SUDBURY – Birgit Pianosi grew up in Wilhelm-Pieck-Stadt Guben, East Germany in a loving, open community and says there was always a neighbour close by with whom to share the news of the day. She admits her family had little access to “luxury items,” but contends they had all they needed to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Although her father travelled often for work, she was content in East Germany.
Kristin Luana Baumann grew up on the other side of the wall and attended school in the western town of Heidelberg.
“It was like Canada or the USA – it was a western nation,” she says. “We had access to everything. But it was weird knowing part of my family (her step-father’s kin) was in the East. We were granted special permits to visit them, but not even once a year.”
Pianosi was lucky – her extended family in West Germany was permitted yearly visits.
They were both in Germany when the wall came down and the country was reunified on November 9, 1989. In fact, Baumann and her husband, an actor, were on their way to the theatre in the western town of Krefeld. Baumann says that to this day, she is amazed by the revolution. That historic day would change the trajectories of both their lives.
“It was peaceful,” says Pianosi, who was just 18 years old at the time. Initially, she did not believe it had happened, but visited the former west after Christmas. “I was totally overwhelmed when I went – we went with my parents by car and I was totally amazed by all the stuff you could buy in the grocery store. I had culture shock and I wanted to go back home. As good as it was, it was difficult to deal with all that was available.”
Graduate school brought Pianosi to Canada in 1996. Love kept her here. Baumann, an evangelical Lutheran pastor, stayed in Germany until 2007. She was living in the United States with her husband – he had quit acting to become a pastor – when they were asked to make the move to northern Ontario.
The two women are members of the Sudbury German Language School, which aims to preserve the German language, culture and traditions. On Sunday, November 9, the school, in conjunction with Cambrian College’s Open Studio, celebrates 25 years since the Fall of the Wall with Goodbye Lenin, a dramatic comedy that explores the reunification of Germany, from the perspective of an East German family.
There will be two film screenings, one at 3 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. (doors open 30 minutes earlier). A panel discussion follows each film and includes Walter Stechel, the German consul general; Dr. Dieter Buse, professor emeritus from Laurentian University’s history department; and Dr. Birgit Pianosi, board chair of the Sudbury German Language School. Markus Schwabe, host of Morning North on CBC radio, hosts the celebration.
* Screening of Goodbye Lenin, with a panel discussion to follow
* Cambrian College’s Open Studio, 93 Cedar St., suite 303
* Sunday, November 9 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. (doors open at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.)
* Includes a silent auction featuring photographs, with proceeds to the Sudbury German Language School
* RSVP on Facebook to the Fall of the Wall event
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Board chair, The Sudbury German Language School
705-673-4126, ext. 206
Technician, The Open Studio
Associate VP, College Advancement
705-566-8101, ext. 7387