You might have heard about the dominoes that will be toppled this evening in Berlin, which have been painted by schools. You may NOT know that one of them is from a UK school, Chosen Hill in Gloucestershire, and photos are showing that their domino is right by the Brandenburg Gate. If you click here, it’s the 5th photo down on the left, and their domino is a black wall with a red tree on it. Congrats to Chosen Hill.
20 years ago I was an au pair, living and working in Frankfurt in Germany. I had had the chance to go to Berlin, but in August 1989, when I made my choice, Berlin seemed to be a divided city, with no prospect of being otherwise in my lifetime. It’s so astonishing, even now, that just 3 short months after my arrival it was all so different. I was doing my homework in my room when Ute, my au-pair mother, came down with a glass of bubbly telling me to come upstairs and watch the television as the Wall had been opened. A few weeks later we packed all the kids into the car and drove to Erfurt in the GDR. I remember eating Gulaschsuppe in the visitors cafe at the Wartburg for a few Ostmarks. And everyone tooted when they saw a Trabi on the West German roads. I was amazingly fortunate to have had such a direct connection with the events of that year, actually living in Germany.
Last week I attended an event at the London School of Economics entitled “20 years after the collapse of the Iron Curtain: have our dreams come true” with some of the major personalities from that time, including Vaclav Havel. You can listen/watch the event from the site. What I found interesting was the fact that unanimously they felt that yes, their dreams had come true, and that many of them articulated that through their involvement in the European Union.
I think that those who see the European Union as a purely federalist project bent upon the creation of a super-state are stuck in the pre-Wall past. The collapse of the Iron Curtain changed the terms of the game.