Poem about Conrad Schumann – I’m becoming obsessed with cold war

! This post was written long ago. What you're reading is not necessarily how I feel about things in 2017. This blog was started by an 18-year-old in 2001. Please, keep that in mind before you freak out.
Conrad Schumman, photographed by Peter Liebling

Conrad Schumman, photographed by Peter Liebling

In one of my most recent blog entries, I talked about how my crazy father decided to cross inner German border illegally in the late 70s, for fun, idiocy or whatever was on his mind. I guess I forgot to mention than my mom's aunt Milena/Emilia and her husband Max were living in western Berlin and that mom and dad would be ending up at the checkpoint Charlie quite frequently. Also, our dear friend Lynne was living in Berlin with her Greek husband before she moved to Athens and then divorced and ended up in Beograd. Her stories were really interesting as well.

I'm becoming somewhat obsessed with stories from the period of cold war. Perhaps because I'm a tragic-romantic and sad and depressing/pessimistic stories are somehow attracting me. I would so love to watch Wie feuer und Flamme/Nevermind The Wall movie, I've been trying to find it ever since it was out in 2001. At the same time, I swallowed Wir Kinder von Bahnhoff Zoo when I was only 15 years old and let's say that the book had enormous impact on some of my views on people and decisions made later in life.

What a human being can go through has always been impressive to me. When I was very little, I saw the Wall break on television, I saw people smile, I was crying and thinking of how it would be like to crash all the borders of the world and live in an utopia with no repression, no fear and no pain. On the day when I was in the middle of the front row seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Vienna in 2006, I remember smiling broadly all the time, but also crying because Mike Watt who fronted the opening act suddenly screamed out NO BOUNDARIES and praised the eastern Europeans for their efforts.

How do I see freedom? For me, freedom is not based on forgetting one's own heritage, nation, language and what one's country has been through. Freedom is being YOU in a world that has no problems with you being you. I don't get people who change their names to make them sound more foreign and then use stupid excuses, such as "my American friend cannot pronounce this". If someone asks me what I am, I will of course say that I'm a Serb, who adores the whole Balkans and the most of southern Europe and, well, prefers south European and south American mentality to all other known stereotype mentalities; but basically, I have nothing against any place in the world. Nothing against any nation. A lot against some humans in particular; but I am doing my best not to generalise things and say something such as "all Scandinavian women are pornstars" or "all southern Italians are mobsters".

One day, my mom promised to take me to Berlin. I was not paying much attention to it until I became obsessed with its history which is now my second favourite after, obviously, Beograd history. But Berlin is a city that never wanted me. Whenever I wanted to go there, while Milena was still alive, she didn't want me to see her suffer as she was tied to bed with Parkinsom disease; and when she died, Germany rejected my visa application, because of which I was not applying for an longer-time- EU-country visa for more than seven years, out of pure anger and fear. In 2006, mom wanted us to go there together, but in the end, we opted for a totally different plan to spend the rest of the year. So, it will happen sometime. We'll basically go to see Milena and Max's grave and arrange to have that transfered to Serbia and place them close to my grandmother and my grandmother's second husband; but there will be much, much more to it and I'm aware of it. I'll need to mentally prepare myself for that.

Either way, reading of the tragedies that occured to people who were crossing the wall, I stumbled upon the story of the first person who actually crossed the wall, 19-year-old Conrad Schumann. He was an Eastern German soldier, working on construction and, at that moment, the wall was only a strap of barbwire. Some people from the other side saw Conrad and yelled: "Komm rüber! Komm rüber!" And well, he jumped over the barbwire; and it was captured forever by a photographer called Peter Leibing.

The most people would say: "Oh, that was so brave." I wouldn't. While I think it was one of the best anarchism moments of the human civilisation, I wondered about consequences. Did that boy have a family waiting for him in some apartment, with high ceilings and flower tapestries on the wall? Was his mother preparing his favourite meal? Did he have friends? A girlfriend? Anyone? Sudden decisions made on fly are something I do not really understand and I do not believe in overnight changes. Some hearts never mend, that some things literally chase people until their very last breath.

Reading some other sources, I realised that poor Conrad, who was only a little younger than my parents, actually hung himself in 1998. He was suffering from depression and even though he was now able to go wherever he wanted to and back to his home in Saxony, something was clearly eating him on the inside. And, well, it eventually finished him off, chewed him to little pieces and swallowed him.

So, I sat down and wrote a poem about Conrad and sudden decisions.

Conrad, Jump!
Everyone wants to jump
The way Conrad has done,
I think they have not seen him hung.
Once upon a time,
Conrad was captured in a frame, during a flight,
Today there's only his grave.
Yes, changes are so beautiful,
Yes, that's the way it goes in movies,
Yes, that's how it happens in useful books.

I don't want to be a Conrad,
I don't want to be black today and white tomorrow,
And have only one black and white moment
Which is, god forbid, defining me to the tiniest particles,.

Conrad was more than that,
He did not touch the wire, but it continued stabbing his heart,
Though it was invisible to a mere mortal.

One Reaction to Poem about Conrad Schumann – I’m becoming obsessed with cold war

  1. karen says...

    i just returned from berlin & was looking for info on conrad, and i found your blog. i was very moved by your prose as well as your poetry. deeper thoughts, indeed.


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