Last week, in our 1989 anniversary edition, we invited you to share your recollections of that pivotal time. We received a number of beautifully written and moving responses. Thank you to all who wrote us. Here are some highlights, lightly edited.
Karl Krochmal of Vancouver was eight years old at the time, living in southwestern Poland. As the wall fell, Karl remembers "looking at an article in a local paper titled Who will be our neighbor to the East? and instead of a "big brother, for the first time I heard of countries like 'Lithuania' or 'Belarus.'"
Noor, in Washington D.C., writes us that "back in another life when I worked in neuroscience, my microscope said, 'made in West Germany.' I told my dad and remarked that in his day, that's where the best microscopes came from. This was in 2010. In Syria in about 2008, my brother had purchased an ink and quill set to practice calligraphy. He couldn't get the pen to work. The ink pot said it was made in West Germany."
Nareg Seferian, a PhD student at Virginia Tech remembers his brother telling him that the USSR would soon break up. "The notion of a country breaking apart," he writes, "meant to my young mind that a giant crack was going to go through the centre of the pink-outlined USSR. A chunk was going to float away to the east and crash into Alaska. I am not sure what the other half was going to do. Meanwhile, I pictured a family sitting down to dinner, that same crack cutting through their exact house and table, moms and dads and kids reaching across, trying to grab each other's hands and arms before being forcibly pushed apart."
Doug S., an American who went to high school in West Germany in the years before the wall fell, recalls the feeling of "absolute disbelief" in those days. "After living in Germany for so long, and traveling to West Berlin many times, through Soviet East Germany and seeing the wall and passing through Check Point Charlie and living on the front line for so many years, there was nothing else to feel."
Amar Adiya, Managing Editor of Mongolia Weekly, was in 3rd-grade in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. "I was going to Soviet school with Russian expat kids. I was a careless kid, happy that I had better textbooks and better school environment than my friends in Mongolian schools. I vividly remember that I was preparing to become a pioneer [the communist youth organization] in November and was learning Lenin's teachings by heart. I was thrilled to wear a red scarf.
I was not aware that the Berlin Wall had fallen - but the ripple effect came to Mongolia in December 1989 with mass protests in the main square. I remember my father saying some young folks went on hunger strikes."
Willis Sparks, Signalista, writes: "I was a third-year grad student at the Juilliard School. In April 1989, I had spent three weeks in Moscow as part of an exchange with the Moscow Art Theatre School. Perestroika and Gorbachev were front of mind, and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact had played out week by week over the course of that fall.
For those who weren't alive or aren't old enough to remember those events, the dominant feelings were disbelief and fascination. Things that could not happen played out over weeks, then days, then hours. Four months after that November night I spent money I didn't have to go to Berlin to see the Wall for myself."