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It’s funny how a name can mean so many different things to different people.  Like Hohenschönhausen.  To most, it won’t mean anything.  To others, it’s the part of Berlin they call home.  But to some (all too many), it’s a name that will forever haunt them.  A name that speaks of imprisonment, cruelty and suffering.

It looks like a film set.  Long corridors of identical looking, locked doors.  And yet it’s not a film set, it’s reality.  Or at least it was until German reunification in 1990.  Hohenschönhausen was a remand prison run by the Stasi, the East German state security service.  People were imprisoned for wanting to leave the country, for helping others escape, for opposing the regime.

Almost all of them ended up in solitary confinement, in cells like this.  This particular cell is from the 1980s,  in the early days, they looked nothing like this…  Whatever the level of “comfort” was, prisoners were isolated.  Isolated from family, from friends – from any kind of human interaction.  Even the guards only knew them by their cell number, not their name.

The only contact with others took place here.

The interrogation room.  With all the “games” you would expect to be played out here.

We do well to remember that this was going on not that long ago, not that far away.

Find out more about the memorial here.

For more of a context, The Lives of Others is a great film to watch.

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Only From Afar

Diamond Jubilee Weekend!

I watched the pomp and circumstance – no one does this quite as well as the British.

A – M – A – Z – I – N – G

I watched the bunting, the street parties – everyone celebrating!  So much fun!

I even watched the British weather.  Oh dear…

I watched it all.  But only from afar.  Only on television.  And on Facebook.  I wasn’t part of it.  And that hurt.  A lot.

Most of the time, life just trundles along.  There are dramatic events (good and bad) in individual lives but for a nation as a whole, things just go on.

Some events hog the headlines for a while, but then they’re forgotten.

And then there are events that provide a focal point, that bring people together.  Reality with all its different facets will be back soon enough.  But for this brief moment, we celebrate all that is good.

These events become part of the national folklore, they somehow change a nation a little bit.  They provide a shared experience that otherwise we don’t have very often.

It seems the Diamond Jubilee is just such an event for the UK, my adopted home.  And I missed it.  Another step away from truly belonging there.

That made me very homesick.


PS The Queen agrees with me on the significance of the event: “The Queen has spoken of events to mark her Diamond Jubilee as a “humbling experience” which she hoped would “brighten our lives for many years to come”.”