The Wende Museum: 5741 Buckingham Parkway, Suite E; Culver City, CA 90230, PH# 310-216-1600
Founder Justinian Jampol has put together a fascinating and informative collection of Cold War artifacts - even an entire room of KGB surveillance equipment - and artwork, conveying the not so long ago experienced stories of lives lived under communism during the Cold War. It's a one-of-a-kind museum, and Los Angeles is fortunate to have it.
Last night I attended an event at the Museum. It was a surreal experience to stand beneath pieces of barbed wire and the Berlin Wall in an exhibit, considering the last time I was that close to the wire and wall, in July of 1969, was when it imprisoned people in East Berlin.
As a kid visiting East Berlin, crossing through Checkpoint Charlie from West Berlin, I was like Dorothy of Oz in reverse, leaving a Technicolor world for one in black and white (gray and grayer). I knew nothing about communism; I only knew that West Berlin seemed full of color and life, while East Berlin was drab, dreary and felt hopeless.
My mom recently reminded me that while there were fashionable boutiques in West Berlin, we entered something altogether different in East Berlin: A store that was nothing more than a decrepit, warped floor building - looking like it hadn't been updated in a 100 years, selling only bolts of fabric in one color - a drab gray. No clothes. The material was all that was available to the East Berliners to sew their own.
You think there MIGHT be a problem with your political system when you need to imprison people, shoot them if they try to escape and have 1 out of 3 citizens as informants?
From this link on the Berlin wall:
"Despite the various security measures enforced, escape attempts were commonplace, especially in the years immediately following the erection of the wall, when there was still a fighting chance of making it across alive. Climbing was the obvious way to go and some 5,000 were said to have reached the other side. However in its thirty year history 100 people were shot dead, most famously the eighteen year old Peter Fetcher, who, after he was hit in the hip, was left to bleed to death in no-man’s land as the world’s media watched on."
As inquisitive kids will, my sister and I asked questions while traveling. In Bulgaria, after seeing many posters and statues of one man we asked: "Who IS that man?" Dad called him "The world's greatest man." He was Bulgaria's communist leader.
I'm thinking the "world's greatest man" might not need to torture people in gulags.
Here are some stories from Bulgarian gulag victims my father was not aware of. An excerpt, here:"Marin Georgiev's nightmare began in April 1961. A shepherd from Straldzha, he was peacefully minding his sheep when two State Security plainclothes agents arrested him. Georgiev was sent to a labour camp in Lovech without trial. His crime? He had refused “voluntarily” to give his land and livestock to the collective farms, the only type of holding permitted in Communist Bulgaria.
Georgiev endured a year of hell in Lovech, comparable to the treatment suffered by Nazi concentration camp prisoners."