold War conversations dot com slash the word episode on the number 82. This will also show as a link in some podcast APs. Don't forget if you like to get that sort after Cold War conversations Coaster Andi, help keep us on the air, then head over to patriot on dot com slash Cold War port Or again, click on the link in your podcast on DH. If you can't wait for the next episode, do visit our Facebook discussion group where our guests and listeners just like you continue the Cold War conversation. Just search Cold War conversations in Facebook. Thank you very much for listening. It is really appreciated. Goodbye
×

Listen to this podcast on