Night CrossingballooninwestgermanyYears ago, I watched a movie called Night Crossing, which came out in 1982. The movie was based on a true story about two families trapped in East Germany in 1979. The only way they could be free was to escape to the west. Over the years during which Germany was divided, and basically locked down. At first the people felt panic. Many of them had family on the other side, and no way to get to them. It was horrible. Escape attempts while not constant, were met with severe repercussions. I’m sure many people thought that they would always be prisoners in East Germany. Since today marks, the 68th anniversary of the ill fated Soviet blockade of their section of Germany following World War II, I was reminded of the movie I had seen.

I was so surprised about the elaborate lengths the family had to go to, in order to buy the materials needed to make a hot air balloon, with out arousing suspicions. To buy enough of the silk for the balloon, they had to go to several different locations, and tell the clerks that they were building tents for a scout group to use to go camping. I couldn’t imagine having to lie to a store clerk in order to purchase material, but then I have never lived anywhere, but in a free society, where the individual person had the right to do pretty much what they pleased. That was something that some of the people of that time, in East Germany, had never known.

While the situation was traumatic, I found myself…somehow fascinated with the process, the planning, the forethought, and the tenacity of these families. I found myself rooting for them every step of the way. Rooting for them wasn’t the thing that surprised me, however. It really was how interested I was in all the strategizing, and yes, the danger of it all. I don’t suppose the event felt anything like that to them, however. For them, this was life and death, because if they were caught, they would be killed. They would have one chance to escape, The Wetzel familyStrelzyk familyand one chance only. And they still had to make the crossing, and the landing, without getting caught up in the barbed wire fencing, or landing on a fence somewhere. The whole event, while an exciting story for me, was probably an event that they could not wait to put behind them…and I don’t blame them there.

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