Visiting Berlin was quite an experience. A family friend, who had lived in East Berlin during the time of Communist rule and while the wall separated her from the other side of the country, joined me in Berlin with her family.
It was the first time her teenage daughters had visited in their entire lives. And she herself had returned the previous year for the first time since she had escaped the communist rule. It was quite emotional for me to experience this with them. Although there was quite a language barrier with the girls, it was amazing to know they were seeing the city of the mother’s childhood for the first time.
As an American, I grew up with only stories in my history classes. Something that happened a long time ago in a far away. Not something I knew, and something I couldn’t even imagine visiting. Although Americans have it better off than many other countries, I know we have our fair share of issues, especially right. But none of this compares to the extreme and horrific oppression of a people for no other reason than personal power and political gain.
I know how lucky I am to have grown up in a culture that tells me it’s okay to go travel on my own; to be independent, speak my mind, and have larger than life aspirations and go chase them. I’m lucky to have parents who have given me opportunities to travel, get a quality education, and learn so much about people and the world. I’m lucky to have grown up in a country that did not oppress or restrict me, that did not control or deny my human right to justice and freedom.
Seeing the Berlin Wall in person, after hearing stories for so long about its purpose of keeping friends, family, lovers, childhood playmates, and neighbors from each other will be one of the life experiences I will never forget.
The artwork on each piece of the wall still standing was so beautiful. To see such a brilliant coming together of cultures, races, sexes, and styles, was so incredible. Overcoming the odds and turning a symbol of negativity and hatred into something of equality, peace, acceptance, and love was truly moving. The different expressions of art, love, freedom, and more were so powerful. I could have stared at the different pieces for hours on end.
But one of the most powerful things of all were the bullet holes. Seeing the places where no doubt people ran for their lives from gunshots. These people were so stricken by the desire for freedom that they were willing to risk their lives rather sit another day in captivity and control. Bullet holes littered the entire city. In sidewalks, on the sides of buildings, in pieces of the wall, you couldn’t go to any memorial or city feature without catching a glimpse of bullet holes. To see this power and anger expressed through weapons simply to quiet the voice of freedom through fear was so powerful in itself.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
― Elie Wiesel