That’s me

I am not a Democrat. I am not Republican.
I am neither a Socialist or Communist, nor a Conservative.
I am neither left nor right.
I am not Christian, nor anything else.
I am more than all of that:
My true self.

Copyright © 2020 by Uwe Bahr

In January 1961, when the bottleneck to West-Berlin and the free world was still open for another seven months, I was born on an ice cold Sunday in Wolmirstedt, a rather inconspicuous town near the larger city of Magdeburg. Merely 21 miles to the West a border divided Germany as a consequence of World War II. That border also constituted the demarcation line of the sphere of influence between the United States and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

A Pledge of Allegiance: A memorable childhood was spent in the village of Elbeu, part of my birthplace Wolmirstedt. The photo was taken during a visit in 2019.

Life in the GDR

I attended regular school from 1967 to 1977, called “Polytechnic Secondary School” in the GDR (Polytechnische Oberschule). Of course we were subjected to what was called political “Red Light Treatment”, but for various and obvious reasons we did not become entangled – with a few exceptions mostly adopted by those in pursuit of a career.

Towards the end of the tenth grade in 1977, a teacher told my mother I was “westerly breathed on.” It was somewhat of a hint resulting from the fact that I was almost entirely clothed from the West. Like so many others, my family had relatives living in West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany).

My spare time was basically filled with playing sports – all kind of sports. Possibilities were versatile in the GDR, admission fees only a few cents per year. I played in competitive soccer teams, participated regularly in track and field contests, in swimming, handball, basketball, and cross country running. The main form of sports was always soccer (football, or in German: Fussball). We were fascinated with the West German soccer teams – a trait not welcomed by the officials, but more or less tolerated tacitly.

Our school class in 1970, in the middle of the Cold War. I am the first one on the left in the first row.

Yes, there was church in Socialism, too – even though more than likely closely monitored by spies at the behest of the ruling class and their Secret Service, the Stasi (deceptively named “National Security Service”). However, my mother wanted me to attend the Lutheran Church in our little village, which I did with four or five of my comrades. Every Friday the memorable Pastor Thoms – one of the very few true Christians I have seen in my life – held his religious instructions. On Christmas Eve we would perform the native scene in our hundreds of years old church. Pastor Thoms and these events have left a lasting impact in my memories.

In 1977 I commenced an apprenticeship as an construction worker. It was not my favorite vision of a job, but without engagement with the political system hardly more was possible. From 1983 until the end of the GDR I worked in an outdated, coal-based power plant in my hometown of Wolmirstedt, interrupted by 18 months of forced military service, which I spent in 1987/88 in a riot police unit in Magdeburg.

In prior years I had become an avid water sportsman, sailing the Elbe river as well as rivers and lakes in the beautiful Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania region. In the last years of the GDR I owned a sail boat with a cabin and an outboard motor.

The Wind of Change

More will follow soon.