“Border Crossings” now available as an eBook

"Go, Trabi, Go!" - right through the Berlin Wall!

“Go, Trabi, Go!” – right through the Berlin Wall!

As November 2014 saw the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I thought it would be a good time to publish “Border Crossings” as an eBook and I’m pleased to say it is now available to download through Amazon Kindle:

Border Crossings eBook

Many of you will have seen the excellent films “Good Bye, Lenin!” and “The Lives of Others”, both of which gave insights into the lives of the East German people during and just after the fall of communism. Two very different films, but both showing that even in the face of an oppressive regime people are still living, breathing and caring human beings.  And that for every person prepared to betray their fellows, there were others prepared to stand by those they loved and cared for – whatever the cost.  It was this humanity that won through in the end and that is truly something worth celebrating and remembering. Looking back over 36 years of a Scottish-German friendship that began in East Berlin in 1978, this book tries to do just that!

Ordinary people can change history!

Click HERE for Reviews of Border Crossings by Martin Dey, David Pattie, Kerstin Jorna and others

Amazon Bestseller Religious Studies ratings 20th December 2014:

Amazon best seller list religious studies 20 12 14Amazon ranking 8 RS

The Berlin Wall – Sunday Morning with Ricky Ross

The view from a derelict watch tower on the former 'Death Strip' of the Berlin Wall

The view from a derelict watch tower on the former ‘Death Strip’ of the Berlin Wall

Sunday 9th November 2014 is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and I was delighted to be asked to take part in BBC Radio Scotland’s “Sunday Morning with Ricky Ross” programme to discuss that exciting time.  It was an historic turning point for Europe – and the world – and I was privileged to have made many visits to East Germany both before and after those amazing days.

The courage, determination and hope of the people who lived through that brutal regime is remarkable.  The endless shortages, the ban on travel to the West, the constant spying and fear of the dreaded Stasi (the secret police) made life extraordinarily hard.  But in the end the regime fell and life changed for the people of the former East Germany.

My friends there live a very different life now and although the transitional period was not always easy,  there was a whole new Europe for them and their children to explore, enjoy and contribute to. Political reform is rarely easy as those with power seldom wish to relinquish any of it!  But events in what was East Germany – and the other countries in the former Soviet Bloc – show what can be done if people are determined, courageous and persistent enough!

The picture above shows the cover of the book I wrote about these experiences.  It is still available from Vival Publications and will soon be out on Kindle.

Links: Sunday Morning with Ricky Ross,

Listen to the broadcast here

Border Crossings

The Fall of the Berlin Wall – BBC Radio Scotland

Knocking down the hated Berlin Wall

Bringing down the hated Berlin Wall, 1990

It is 25 years to the day since the Fall of the Berlin Wall – 9th November 1989.  A quarter of a century ago the seemingly impossible happened and that grotesque symbol of a brutal totalitarian regime was breached.  Not through violence or bloodshed, but through the non-violent, patient, persistent refusal of the people of the GDR – East Germany – to tolerate any longer the brutal, unjust and economically inept rule of a decaying communist regime.

It was a day not many had foreseen but what a day of rejoicing it was!  This morning I took part in a discussion of that wonderful time on BBC Radio Scotland’s “Sunday Morning with Ricky Ross” programme and you can listen to it by clicking on the link below.

Radio scotlandThe Berlin Wall

It’s 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. We recall that historic turning point through the perspective of two people who had unique experiences of it at the time, Hans-Dieter Robel and Vivien Martin.

You can listen to it here:

The Berlin Wall BBC Radio Scotland 9 11 14

A Piece of the Berlin Wall

A piece of the Berlin Wall from that momentous year of 1989

A piece of the Berlin Wall just months after ‘The Peaceful Revolution’ when the Wall was finally breached

Believe it or not, but it’s 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down – or rather was brought down by the people of East Germany.  No-one thought it would ever go.  Set in stone, or more accurately in huge slabs of concrete, the Berlin Wall seemed to be there for all time, the bleak physical emblem of a brutal and hypocritical regime, dividing the lives of so many people.  An insurmountable and ever-present barrier.  Yet the spirit and courage of ordinary people were to prove that to be untrue.

From the late 1970s I had been in touch with young East Germans, friends made during an unforgettable visit behind the Iron Curtain in 1978.  I was one of a group of young Scots on a church exchange that was in fact no exchange.  We could enter the GDR, but they were not able to visit us in return.  On our departure at the end of that first remarkable trip we bought our S-Bahn tickets – one way – back to the West.  “Tickets to freedom…” as one of our new friends commented wryly, “…for only a few pfennigs“.  It was a tearful farewell – it didn’t seem likely that we would ever see each other again.

It had been hard enough for us to get there in the first place.  The visit had been discouraged by the GDR, an avowedly atheistic state that regarded both us and our hosts as holding undesirable beliefs, incompatible with the state ideology.  But it was also seen as undesirable in the eyes of the British authorities, who paid me a visit before our departure to encourage us to think twice about going.  However, go we did, facing a long and arduous journey from West to East, past heavily armed guards and grim border crossing points to get there.

Despite all obstacles though, we were determined that from that initial visit onwards this contact should be maintained and we visited whenever we could – later even taking our young daughter Alison with us.  These visits were of immense importance to us all.  We grew to understand the full extent of lives lived under a totalitarian regime, while for our East German friends we were the lifeline to a world outside, proof that other ways were possible. They asked us not to forget them. Through all those years we were deeply impressed by their dignity and courage and determination not to give up hope.

And it was this courage and determination that eventually proved too much for the regime – in November 1989 the Wall came down.  During those exciting – and dangerous – days, our friends would phone us, uncertain as to how much we were able to see in the West.  “Do you know what’s happening?”, “Can you see what’s going on?”  Then a momentous call when Dietmar and Martina rang from Berlin – “The Wall is breached!  We are in West Berlin!  We can hardly believe it’s true!”

But true it was.  I remember so vividly those heady days as the unimaginable happened and the whole edifice of Soviet control began to crumble, finally swept away for good.  As soon as possible we travelled to Berlin and, along with our friends, took up hammer and chisel and helped to bring down that hated edifice that had separated families and countries for so long.

It’s not been an easy transition – no system of government is perfect, but some are definitely better than others.  My friends faced a huge change from one of life to another – new and often daunting challenges – but now they were free from the mental and physical tortures used by the regime to keep the people down.  The Berlin Wall, monstrous in itself, had hidden from the West many of the horrific things done to people who dared to question the state in any way.

The piece of the Berlin Wall that I brought home from that visit is a treasured possession.  The symbol of the courage of my friends, who without weapons, took on a hated regime and brought it down.  My piece of the Wall is a constant reminder to me of their determination in the face of what seemed an indestructible and permanent evil.  My piece of the Wall is a tangible witness to enduring friendships that continue to this day.  Something I will treasure forever.

The story of these remarkable events is told in full in Border Crossings 

Reviews of Border Crossings from Martin Dey and David Pattie