Energised by Freedom
Christian Bürger’s Diary, 10th Entry
10 July 1990
“This is my first diary entry penned in West Germany. It’s now almost a year since I was first allowed to stay in the German Embassy in Prague. Today, in July 1990, Germany is not only united but has also won the World Cup. After the final, the manager Franz Beckenbauer walked across the pitch on his own. I know exactly how he felt. Just the way I did back then on my last day in the embassy: There was nothing left of the beautiful gardens of Palais Lobkowitz. Just mud and paths trodden underfoot. There was as good as no space between the tents, and the tarps were flapping gently in the wind. The only audible sound. There was nobody left there. Only me. I walked across the embassy garden which somehow looked as though it had been a battlefield. Well a battle it was, albeit without blood getting spilled. It was the prologue to the Wall coming down: a peaceful revolution in a once divided and bruised country where too much blood had already been spilled.
“Well a battle it was, albeit without blood getting spilled.”
I locked my office container, packed my bag and glanced once again in the one or other tent. They were all empty. The people were now en route for freedom. I bid farewell to Herr Weber and went out through the outer gate, which I had originally entered through. We had two hours to board the waiting busses and drive to the railway station. I helped a bit to coordinate things. Getting 5,000 people on the busses in the space of only two hours is no mean feat. Some of them had suddenly found the idea of escape bubbling up in them again: “First come, first in the West.”
The streets were choc-a-bloc with what I guess were all the busses to be found that day in Prague. Press and media people buzzing all over the place, and many Czech citizens, too. They cheered us on from the pavement, were genuinely happy for us. And us, we formed a refugees’ parade, filed past all those clapping Prague hands, and got on the busses. Filled with a sense of triumph. Like gladiators returning from a victorious battle.
Video Diary Episode 10
ENERGISED BY FREEDOM
Sadly I had not had the opportunity to say goodbye to Ambassador Huber and his wife. But I was to meet them again soon – I was invited a few weeks’ later to a BBQ that the Hubers gave to commemorate the first year since we had left East Germany. On receiving the invitation I resolved to continue writing this diary. Having arrived in the West I no longer sensed a need to write down all my feelings and ponder things. I believe the texts above all helped me not to lose hope, to not lose sight of the goal.
But before I meet those people again with whom I shared the most exciting moments of my life, I would like first to tell my own tale through to the end. And so now I will return once again to the train that brought me to the West. My ‘liberty train’.”
CONTEMPORARY WITNESSES – AND WHAT BECAME OF THEM
Wolfgang Ischinger, Diplomat
He accompanied one of the trains in the second wave of departures. In the film he tells of the catastrophic conditions in the embassy and the totally overcrowded, unheated trains.
Then the buses came, classic Warsaw Pact buses, none of your luxurious coaches today, and what I remember really well is that once we’d organised the bus transportation in those narrow streets in front of Palais Lobkowitz, suddenly out of nowhere people appeared. Suddenly there was an elderly woman at her window signalling her encouragement, calling out her congratulations to us. Suddenly a tender little sense of approval emerged among Prague’s inhabitants, maybe even admiration, probably the one or other of them secretly cheered that now things were changing – whereas before all you had seen was closed curtains. It was after all a truly gratifying situation. I had the feeling, my God, these inhabitants all around us, they’ve simply been watching all the time, but suddenly now they’re supporting us.
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