My Travels to the West in 1955 and 1987
(Chart IV – III, IV and Chart I – III, IV)
Contributed by Norbert Werner
Now the path can finally be cleared to all sorts of government offices. First of all the application form for the passport needs to be procured. By this process the first decision regarding the success of this undertaking would be made. We are at the end of February. I am so bold and book at the travel agency the flight for the 24th of August – of course totally without any obligations; for I do not yet have any official confirmation or permit at that time. Meanwhile the application is being processed at my work place. I figure that my chances of success are good. After all, I am leaving a wife, two children, a house and property behind as ‘security’. That should convince the comrades at the State Security Service (Stasi) that I would definitely also take the return flight! With Walter and Peter’s help I request the necessary papers: the official invitation and confirmation of the school administration in Fauquier. To obtain these documents is no problem for Peter. Of course, they are written in English, so I need to get an officially certified translation with seal and signature.
In April I submit the application and receive the passport at the beginning of May. Now my departure has been secured. Now I need to get the entry visa to Canada. That would take up to 8 weeks, for the closest Canadian embassy is located in Warsaw. I am using the waiting period to plan the journey and the program. Walter and I arrange with the relatives in Toronto that we would spend the first week (Robert would be joining us later) to get to know the city. Walter is taking care of the tickets from Toronto to British Columbia.
In July the moment has finally come. The visa arrives. We all are informed, for now everything has been settled and the last round of preparations can begin. Twenty kg of luggage is quickly put together, for there should be a little gift for everyone. The special school candy bag (Zuckertüte) for Stefan is going to be the highlight. The ticket has been paid and I exchange 15 mark of GDR currency at the rate of one to one into West mark. More than that I am not permitted to have. Can you imagine? I am starting this journey half way around the globe with only 15 marks in my pocket, modest command of the English language, without cell phone, etc. ?
On August 24th my journey begins, first to Belgrade with overnight stay included in the price (remember I have only 15 marks), then on the next day on to Toronto. These are going to be four weeks filled with adventure and great experiences. Walter documented this in three big photo albums. I made hundreds of slides, which I could show later on many occasions to marveling GDR citizens.
The impressions and experiences I had on this my very own ‘world trip’ are going to be another chapter. In the contribution to this blog I just wanted to create an impression of the travel (im)possibilities in the German Democratic Rebublic, which nowadays one can hardly visualize.
And the best part comes here at the end: Up to the last moment I believed that there would be a big family celebration for Stefan’s introduction into the school system, as is the custom in Germany. I was greatly disappointed, because Stefan had been in school for over a year, just like his brothers in the Fauquier Elementary School, where their father had been the teacher for grades 4 to 7.