From Berlin to Kiev with Love - thoughts on the invasion and Cold War 2.0Mar 09, 2022
We rode in a sleeper train from West Germany to West Berlin, passing through the Soviet controlled portion of East Germany. It was 1983. I was nine. The train stopped in a switchyard. My father woke me up and pulled back the curtain slightly so I could look out the window. Before departure, they’d told us to keep the windows and curtains shut, but my dad told me, “I want you to see this.” He wanted me to see communism in person. He wanted it to make an impression. As my bleary eyes looked out the window, I saw a guard standing below a single light bulb on the platform, a long rifle slung over his shoulder. His job was to make sure nobody got on or off the train as it moved through to Berlin.
My travel documents into Berlin.
Visiting Tempelhof Airport standing in front of a C-47 from the Berlin Airlift.
I spent the next week touring Berlin with my dad’s scout group. We visited the Tempelhof airport and saw the monument honoring the Berlin Airlift, the largest humanitarian effort in history up to that point. The airlift was in response to the military stalemate between Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The West was determined not to led Russia overrun Berlin. It marked the beginning of the Cold War. It led to the Berlin Wall.
East German workers near the Brandenburg Gate reinforce the Berlin Wall in 1961. (Photo/research.archives.gov)
We visited the Berlin Wall. We walked up view towers to see over into the other side. It was bleak. Guard towers, barbed wire and tank traps lined the ‘no man’s land’ on the inside of the wall. We visited the Check Point Charlie museum that shared the history of people who tried to escape from East to West Berlin. Some made it. Many didn’t.
I remember standing in my garage in Virginia at 5:15am. I was a paper boy delivering the Washington Post. I folded the papers in half and wrapped them with a rubber band. I read the front page: the border for Hungary was opening. I knew that was the beginning. The Cold War was ending. Within months the Berlin Wall came down.
Fast forward twenty-years, I channeled my thoughts and feelings about all this into a script. I wrote a musical called Berlin. After producing it in NYC it was adapted for television. It won some awards and that was it. The Cold War was history. Until it wasn’t.
The cast of the television production of Berlin.
Erik on set, inspecting one of the prop Russian guns
This week I found myself digging up videos, music files and script research. As I watch the Berlin trailer [top], I couldn’t believe the parallels. The story follows Ernst Reuter, the mayor of Berlin, who is determined to keep his city free and connected with the West. Ukraine’s President Volodymir Zelensky is a modern-day Ernst Reuter.
I don’t have answers. I don’t have military solutions. But I know I’m grateful for Ernst Reuter, who persuaded the western world to not abandon West Berlin. Without reviving WWII at the time, the unified effort kept West Berlin free. East Berlin and East Germany paid a heavy toll under communist rule. Thankfully today they are both thriving.
I pray for the people of Ukraine. I pray for the soldiers on both sides. I pray for political and military leaders around the world who are seeking the best solutions to this situation. I believe in my heart most Russian soldiers do not want to be in Ukraine. I believe in my heart most Russian citizens don’t want this war. I know people around the world want peace. I pray this wall crumbles before it ever gets built.
P.S. Putin has an ugly heart right now.
Berlin the musical soundtrack on:
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