I was in Spain. There was a TV. It showed people dancing on a graffiti-covered wall. The adults said something incredible was happening: two different worlds were being reunited. Even a six-year-old could tell that must be something good.
Six years later, I traveled to Germany for the first time with my school class. We stayed with families in Berlin. We wondered whether our host families would live in West or East Berlin. Would we be visiting not only a foreign country, but a part of the world that had until recently been separate from everything we knew? It turned out that all the host families lived in the western district of Steglitz, so for the time being we didn’t learn much about the former East Berlin. The few walks that we took in East Berlin revealed little more than drab buildings and a sea of construction cranes. We received a Western-centric view of the division of Germany.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the MDC that I understood that it is not possible to bring together two separate systems overnight, or even in a single year. My East German colleagues told me about life in the GDR. They talked about what they missed, and what they were glad to be rid of. About the feeling that they hadn’t been reunified so much as swallowed up. About how happy they were that something had changed, and how disappointed they were when the changes happened too fast and were dictated from outside.
I am grateful for the insights that can be found around every corner at a place like the MDC. Here, science brings together people from a range of very different backgrounds. For me, November 9 is still a happy occasion. If the Wall hadn’t fallen, I wouldn’t have come to Berlin. If the Wall hadn’t fallen, I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful people. I am happy that we come together on November 9 to celebrate our diversity and our cohesion – and that we cultivate those values throughout the rest of the year too!