The things I like to remember…

Ina Reiche grew up on a farm in the Vogtland region of the then GDR. She tells us that she had a pleasant childhood and a great time at school. She’s been working for Daimler for the past 20 years and is one of the people responsible for a reporting program at Finance & Controlling. Today, she travels all over the world to train colleagues in the program’s use.

Ina Reiche grew up in the former GDR on a farm in the Vogtland.

Like his owner Ina Reiche, the tomcat Schnurzel grew up in the GDR. More precisely, he lived on a small farm near Reichenbach, Saxony. Ina has happy memories of the food they ate in the GDR. Schnurzel especially loved the cooked sausages from the local butcher. “After the Wall fell, the local butcher reduced the number of goods he produced himself, replacing them with items he bought from wholesale markets. The East German sausage smelled and tasted completely different from the bought-in sausage.

About my school days in East Germany...

At the age of six, Ina Reiche entered first grade at a polytechnic secondary school. Her teachers were strict and made sure that the children in the class formed a well-functioning community early on. In order to improve the educational climate, the teachers made the good students tutor the others. Ina was also recruited to help less capable students. For this task, she either stayed at school after classes were over or tutored the students in their homes. “The children didn’t immediately run home to their parents after school. Everybody was in a sense responsible for everybody else. The bonds were very close.” This sense of community extended beyond the school: “We once organized a school party at my parents’ farm. We served food and had a big bonfire. I’ll never forget that day.”

When she went to school, Ina Reiche not only tutored the other students in her village, she also learned the most important skill that a teacher should have: “I noticed that very difficult and theoretical topics have to be described simply and to the point. All of my friends later told me that I should become a teacher.” As it turned out, Ina’s friends weren’t totally wrong. After the Wall in Germany came down, Ina Reiche taught at the Upper Franconian Chamber of Skilled Trades, where she also offered professional training courses to help trainees in their careers.

Great neighbourly support...

Ina also has fond memories of how the people in her neighborhood were always willing to help others: “No matter whether you lived in a city or a village, people always helped each other out — in order to make small repairs on their houses, for example, or to shovel coal or snow. You also sometimes looked after another person’s apartment and vice versa. Nowadays, you don’t even know most of your neighbors’ names.”

Lots of room at the daycare center...

Ina became a mother in 1988. She went back to work six months after her daughter was born. Her child was put into the daycare center at her workplace. The teachers at the daycare center had attended a four-year course that included classes about nutrition, medicine, and education. “It was absolutely no problem to get a place for your child at the daycare center. The daycare centers and kindergartens were sufficiently large and the children were well-prepared for school later on,” says Ina Reiche.

Like a different planet: Life in West Germany

Ina clearly remembers the weeks after the Wall came down: “The first time I crossed the former border, I felt like I was on a different planet. Everything was different and strange. It was the first time that I saw exotic fruit such as kiwis and mangos, which I previously only knew from cans.” She used the “welcome money” that East German citizens received in the West to buy a new TV for her family, because the old one had just broken down.

But these are just marginal incidents. After all, the fall of the Berlin Wall opened up new opportunities and led to freedom and democracy. However, some people were uncertain of what the future would bring after the borders were opened. “Not everyone mastered the challenges that the people in the eastern part of Germany then faced,” says Ina.

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