Town Twinners learn about life behind the Iron Curtain

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By Stour & Avon Magazine | Friday, May 18, 2012, 11:00

Town Twinners learn about life behind the Iron Curtain

MEMBERS of the Wimborne Ochsenfurt Twinning Association gathered at the Town Hall recently to hear fellow member Bärbel Glaser give a vivid account of her life growing up in the former communist state of East Germany. Bärbel, a violinist by profession, lives with her family in Corfe Mullen. Her formative years were spent in Zwickau, near Leipzig, and she studied at the Leipzig Academy of Music. Bärbel described a highly centralised education system in which to achieve educational advancement, membership of government directed organisations such as the Young Pioneers and Free German Youth was obligatory, as was five weeks' army training in freezing conditions. In school each class had to create wall posters with political slogans. As a ten year old Bärbel had to visit the elderly, fetch their coal and light their fires.Basic foodstuffs were available, but there was rationing and butter, milk, meat and fruit, apart from apples, could be in short supply. Queues formed if word got round that certain shops might be stocking scarce items, and there was a black market. The waiting list to buy a car was 10 years, but there was no shortage of petrol, as this came from Russia.

In response to questions from the audience, Bärbel spoke of her personal experience of surveillance by the Stasi (State Security Service). As a five year old she had been aware of her parents being interrogated because they had received a visitor from the West who worked for an American Airbase. As children Bärbel and her sister were instructed by their father never to open the front door, and not to talk in public about personal and family matters. Bärbel concluded with a moving account of the collapse of the communist régime in 1989, of the prayers for peace in St Nicholas church Leipzig, and the massive demonstrations in the town. In celebration she and her family drove to Coburg near the border where they received 100 Deutschmarks 'welcome money' from the West German government. She remained in the Zwickau area continuing her career as a violinist with various theatre orchestras until she came to England in 2000.

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