Our story begins in September 4, 1984, and is shared with us by Michael Bedwell. He and Leonard Matlovich were on a trip to Berlin, both West and East Berlin. Just to refresh your memories, Berlin was a city divided then. Divided by the BERLIN WALL.
View from the West Berlin side of graffiti art on the wall in 1986. The wall's infamous "death strip", on the east side of the wall, here follows the curve of the long-terminated Luisenstadt Canal.
The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses.We find our protagonists in Communist East Berlin. 'Leonard Matlovich and I (Michael Bedwell) had gotten lost on its then very dark streets, and we needed to cross back into West Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie before the East German border guards had a hissy fit, as technically, you could be arrested for staying beyond the hours of your day pass. By chance, a young man named Wolfgang was also in the underground station, and we asked this stranger for directions.
The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.
He actually invited us back to his apartment. Where, after saying he believed the Wall would never open, he put his six-month old son, Markus, in my arms saying, “My son must have a chance to meet Americans.” And my heart has been hooked ever since.'
'Sadly, I’d used all the film I had, so have no photos documenting that priceless evening before Leonard and I had to run to make the exit deadline. Actually, I refused to run when I realized we could be literally shot by border guards mistaking us for East Berliners.'
SEE the killing zone in the above picture. There were still people trying to cross at night etc, most unsuccessfully.
Happily there is a lot more to the story of Berlin and of 'the serendipitous godson' below the squiggle.
Lots happened after 1984... here is the Wall's late 80's history (from WIKI)
In 1989, a radical series of political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, associated with the liberalization of the Eastern Bloc's authoritarian systems and the erosion of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, a euphoric public and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of the rest. The physical Wall itself was primarily destroyed in 1990. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.AND...'the summer after the Wall miraculously did fall in 1989, Wolfgang, Markus, and his Mother Silvia visited me in San Francisco.' Leonard Matlovich as many know, died June 2, l988 of AIDS, the other late 80's 'event' so he was not present for this visit.
Since that time relations with Germany have only improved...and Michael visited Berlin last month, August 2012.
Here is Markus now,' with his wonderful wife Susanne, and their daughter “Marta,” just a couple of months older than when he first held her Father that night of kismet long ago.'
Today the Berlin Wall remains only in small pieces as a tourist attraction...as does the area that was Checkpoint Charlie. Here are two pics of another friend who just visited them.
...and actually, I guess we could call this 'The Serendipitous Godson' ...and now
'Godgranddaughter' ... may she come to visit here soon, too.