A Final Entry
Christian Bürger’s Diary, 14th Entry
28 August 1990
“It’s been a long day. There was a wedding reception in the tavern’s restaurant and so all hell had broken loose in the kitchens. But the day after tomorrow I am going to the Hubers’ BBQ and I really want to make sure I’ve noted down all my memories by then. So here I am in my flat in Landshut not far from the tavern where I work. I’m trying to keep my eyes open and to write the last entry in my diary.
I’ve lived and worked here in Landshut for a year now. I feel very much at home, even if I ended up here by chance. It’s the perfect place to catch my breath and gather my wits about me. Hof is only a few kilometres away. When we arrived there, various trains then departed heading in all directions. Many of us knew where they wanted to go and got on the relevant train, heading for friends or relatives in the West. The only people I knew lived in West Berlin. But there was no train going that way and so I didn’t really care where I ended up. I don’t know why I chose a particular train and then got off, of all places in Dingolfing, just before Landshut. Perhaps I simply didn’t want to sit on a train for longer than absolutely necessary. The public address system told us where there were how many beds waiting, and I think there were still enough in Landshut. But as I said, it’s doesn’t really matter. All that counted for me was to arrive somewhere. And I thought I’d simply head toward Passau and get off the train wherever I felt “might fit”. And that stop was Dingolfing.
“Shortly after our arrival in the West the Wall came down. Germany was united. Now one could perhaps say our journey, the hard times in the embassy, were all for nothing. But I know that it was all for something.”
I did not manage to really calm down. Hardly had I arrived in Dingolfing than there was a reporter waving a mike under my nose wanting me to express my feelings for Bavarian TV. Well I couldn’t, but I did my best anyway. I doubt I said anything very sensible. And I had no opportunity to really reflect on things over the next few days, either: We were taken to new buildings that had actually been constructed for migrants of German descent from Russia. One day later we were moved to Grafling to an army barracks in order to register. And from there back to Dindolfing, where the Labour Office had already set up shop in my building. A woman sat there and gave us forms asking: “What’s your trained profession? What do you do? What do you want? What can you do? Do you want work and if so, why?”
Hardly had I filled it in than a camera team popped up out of nowhere to ask what I liked most about Bavaria. Now how should I have known? I hadn’t had a free moment to look around Bavaria at all. I answered: “The meadows are greener in Bavaria.” And that was actually the case, or my personal impression at any rate. The fields and meadows were such an opulent green – nothing like what I knew from East Germany. And I experienced this not just with meadows. Even at places like the supermarket, however absurd it may sound. Early on I’d gone and bought a track suit by Puma. Puma, a global brand, a must-have. I took my colourful sportswear to the check-out till, where the owner himself stood. He must have guessed from my accent where I came from. And he said: “You’re one of the new arrivals, huh. Take it.” Meaning I didn’t have to pay! It was unreal, quite unreal…
Video Diary Episode 14
A FINAL ENTRY
But that’s the way it was at the beginning. Everyone was so welcoming. And after two days I had a job, in Landshut it was, and today, a year later, I still love doing it.
If Herr Huber asks me at the BBQ whether I feel good I’ll answer quite honestly that I feel better than I have ever felt before. I’ve left it all behind me. I’ve made it. Shortly after our arrival in the West the Wall came down. Germany was united. Now one could perhaps say our journey, the hard times in the embassy, were all for nothing. But I know that it was all for something. Without our protests, our commitment, our fears and our hopes, the Wall would never have come down. If the liberty train hadn’t sounded its horn and moved down the track I would not be the man I am today.
Which is why I can say: Yes, I’d do it all again. At the drop of a hat. I’d put myself through all that hardship again.”
CONTEMPORARY WITNESSES – AND WHAT BECAME OF THEM
Jens Rohde, East German Refugee
With his friends Jörg and Ronny Jens Rohde jumped onto the Liberty Train travelling to the West. They had decided to do so shortly before in a disco in Reichenbach. Jens Rohde soon realized that his chances of finding a suitable job were poor. His expectations of life in West Germany were not met. So after a short time he decided to return. Today he lives and works in Reichenbach again.
You were safe the moment it got rolling in Gutenfürst. Then it was all over. Because the train did not stop again. Meaning the next station down the line was Hof. And once the train started moving there was an outburst of delight, of cheering, of celebrating among those on board – I don’t know how many people were on it. But there were a lot of them. There are simply no words to describe it.