A Trip to the DDR - "The Journey of my Life"

Chapter 9: Good bye DDR!

"I wish I could have lived with those kind people forever." Time went by too fast for Shimelis, who visited the DDR in 1987. After some months outside of Ethiopia and it's troubles there, it was time to say goodbye and go back. Not a simple task for the 14-year-old boy. by Michael Geithner (14 Nov 2017)

Time to Say Goodbye

I wish I could have lived with those kind people forever. The schedule for our departure was fixed and we started preparing a goodbye party whenever one delegation was about to leave. Everybody was exchanging gifts and postal addresses to stay in contact. We took many photos together. I was in absolute sadness during the last days in the camp. Everybody came to my room and cried.
The Hungarians and the Indians left first, which left our bedroom half empty. I was crying that day. I refused to eat my breakfast and nothing could cheer me up. The French and the Scandinavians left second. The Italians, Bulgarians, Icelanders and people from other countries followed shortly after. In the end, my delegation and the Germans were the only ones left.

I had a last walk with Katja. She cried bitterly and we could do nothing except accepting that we had to part. The next day the Germans in all dorms departed simultaneously. I had never weeped this bitterly. We Ethiopians spent the last three days alone in the camp. Those three days were very sad. I lost all of my friends except my countrymen. Coni and Susi were busy of trying to comfort me.

Interflug flight tickets from 1987

The Departure

On our way to the Berlin airport from the camp, the driver of the Volkswagen, turned on the radio. I recognized the song immediately: It was my marriage song!
I remembered the ceremony and how much fun I had in the Pioneer Republic “Wilhelm Pieck”. I started sobbing. Coni and Susi comforted me, but I couldn’t help crying.

When I walked to the plane, I looked back at Coni and Susi. They waved and smiled. The Interflug took off and floated in the air. I saw everything from a bird’s eye view. We stopped off in Moscow. Physically present there, I left my heart and mind in Germany. We stayed the whole night there. The next day we took an Ethiopian airline from Moscow to Addis Ababa. Being among my countrymen, I was thinking about my new grown friendships with Germans. My orientation towards them was totally changed.

Back in Ethiopia

We landed in Addis Ababa and arrived at the orphanage the next morning. We had a welcome ceremony with our friends and teachers, where I presented our delegation’s visit report of the DDR to our school community. My report became to hot topic of discussion in the school. While I was missing my German friends and the time I was able to spent in the DDR, my schoolmates were still suspicious. Slowly, some of them started to rethink our education and gained new mind sets.
I have been successful in changing the prejudices, stereotypes and wrong orientations of many of my friends, relatives and the community in which I live by sharing my experiences with them.

In the first couple of months, me and my German and Hungarian friends exchanged snail mails, but throughout time, we lost contact. I kept thinking about them and kept track of the occasions in Germany. It was and still is a big part of me.

To be continued...


Text: Shimelis Haile Aga
Editorial staff: Michael Geithner, Lisa Laubner
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