It was in the mid-summer. I was playing almost all day to prepare for the big contest in high school and I was hungry and extra exhausted. The only thing I could think of was going home, eating something delicious, lay back on my bed and read a good book.
When I reached home and said hello, it felt like a heavy cloud absorbed me so fast that nobody could see me but I was too hungry to pay more attention to this. I turned my way toward my room and in an instant, I was shocked in front of the door. There was a guy in my room, a guy that I didn’t know, have never seen before but it was not the guy that got my body electrified, it was the room. Nothing mine was in the room. I couldn’t see my bed, my stuff, no wardrobe, no desk no books.
I don’t know for how long I was hooked there, I even thought I am not at home and I must be dreaming and so many other things that I can’t remember. But my senses were working as usual; it was the same smell from the kitchen, the same rumors of my mother walking back and forth and my sisters whispering. The only thing which was not right was my room and the guy inside who was staring at me.
My mother was actually pretending not to see me and that was so unusual.
-Where is dad? I asked.
-In his room. She answered.
I left my backpack right there in front of my room and moved toward his room pumping my feet on the ground boom boom boom. I was so angry but at the same time, due to everybody’s neglect, I knew I had to be careful as nothing seemed normal.
My father was sitting in his armchair and reading a book. At first, I didn’t notice it was one of those books that my new friends have given me a month ago.
-Where is my stuff?
-What do you mean which stuff? My bed, my clothes, my books? Who is the guy in my room?
-Your room? We needed that room.
-Because we needed to share that room with the new guy who works for me.
-What? Is he going to stay here in our house?
-For how long?
-As long as necessary.
-What about my bed?
-Your sister’s bed was broken. She needed that bed.
I just couldn’t believe what I heard.
-What about me?
-Dad, are you going to talk to me?
And that was the moment he looked at me over the book and I noticed the book. Dialectical Materialism by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, a book that my new friends have given to me but I never opened it before that moment.
Omg… He knew.
-Did you read this? He asked.
I shook my head as a no.
-Do you think I didn’t know when you mysteriously jump into your room from the window to hide the pack of fliers that you distribute?
He continued: “Do you think if you distribute them miles away, people won’t tell me?
My daughter is a Communist. You are a Communist.”
Was like he was whispering to himself.
He stood up and took his way toward the backyard, continuing:
-And I don’t have any problem with it as far as it is your choice. We respect your choice.
Come with me.
He continued while walking:
-So if your friends who give you fliers and books and ask you to participate in their meetings didn’t tell you what you have signed up for, it is your parent’s duty to do it for you. If you want to be a communist you have to live like a communist. You have to know all aspects of what you have chosen.
We were walking toward the backyard and there I saw my brother who was bringing my books where a stack of dry woods was waiting.
My father continued:
-These are your books, your fliers, and all your papers. In a communist country, you are not allowed to read what you want but what the government lets you read and now in this house, I am the government.
He nodded his head and my brother threw the flame. Whooo…
I was speechless and couldn’t believe he is really burning my books. I just screamed: “but they are all that I have mixed together. They are not just my new books.”
-Nobody cares. Do you think a communist government will listen to your moans and cries?
He looked at me.
-Are you hungry?
I just turned away my head. Yes, I was but I didn’t want to appear weak. He continued: “Even if so, the new guy was hungry and we had to share your meal with him but he shared it a lot.”
He was bitter. It took a while until I understood the scoop of his repetition of the word “share.” He had his point but at first, I was too distant from this ideology to understand what he was doing.
I just sat down there watching those books burning. He was not even looking at me. He had a vague look at the horizon. His face was bitter but his eyes were sad. Then he turned his way toward the house, telling my brother: “your sister will sleep outside tonight. She must learn to be a good comrade.”
And he smiled.
-You must be kidding me, dad. I can’t sleep outside.
–Oh, you can. We need space inside, we have a new guy. besides, comrades sleep in 20 in a small place. They don’t have privacy, they are not allowed to own anything.
And he left…
An afternoon like any other but so different. I couldn’t stand on my feet, my stomach was growling, I didn’t have anything comfortable or anything to rest on. There were my sister’s broken bed and other stuff in the old shed. I just couldn’t think straight of how this happened.
It was two months ago when they approached me. I was popular in the school for sports and in those days for them approaching me was like recruiting a twitter account with many followers. I was not alone, not shy, didn’t need more attention but there was something in them that attracted me. And that was music and the group life, doing things secretly, saying the opposite of what the society used to say, being a rebel even for me who didn’t need to be a rebel was interesting.
At the age of fifteen, being a member of a secret group is as exciting as being a famous athlete. Besides, their songs were so mesmerizing. The famous “El Pueblo Unido” is one of the most inspiring songs in the world that attracts you no matter what is your taste in music. In fact, it was never my taste of music and when I broke with them and went my way, those songs were never my type of music but still after decades, if I accidentally hear them, the hair on my skin stand up on its end. That is the power of that song and I saw in every Antifa protests they have been playing the same song. That song is like the hot blood in the veins of communist movements.
The irony and the trick was here. The Russian revolution songs were intolerable. What we were listening to were Cuban songs. Che Guevara songs. The Spanish spirit of music, the beat, the bachata and love song lookalike that can attract any teenager. Songs that you could imagine yourself doing a good life and good things listening to them while in fact, those songs were preparing you to die. That is so hypocritic. You listen to Bachata and instead of dancing the Bachata, you dance for the angel of death.
I was asking myself what I knew about what I was doing. What was exactly that I was promoting? Was my father right? Was Communism so bad that made him punish me like that? He was very well prepared and has designed this punishment for a long time. How angry must he have been to design all this? And why should he have been that angry? I knew my father. What was happening that day at our house was a rare and painful incident.
I was thinking of my mother. She probably couldn’t stop herself getting close and asking my father to stop so she had decided not to get involved at all and stepped back to let my father play his plan. That means she was outraged too. My sister’s bed and the new guy must have been all part of the plan.
Oh, the new guy…
Is he really going to stay at our house?
I couldn’t see that I am walking toward my room and he is by the window. What the hell! Is he going to stare at me for the rest of his life??
-What the actual hell are you staring at? I almost snarled.
-Are you really a communist? He asked.
-What is the difference now?
I was coming down a little. Indeed, it was not bad to have somebody to talk with. My family was treating me like a virus and keeping me outside. I looked at him. He didn’t seem to be from the neighborhood. Actually, he didn’t seem to be from anywhere close.
-My parents were communist. He said.
I looked up and sat down in front of him. What did he mean by saying that? I was curious. What really means to be a communist? I was embarrassed that I didn’t even know that. I could read the inspiring and exciting words which were written on those fliers that I used to distribute; words like freedom, equality, all for poor, unite, wages for everyone, people’s power, but I couldn’t figure out how those words would look like beyond the papers.
-Who are you? I asked.
-My parents are immigrants from Poland but we lived in eastern Germany. We came a long way across the sea.
I was like… overwhelmed. For the past 3-4 hours, I was subjected to hearing the strangest things in my whole fifteen years of life and they were coming one after the other without giving me a time to grasp and digest what I was forcefully confronting. I didn’t know about the dynamics of the communism but I did know geography and that was enough to know that the guy has come here from another continent. For some time I forgot my hungry stomach and the pain in my head thinking about how should I stay out that night without any shelter or commodity.
_Hey, I saved some bread. And he disappeared.
-My eyes flashed. Bread! Oh, bread! The word was delicious and eatable by itself. I started to taste the virtual bread in my mind while my mouth was watering. Could bread be that delicious? I haven’t eaten anything since my practice. No lunch and now no dinner. My parents have become so stone-hearted to me in a matter of hours.
Where did the guy go by the way? Did he save the bread on the other side of the county? Why did it take so long?
Fortunately, he appeared by the window and jumped out next to me.
-Here, take it.
It was hard to say thank you to an intruder who had occupied my room but if not him, I would have been all alone the whole night. So I said thank you. He was good looking and not good looking at the same time. I mean, his face was beautiful but something in him was older and rougher. Something was painful in his eyes. He must have been 18 or so.
_So why are you here? What brought you here?
I asked while I was eating the most delicious thing in the world. A piece of bread. Did Jean Valjean, the main character in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” feel the same taste in his piece of bread which brought him a lifetime prison? I was thinking with myself.
-My shoes. He answered.
Oh, tears were running down my eyes from strong coughs. The bread jumped down my throat and I was about to choke. What the hell had his shoes with his family’s immigration??
He read my mind from my red irritated face.
_Everything. He said. “It was a pair of white sneakers from Adidas. Western Adidas and they were forbidden in East Germany.”
_Yes. During the cold war, My uncle was living in Bavaria, the wall separated our families. Both companies Adidas and Puma were in Bavaria.
“Did you know they were brothers? Brothers and rivals.
“Eastern Germany was called the “workers and peasants state” and was administered and occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II. We were in Suhl, a small city on the border. I always loved those sneakers and my uncle knew that. He was working in the Adidas factory. They could keep a pair of shoes for themselves every now and often so my uncle obtained a pair of my size and found a way to pass it on the border and give it to my other uncle.”
The Land Forces of the National People’s Army of the German Democratic Republic (Eastern Germany)
Do you see the bow compass drawing tool in the picture?
“The sneakers found their way. They were beautiful and meant to me as the most precious thing in that colorless life. I remember I just watched them on my bed for a week before I could be able to wear them but I finally did. A Monday morning, I went to the school with my Adidas sneakers. In the Communist East-Germany, people could wear only and only what was approved by the government and therefore, only approved items were available in the shops if there were any. Shops should have existed to sell primary and vital objects. Just a survival agenda.”
These extraordinary photos were taken by photographer Thomas Hoepker that show the everyday life of East Germany in 1974.
East Berlin. 1974. Two men deliver brown coal to apartment blocks in Berlin / Prenzlauer Berg. This is the blog that I took the photos with their captions.
Bautzen. A Soviet soldier takes in the view of the medieval town center from a church tower.
East Berlin. 1974. Store window in the district of Prenzlauer Berg.
East Berlin. 1974. Street in the district of Prenzlauer Berg.
East Berlin. 1974. Parade of Volksarmee on Karl Marx Allee for May 1st celebrations.
“It was like a big prison and prisoners should look alike. You couldn’t see any difference between how people were dressed up. It looked like an ideological uniform and if you wouldn’t comply with the public dress code, it was considered a sign of disobedience to the government so they immediately would have increased the amount of surveillance on you and your family.
My white sneakers became a breaking news and the school’s principal called me in his office. He wanted to know how did I obtain those pair of sneakers and as a young boy, I had no other choice but to tell them the truth. From there, which was just a normal school day for other students in the western world, for me and my family the nightmare began.
They chased my uncle in Suhl and from him they chased my other uncle in Bavaria who was working for Adidas and as he was in West Germany and had no obligation to respond to the eastern government, they held my father in contempt so my uncle would come and present himself.
All our books in the school were filled with stories and victories about Marx and Lenin and the poor’s government and so much bullsh*t which made it difficult to have any other subject to study. Our TV didn’t have any program. Movies were considered expensive and luxury so the government would buy only the worst grade of cheap movies and as they were western, the TV police of the government had to watch them before the broadcast so they could cut the scenes that were not aligned with their ideology. So after one week waiting to watch an old famous movie, the star comes in and says hello, and at the same time says goodbye because they have cut all the story in between and put pieces together so movies were puzzles. A puzzle that misses its main key points. A minute the actor was in his farm walking toward his home, and in another minute he was in an office drinking a coffee, a complete nonsense.”
Vasily was talking nonstop, moving from one argument to another and I was buried in the amount of information he was giving to me but it was very informing and seemed like reading several books together in a short time and recovering all that I didn’t know and should have known. But for him instead, he needed so much to talk about his life and release the weight that he was carrying on.
“You should have added the title “comrade” before the name of people to prove every second that you are a good and faithful communist fella. A life that you can’t imagine. Besides we had our coupons for food. That means we had a share of grains, flour, and fuel and we couldn’t surpass it.
Anyways, my uncle managed for us to escape. The problem was they had my father in contempt so my uncle spoke to his friend who was related to someone in parliament. Western parliament and he found an aid in Eastern Germany and to make the story short, my uncle managed us to escape while he came to eastern Germany and paid a fine for violating eastern rules of the border. That was the last day of being a communist for my father. He hated them since.”
I didn’t know if I am listening to a horror fiction or should I picture what I was hearing as a kind of life. Vasily went on for hours and pictured many horrendous aspects of living under Communism. It was too unbelievable and difficult to imagine. That day was a hell of a load for me. I couldn’t take it any longer. It was like waking up by a slap on your face while sleeping during midnight.
Could some people really live like that and call it a life? But even worse, could some fools like myself promote that kind of life as a utopia to have a revolution and kick everything that we have fought for?
How possibly was I spending my time promoting an ideology which feels like cancer and how possibly I was not even aware of it? How could you fight for something without being aware of its content? I think I knew the answer. Their methods of recruiting and brainwashing are very hypnotic. They work on neurons. They choose their targets very carefully and have different approaches for different targets.
— It was already late at night. We were talking for hours and I couldn’t believe my ears. Having a guy from East Germany right beside me in that late hour under a calm beautiful summer sky and hearing fearsome things was a natural contradiction per se. I could feel how this calm was the opposite of what I just heard. What I was doing was like working so hard to pay for some explosives, plant them under your home and blow it up intentionally. I mean the same home that you go at work every day to buy it. There is nothing more preposterous than blowing your own home when you’ve just paid your last monthly mortgage. Instead of partying, just imagine blowing it up. It is crazy as hell.
I started to feel uneasy and thinking of my father at the same time. For how long has he planned this? Who really was this guy? Was he going to live with us? I asked him.
–No, I am not. We are new to this neighborhood. For the first years after our escape, we lived in another neighborhood. Your father knew mine. He was really suffering and couldn’t help not talking about you. Knowing where we come from it was even impossible for him. We were very touched and concerned and really wanted to help and let you know what you believe is a lie so our fathers designed this plan and we all worked together.
God. So much to bear for a very simple girl in that era. I knew it was late but looking at my father’s face and holding him was the only thing I wanted at that moment.
-So it was all him, it was dad. I need to talk to him and let him know such an idiot I was. I told Vasily.
-But he must be sleeping. Tell him tomorrow. He answered
– No, I am not…
We both turned our head. He was inside my room by the window. He was there all the time listening, he couldn’t sleep. I just rushed in broken into tears. They were both there for me. Mom and dad. Both in tears.
The day after was just another normal day in our house. Everybody was working to put things back in normal. A lot of movements back and forth. Vasily was working too. He became my lifetime best friend. He told me so many other stories and gave me many books and pictures.
My journey of becoming a Communist didn’t take longer than two months and it stopped when in that strange summer day, which still looks to me like a fiction, I faced what I was advocating for. I felt it just in that particular day how does it feel to be a Communist and since then I started an in-depth study and analysis on Communist systems. That was the reason I chose Political Sciences in college and It was also one of my theses.
By night, we were with Vasily’s parents. There was a Clint Eastwood movie on the screen. I was raised watching his movies as my father loved him. We still love Eastwood. We loved the right man. Although my father is in his 70’s, they are both old men now and for what they believe, one reminds me of another.
Image for Variety Magazine
My patriot father saved my life. His ignorance of the fact could lead to my life’s destruction, nihilism, Communism and probably leaving our house early to join my comrades. Parenting and being tough in some situations are different sides of the same coin. You can’t bow to your child’s ridiculous decisions and that is love. If a parent can’t prepare his/her children for the big society, they shouldn’t bring them to this world.
I wanna say thank you to all fathers in the world and to those who do the father. To all men who sacrifice their lives and desires to satisfy the need of their family. To those who are under attack for simply being a father as being a father, these days may stupidly offend those who are not.
It’s like a lion offends a deer for not being a lion. This is our world now. A Coup de Etats of offended cry-babies who are NOT something that someone else is and can NOT do something that somebody else can.
I wish I could send all these crybabies to communist camps of their utopia to learn like me. I was in a communist camp for a day and it changed my entire life.
I am who I am because of my father’s love.
Happy father’s day to all father’s in the world.
Happy father’s day dad.
I love you