April 08, 2019
In the middle of winter, we took a trip up north for snowshoeing and to see the frozen Superior Lake. This year the big lake had exceeded 90 percent ice cover. People walked around, skied, biked, fished, ice skated and enjoyed the magic of winter. More pictures at my website Winter Love and the complete story at Nami’s Hiking & Traveling site.
By the end of February, we had a record snowfall for the month, 39 inches is the official figure for the Twin Cities (National Weather Service). I shoveled snow almost every day. It's a great exercise but this year it was a little bit too much. At the beginning of March, came the rain and flood. We had a rainstorm for 3 days and warm weather melted some snow. The runoff was sitting on top of the frozen ground and had nowhere to go. The flooding forced evacuation and highway closure in some parts of MN. Fortunately, the weather turned favorable for a slow melt.
One Year of Retirement
Sometimes I feel that my life follows a train track and recognizing it wants me to become the driver. I was in charge of building the tracks and had some control over the direction during my scientific career from which I retired one year ago. Many articles are written, and seminars are offered how to prepare for retirement. I experienced during this one year that retirement is unique for each of us. Retirement is a huge lifestyle change for everyone, it’s the time to define who you really are. So, I had to find out how to define myself. Retirement offers tons of opportunities and time to try out new things. The list can be long: traveling, volunteering, art, music, join a club, exercise, hiking, biking, gardening, reading, babysitting grandchildren, taking care of parents, cooking etc. My goal was simple: stay physically, mentally, and socially active. I started to dedicate part of my time to my hobbies (dancing, gardening, hiking, photography, cooking). I picked up tennis as a new activity and played in a league over winter. Our team took the third place out of twelve for this season. I spend time with my friends from my former workplace, dancing and tennis community, German community, and with family and relatives. I created a little winter garden with orchids. They are beautiful houseplants in our cold climate, easy to care for that bloom for two months or longer.
Back to the Past
There was one big project waiting for me for quite some time to work on. Now I had no excuses. But I was afraid of the outcome. I grow up in East Germany and the Stasi (State Security) was continuously present in our lives. I was convinced they had spied on me. After Germany’s reunification (1990) everyone had the right to see the documents that the Ministry of State Security had created. It took me 28 years to file the application.
Recently the documents arrived. It contains 66 pages of my dossier, that documented every move of my life, my career steps with evaluations of my former mentors. Reading those documents made me happy and angry. I felt anger because of the documents’ existence and some painful memories.
It started with our marriage application. In East Germany interracial marriages were not allowed, it was legal but not allowed. I had to file an application which was rejected twice without any reason.
At that time Erich Honecker was the General Secretary of the SED (Sozialistische Demokratische Partie), the party that ruled East Germany. His daughter Sonja was married to a Chilean. I used this argument to convince the Ministry of Interior in many unpleasant interviews, over 3 years, to agree to our marriage. Finally, I succeeded but under the following conditions: I had to give up my citizenship and we had to leave the country! The right to citizenship is a fundamental human right. It was bad enough to leave my country where I was born and grew up, had my family, friends, went to school, had my life. But what would happen to me and our little child if we became stateless persons? I don’t want to go back to this moment. We went through this painful process and after that to the train station with my husband and our child. The train took us to the country behind the wall, to an unknown territory, with the same language, songs, and culture from the past. It was a new beginning for us.
Anyway, after the Berlin Wall fell Erich Honecker was prosecuted and sought refuge in the Chilean Embassy in Moscow. Later he was ejected from the embassy and detained in Moabit Prison. He was released from custody because of illness. Honecker went to Chile to reunite with his wife and his daughter Sonja. I was wondering if she had to give up her German citizenship and had to leave the country because of her interracial marriage. How strange that this “not allowed” offered him refuge at the end of his life.
Reading those 66 pages made me aware of this document value. It is a document from the past, from a country which existed from 1949 to 1989. It shows how the Stasi had functioned. It had created a huge network of access to all aspects of the daily life with the help of government officials (including police), voluntary and involuntary informants from the society, including acquaintances, friends and relatives. My dossier included documents put together with the help of this network. It takes me 40 years back to a historic time, to people who don't live anymore, to their ideology, to how they were and worked.
I really love the evaluation letters from my mentors. I was fortunate that I had good people around me. They had the strength to support and guide a young person, independent from the system. In addition, my file includes a real treasure. It has the love letters which I wrote to my future husband when he was visiting relatives. It carries me back to the beginning of our relationship over 43 years ago, the time we lived in, the people we lived with, difficult and wonderful memories.
Thanks for reading and have a happy spring.