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

Chapter 1: Born into Chaos

Meet Shimelis Haile Aga, 44 years old, born and raised in Ethiopia. The only other country he has ever seen, does'nt exist anymore. Today he tells the story about his trip to the DDR - the journey of his life - a story, that begins in Ethiopia's troubled late 1970s. by Michael Geithner (19 Sep 2017)

Childhood Memories

This literary piece focuses on my superb and unforgettable childhood memories in the DDR, the only country on our planet I have ever seen outside of Ethiopia. Every fraction of this experience is stamped brightly in my mind and heart. It didn’t fade when time went on. I miss the DDR more than my home town. Sometimes words can’t express our feelings to a full scale. I still remember every little detail of that time, since it still impacts my life strongly. The DDR, even if it doesn’t exist anymore, is a part of me and my family.

Shimelis and his family in 2017

I visited the DDR in 1987, so very shortly before the Reunification. I was only a young boy of 14 years at that time. Today I am a grown man of 43 years, married and a father of two beautiful daughters. So I am going to narrate a story which took place three decades ago. I have been telling my childhood stories to my wife and children over years. I know, today everything is different, but to me, the DDR is my second homeland.

Born into Chaos

When I was born on June 19th 1972, the socio-political situation of my country was in adverse condition. Emperor Haile Selassie 1st, who ruled the country for 44 years, was captured and thrown away into prison, because of the massive imbalance between the people and the royals, which ended in rebellion. The militarist Dergue and a group of military officers from lower hierarchy came to power and the country was in turmoil, havoc and destruction. Newly emerged political parties were established by university students and other sections of the society to fight with the new military government. In that period, Ethiopia’s situation was nearly similar with the current situation in Syria. My country turned into a battlefield after the end of the monarchical rule of the emperor.  

HISTORY BOX: Ethiopia's past

The history of Ethiopia goes back to the ancient times. It was the only African state, that never belonged to any colonial power. Currently, it is the only continuously independent country in Africa. At the end of the 19th century, the Italian colonial power wanted to invade the country but after the battle of Adewa at March 1st 1896 the Italians had to confirm full independency to the Ethiopian empire.

In 1930, the legendary emperor Haile Selassie came to power. He abolished slavery and reformed the country, especially the legal and education system.

From 1952 - 1972, Ethiopia suffered from several periods of droughts and domestic crises as well as border conflicts. The domestic crises escalated in 1974 and ended with a military coup, which led to an overthrow of the emperor. Only a year later, the monarchy was abolished, the church was expropriated and the former empire was formed into a socialist people’s republic. Ethiopia's new Head of State was Mengistu Haile Mariam, who followed a military dictatorship supported by the Soviet Union.

To be continued...

Text: Shimelis Haile Aga
History Box: Lisa Laubner, Elke Sieber
Editorial staff: Michael Geithner, Lisa Laubner
All articles:
A trip to the DDR changed his life: This is the story of the ethiopian Shimelis Haile Aga, who visited the DDR in 1987 - the only other…
Meet Shimelis Haile Aga, 44 years old, born and raised in Ethiopia. The only other country he has ever seen, does'nt exist anymore. Today he…
Shimelis Haile Aga visited the DDR in 1987. He still remebers his journey vividly, also because his story began far less memorable. It all…
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14-year-old ethiopian Shimelis visited the DDR in 1987 - the only other country he has ever seen. For a few months he enjoyed the massive…
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