Fall of Berlin Wall Opened LWC to Students from Eastern Europe
Posted on Sunday, November 08, 2009 [7:01 PM]
LWC's Students of 1989 (from left): Stefan Juzbasic of Belgrade,
Serbia; Viktoria Krell of Ludwigsburg, Germany; Zuzana
Rakyta-Komendakova of Bratislava, Slovakia; Anca Verona of Braila,
Romania; Agnieszka Wojtowicz of Torun, Poland; Trina Slapeka of
Jurmala, Latvia; and Andrija Tintor of Belgrade
COLUMBIA, Ky. -- If you want to understand one
of the consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall, take a look at
Lindsey Wilson College's undergraduate student body.
This school year, LWC has almost a dozen students from European
nations that were entirely different 20 years ago. Some of the
nations -- such as Latvia, Serbia and Slovakia -- didn't exist in
1989. The other countries were closed to the West because they were
trapped within the orbit of the former Soviet Union.
The event that changed those countries happened on Nov. 9, 1989,
when the Berlin Wall -- the ultimate symbol of tyranny and
oppression of the Cold War -- fell in response to a decision by
East German officials to allow its citizens to visit West Germany
and West Berlin.
The decision by East German officials proved to be the death
knell of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. A
little more than two years later, the Soviet Union was officially
Although they were too young to have participated in what became
known as the Revolution of 1989, seven LWC students recently
reflected on how that Nov. 9 event changed their lives.
Anca Verona of Braila, Romania, remembers the
sights and sounds of autumn and winter of 1989.
"I remember going to church with my grandma, and on the way
there in downtown there were a lot of gunshots and people standing
on the top of buildings," she said.
Romania underwent a dramatic revolution that year autumn and
winter, culminating in the Christmas Day execution of dictator
Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife, Elena.
Still, until Ceauşescu's regime fell, a lot of Romanians were
unaware of what was happening in their region of the world.
"Nobody knew what was going on in the world because (the
government) didn't allow you to know what was going on," Verona
Agnieszka Wojtowicz of Torun, Poland, recalled
how difficult everyday life was for many of her country's citizens
"Of course it was hard for everybody, but especially for
scientists and teachers," she said. "They could not leave the
country very easily if they wanted to go study somewhere else
because they were not trusted by the government."
Andrija Tintor said it was equally oppressive
in Yugoslavia. His nation experienced several bloody conflicts in
the 1990s before disintegrating into seven nations.
"If you said or did something the government did not agree with,
you would get a black mark on your door, which would really hurt
you and your family," said Tintor, who is from Belgrade,
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, life is still
far from ideal in the former Eastern Bloc nations. A region where
communist- and socialist-led governments once guaranteed full
employment must now contend with the cycles of free-market
economies, open borders and expanded political freedoms.
"My dad used to joke around that they had money to buy stuff
(before 1989), but there was nothing to buy," said Trina
Slapeka of Jurmala, Lativa, a nation that regained its
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. "But now there is so
much to buy but no money to buy it with."
Still, despite the challenges introduced into their countries
over the last 20 years, Krell said her parents, who grew up in the
Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, remind her to be
thankful and make the most of the new freedoms - such as the
freedom to study at U.S. colleges.
"Our parents always tell us how good we have it now. Back in the
days it was so difficult," she said. "They tell us to appreciate
what we have."