The focus of my story is rather what I didn’t spend my Begrüßungsgeld (welcome money) on. I was nine years old and we went to a market in West-Berlin – which was probably especially aimed at East Germans – and everything was wrapped in colourful plastic. One stall sold toys and especially a lot of video games, which was a kind of Gameboy, but then with only one game. I knew my parents would buy me something from the market, but even back then I somehow knew that a game like that was far too valuable. I had only just been given another video game for my birthday that same year, which my parents had bought from the Intershop (East German government-run chain of retail stores for expensive, high-quality foreign goods) for a crazy amount of money. It was my pride and joy.
I must have been standing around for a long time and at a certain point I asked the market trader how much a video game was. The woman asked: “Would you like to have one?” I nodded. To which she said: “Here, take one! You can have it.”
I couldn’t believe that this complete stranger just gave me something so valuable. I found out much later that these video games were not at all as expensive in the West, but to this day I feel a deep gratitude towards this woman.
For me, the Wende was a very positive experience and this story clearly played a part in it. The West mainly stood for opportunities which we didn’t have before. My parents had always been rather critical of East Germany and we had always had the feeling that we were locked in. The Wende was a really positive event for us.