European Union

Topple The European Wall

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall

I pass the Pergamon Museum take a turn down the Dorotheenstraße and start looking for the Maxim Gorky Theatre. Would you happen to know where in Berlin is the Maxim Gorky Theatre? ‒ I hear behind my back. A middle aged woman carries a backpack in one hand and metal shears in the other. I know she would prefer to simply ask if I too was going to the EU‒Turkish border to cut a fence there, but she’s shy. We find the Theatre.

WHERE ARE THE CROSSES?

There is already a sizeable group sitting on the stairs wielding equipment similar to the one my new met friend is carrying. The operation, we are about to join in a moment, started over a week ago by a monument close to Reichstag.

Artists from a German group Centre for Political Beauty (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit, ZPS) dressed in reflective vests arrived in broad daylight with a forklift truck at the White Crosses ‒ a monument remembering the victims fleeing Eastern for Western Germany. From metal holds attached to the banks of the Spree they took out the seven crosses with the names of victims. They put them on the forklift and left. No one reacted. At the time the whole city was preparing for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Passers-by thought the people in reflective vests were taking the crosses for renovation.

On Monday, November 5th, the crosses were found. German artists took them to refugees tenting in a Moroccan forest on the Gourougou Mountain.

Some of the refugees have been living there for nearly two years and from time to time they journey dozen kilometres north to the border of the Spanish exclave of Melilla. Risking their lives they try to scale the several stories high reinforced fence to cross the EU border with Morocco. Almost none manage. If they don’t fall down they are being pulled down by the police. If they were able to enter Spain they could have asked for an asylum. The remaining crosses had been hanged on the Turkish‒Bulgarian border where similar tragedies take place.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Patryk Witt

 

In Europe they no longer shoot people trying to flee their countries yet never before were there so many people dying on the EU borders as in the past years. It is there that the walls of today stand and the victims of today fall –

‒ Philipp Ruch, leader of ZPS, proclaims. German politician Frank Henkel sharply criticizes the action and berates it as an “acute gaffe”. Officers of the terrorism and extremism bureau of the German Federal Criminal Police open an investigation concerning the stealing of the crosses and activists of ZPS start an online money collection. They promise The First Fall of The European Wall ‒ to try to physically topple the EU border between Bulgaria and Turkey.

On Monday the artists publish a film where they explain the motives behind their deed.

We live at the brink of military isolation of Europe ‒ a harsh voice speaks to the shots of bodies of immigrants washed ashore of the Mediterranean. The dead immigrants are replaced with archive footage from a quarter of a century ago ‒ politicians of East and West Germany with smiles on their faces cut the barbwire at the East‒West border. We must maintain that heritage. All we need are wire cutters and a great number of people. Donate for us to go and cut the border ‒ finishes the narrator.

In half a day the minimal amount needed to hire a bus is collected. In the end, on the day of the departure, there are enough crowd funded money to finance the trip and ensure food and sleeping quarters for a hundred people that are ready to physically destroy the border of the EU.

After watching the film I immediately call the Centre for Political Beauty to ask if I can still go with them, they reply that I can. I spend the next day in the Voivodship Office in Poland as I have no valid ID or passport. We do not issue provisional passports to everyone just like that. What is the aim of the trip? ‒ I hear in the Office. I have to be at the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall ‒ I reply and 4 hours later I leave with a new passport.

THE SHOW BEGINS

Are you coming with us to Bulgaria to fight Frontex? ‒ I am asked by a girl who soon introduces herself as Miriam who came from Cologne this morning. To be honest I wasn’t sure if I was going to go. I’ve sent them an email saying I will go but I arrived today a bit early and sat there on the bench in front of the Theatre. I observed what kind of people would arrive. If there were guys with baseball bats and balaclavas I wouldn’t enter. For now I haven’t seen a single one ‒ Miriam tells me pulling a huge wire cutter from her backpack.

Philipp approaches the microphone and asks everyone to finish smoking and immediately enter the Theatre. Officers of German federal police appeared outside conducting an investigation concerning the stolen crosses. They say they have the right to search our luggage. The team from the Gorky Theatre take their lawyer with them to negotiate with the police. They return after 30 minutes.

Listen everyone! There’s a play at 1pm in which you all are going to take an important part. It’s going to end sometime Tuesday evening. We’ve just arranged that we will be able to stage our play just the way we’ve planned in all the countries from Germany up to the Bulgarian border. We can’t pack our props on the bus however. Leave them here. In a few dozen kilometres someone will pass them to us on the Autobahn ‒ announces Philipp pleased. Momentarily heavy equipment for cutting reinforced fences ends up on a counter in the cloakroom.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Patryk Witt

There are several hundred people in front of the Theatre. We are to leave in 30 minutes and a police helicopter appears hovering in the sky. It won’t leave us until we leave Berlin.

Go there! Show them that it’s not that easy to criminalize a politically involved art. Go there and pull the wall down ‒ says Şermin Langhoff, vice director of the Theatre, who for several years has been producing shows in cooperation with Berlin immigrants. After her Hassan, a refugee from Syria, enters the improvised stage and tells us how he crossed the Turkish‒Bulgarian border suspended under a truck.

After our baggage is searched we board the bus.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Patryk Witt

They overdid with that red carpet we walked to the bus. And when Langhoff said after Hassan that we are heroes and that we’re going the same route as he did then I thought I’m going to walk up to her and take that mic from her. We’re sitting on our asses on a comfortable bus and he nearly died under wheels of a truck. Sorry but this is not the same route. I do understand that it’s a theatre and not everything has to be the same but come on ‒ someone obviously irritated a few rows in front of me comments on the spin on the whole event.

The bus mic is taken by Laura of ZPS and before she announces all the technicalities she tells us the latest news from Berlin. Last week refugees camping at the Oranienplatz were forced by the police to leave the temporary campsite. A number of them moved to the abandoned Gerhart Hauptman School in Kreuzberg and organized an International Centre for Refugees there. At the end of May the police brutally tried to evict them. Several Africans from Libya and Syria climbed the top floor and threatened that if the police won’t stop beating them they will throw themselves off the roof. After eight days of negotiating they remained at the School.

The team from the school won a case court today. They can remain at the building and keep running their Centre ‒ Laura announces to the shouts of cheering. We’re living the city.

A BAND OF DANGEROUS HOOLIGANS

Until the next morning almost nothing happens. We talk politics and the deplorable state of discoursing immigration in Europe. The bus is more like an academic seminar than a baseball bat wielding mob Miriam was so afraid of. Travelling the Schengen area, without border stops, is convenient but tedious.

Get off the bus, you’re going to wait some time ‒ a Serbian board guard welcomes us at the Horgoš crossing. And so we wait. Two hours. Thankfully there’s a plot of green nearby. After a night sleeping sitting everyone gets out for a stretch. Tim of Magdeburg takes out a portable speaker and plays some music.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

 

The Serbian guard returns and is as succinct as before if not more irritated. Whose music is it? Turn it off now! ‒ Tim comes running from the toilet to turn down the speaker. If he was a bit later the guard was ready to stomp his equipment.

All the border crossings in Europe have your plate numbers. The German police warned us that you’re band of dangerous football hooligans and we are to watch you. We won’t allow any problems in our country so you’re getting a police escort up to the Bulgarian border ‒ explains another guard somewhat less edgy than the first one. And you are not to leave the highway and stop at gas stations only after authorization from the police car in front of you. Are we clear?

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

 

We arrive at the Bulgarian border in the evening. That disco ball in front was fucking with my eyes but I got used to it. We could drive like this all the way ‒ a 40km speed limit in a village but the guy in front is going 100 so I’m following him ‒ says the driver of the first bus while stretching on a parking lot.

50 EUROS OR TWO YEARS

Herzlich Willkommen in Bulgarien – we are welcomed by a smiling official of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry strolling among the buses. Behind him pacing are two burly men in worn leather jackets. They probably never smile ‒ they’re from the Bulgarian security office.

Over a radio we receive information that the Ministry guy has finished his speech in the first bus and is walking towards us. Laura asks us to retain at least the minimum of seriousness ‒ due to the stay at Horgoš we are already well late and if we are to spend half a night at the Kalotina crossing we won’t reach the Turkish border on time.

Everyone is aware of the gravity of the situation yet when in presence of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry official they are hard pressed to remain sober. The head of the welcoming committee is wearing a slightly shiny three part suit and a snow white shirt. Broad collar and the 1970’s‒style embroidered cuffs only add to his wedding party allure.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Kaveh Rostamkhani

He’s courteous ‒ one can’t say otherwise. He decides to speak German. He puts on his professional smile once again which he’ll wear till the end of our stop and repeats: Herzlich Willkommen in Bulgarien. In a few elaborate sentences he assures us of the perfect diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Germany and smoothly moves on to describe the penalties we might face for illegal actions in the border area. He says he doesn’t suspect us of any such actions as we seem to be a nice bunch of young people to him. Nevertheless, he looks at a piece of paper so as not to make an error: All political demonstrations on the territory of Bulgaria must be agreed with the proper office. Within a 30km distance from the border any political demonstrations are forbidden. Civilians are forbidden to enter a 300m area from the state border. He asks us if everything is clear, he smiles and goes on: Any of the aforementioned offences are liable to a penalty of 50 euros up to a 2 year sentence. A similar penalty may be incurred for illegally crossing the border.

What if someone was to damage the border fence? ‒ someone asks at the front of the bus. I don’t expect any of you to come up with such an idea but the penalty is 50 euros up to a 2 year sentence ‒ replies a smiling man in a grey suit.

So whatever we do we are facing a 50 euro fine or getting locked up for 2 years. At least it’s easy to remember. If we were to break the same ban twice however we can be sure we’ll spend a tear in jail. After these formalities the guy from the Interior Ministry feels he has to emphasize he’s not a politician but an official and that he’s informed us of all this as he’s worried about us since he’s heard we want to visit Bulgaria. Ich bin kein Politiker – he repeats with an equal grin. He invites us to paper and luggage control.

We’re pulling all our stuff from the bus. There are several people milling around every bag ‒ there’s border guard, police, security services with everything being overseen by the representative of the Ministry. He carefully watches over smiling much less often to the men and women looking through our luggage.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

Another policeman is walking towards us. When he realizes there’s a delegation from the capital he turns abruptly and quickly returns to his post. In a few moments he returns in a cap, buttoned up shirt and a tie. He tells me to unzip my backpack, take everything from my pockets, take off my shoes, take my belt off. He unscrews my pen and takes the ink container from it. I don’t know if he’s doing that so we stand here as long as possible or he’s simply afraid of the Ministry guy. Either way we spend 4 hours at the search.

You said nothing about the Polish‒Bulgarian relations ‒ I chat up the official from Sofia at the end. We now have a new government and I’m sure we’ll have great relations with all the countries in the world ‒ replies the content official. Not politician ‒ an official. And sends a few unmarked cars behind us: We’ll escort you off to the hotel. That way it’ll be safer for all of us ‒ he explains calmly and waves us goodbye.

“SCUM, GYPSIES AND CRIMINALS”

[dropcap]3[/dropcap] o’clock at night. I wake up as all the lights in the bus light up. We walk outside. We’re at a gas station somewhere in central Bulgaria. No one except the drivers knows where as everything further than a few metres is obscured in a thick fog. Ruben, one of the ZPS photographers, is standing by the bus door with a red bin and asks us to remove batteries and to throw our phones in there.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

I recall as a few hundred kilometres earlier Daniel, a 30‒something IT specialist from Berlin, complained that no one took care of the security of our trip. Everyone has their phones on logging on to open networks, and checking where we are over GPS. We are planning to keep our destination a secret as long as we can so what he says seems reasonable. Especially given than Daniel knows a thing or two about security. Four years ago he and Julian Assange ‒ then using a moniker Daniel Schmitt ‒ set up WikiLeaks. Today he’s not hiding in an Ecuadorian embassy but is going to the EU‒Turkish border with a legal passport.

Phone‒less but accompanied by several cars packed full with Bulgarian policemen we learn that we’ll try to cut the EU border fence a few kilometres from a village of Golyam Dervent.

We can’t publicize that information as from the Bulgarian media we know that not only police and border guards are planning to stop us but also the Bulgarian nationalists. They’ve declared that they’ll find us and stop us from letting “scum”, “gypsies”, and “criminals” into their country. They haven’t found us in the end and their mobilization concluded with setting up a Facebook page.

We get back on the bus. We left the Gorky Theatre over 40 hours ago. We’re driving all the time. I sit down and only now realize how smelly our tired group is. A broken toilet, no shower, sweaty clothes, and a smell of digested Serbian beer Jelen mixed with shitty gas station food leftovers. We smell of homelessness.

“IF YOU GET LOCKED UP CALL THE LAWYERS”

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the morning we get off the bus by the Diana Palace hotel in the town of Yambol. We are 50km from the Turkish border. Bulgarian police and media wait for us. There are no nationalists. We enter for a quick breakfast and a briefing before going to the border. The hotel must have been a real beauty in the 1990’s. From the outside it looks a bit like a Solpol in Wroclaw, the interiors could easily play a background for a mafia meeting in one Pasikowski’s old films.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Patryk Witt

You have to know there’s hysteria because of you in Bulgaria right now ‒ says a lawyer who is with us in case of arrests. Two days ago a new government was sworn in. The Interior Minister Veselin Vuchkov all those two days was running around media outlets shouting out that no one will breach the EU border. If you manage to get there today it’s probably going to be the shortest term of a minister in the world.

But in a moment he adds what we’ve already heard at the Kalotina crossing ‒ 30km from the border we may be searched, and arrested for simply being closer to the fence than 300 metres.

What Vuchkov is saying in the media looks really bad. Currently there’s an atmosphere in Bulgaria that they might get you jailed for terrorism so beware ‒ finishes the lawyer.

Whatever we’ll be doing in two hours remember two things: do not use violence against anyone especially the police and we’re not leaving here until everyone will be able to. If someone is jailed we stay here until they’re released ‒ Stefan Pelzer of ZPS interjects firmly. And if you do get locked up then don’t speak to anyone but call the lawyers. You’ll get a few hours and will be released ‒ he adds in the end.

Stefan dictates us contact information to the lawyers we write them down on our forearms with permanent markers. A phone or a notebook can be lost it’s harder to remove a number noted down on skin. We know what to do in case of an arrest but we don’t decide precisely what we’ll do at the border.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Kaveh Rostamkhani

 

We’re over ten hours late. There’s a police tailing us from the Serbian border. For two days I’m trying to confuse the Bulgarian media so that we don’t find local fascists there. Almost everything we’ve planned from the beginning went up in smoke. There’s no point deciding what we’ll do at the border now as we don’t know what’s the situation there. Let us go already and we’ll decide there ‒ Philipp finishes.

Thirty kilometres to our destination we stop for a while in front of a sign saying “Border Area”. In a few seconds it’s all covered in „Kein Mensch ist Illegal” stickers and from the cars following us policemen and journalists pour out. Only now do I see what a long column trails behind us ‒ twenty cars and every approach road is guarded by TV cameras and police cars.

In the border area there are virtually no buildings only kilometres of barren fields. An ideal set up for the border guards to notice any immigrants and refugees trying to cross the border from Turkey. Here it’s practically impossible.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Kaveh Rostamkhani

We get out. Several dozen take out power saws and shears, we managed to hide from the border guards, from the bus hold. We leave our phones. Journalists quickly paint PRESS on their jackets and one of the activists puts on a crocodile costume he was carrying with him all the way. He pushes his dreadlocks under a green hood. They won’t arrest a crocodile ‒ he jokes. The girl sitting next to me on a curb discovers the phone number she wrote on her forearm an hour ago is almost gone. She closes her eyes and repeats it in her mind. She only has to memorize 12 digits.

“DIE MAUER MUSS WEG!”

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]wo thousand kilometres from here in the Schiller-Theater concert hall in Berlin, official celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall are about to begin. When Gorbachev, Walesa, Schulz, Merkel, and hundreds of other officials stand together for a photo in the hall’s foyer we approach an old rusted gate.

A quarter of a century ago this run down, broken fence looked much more serious ‒ it was the Iron Curtain then.

Our welcoming committee is probably somewhat less impressive than the one shaking hands in front of the Schiller Theatre. Less impressive and deadly solemn. Jester smiles finished at the Kalotina crossing. Now we can only expect cold looks and instead of Herzlich Willkommen we hear sentences straight from a police report.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Kaveh Rostamkhani

 

Stefan starts the conversation with the border guards. For the final act of our journey he wears a blue pullover with the symbol of DDR on the chest. His faced is smeared with tar and coal, similar to other artists from the Centre. He’s wielding heavy metal cutters. He approaches a balding man in a border patrol uniform and says: We have completely peaceful intentions. We promise no one is going to get hurt. All those people you see before you drove for dozens of hours to see their wall, their border. We wish to cross further to the current border with Turkey.

Neither here nor at the actual border are you allowed to organize any demonstrations ‒ the guard replies calmly.

Before the fall of the Iron Curtain at this spot exactly many people lost their lives. You know about it perfectly well. They wanted to cross from one side to the other. Today the same thing takes place several hundred metres there where the new border runs. That you know even better. We want to cross there and we have the right to do it as this is a border of the European Union. This is our border ‒ Stefan goes on.

Again we hear that 300 metres from the border no civilians are allowed. But currently we are over a kilometre from the barb wired fence, so we continue. The guards let us through but tell us we’ll meet again soon.

Daniel looks at the crowd raises his hand and starts shouting: Die Mauer muss weg! A moment later everyone shouts as they know the words very well even if they didn’t rasp their throats on the streets of Berlin in 1989 personally. Several hundred metres further down we can see another welcoming committee ‒ a police prevention unit. Arms and shears remain raised, the words change: No border! No nation! Stop deportation!

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Patryk Witt

 

“YOU CAN’T WALK UP THERE”

You won’t see the fence. I can’t let you through. The Iron Curtain remains are where you’ve been a moment ago. The Turkish border has nothing to do with the Berlin Wall ‒ says Zachary Penov, head of the Bulgarian border guard. His face shows no emotions only deep wrinkles, bags under his eyes and weariness. He is standing behind a red and white police tape. Behind him policemen armed with rifles, shields, wearing helmets leave the buses they’ve arrived in. On our side of the line a single ambulance is parked.

‒ We are going to stay here until we see the wall – Philipp negotiates this time.

‒ As you wish. All EU citizens may do as they please at the spot you are standing right now

‒ But why can’t we pass further? Look those people in the eyes and give them at least one sensible reason.

‒ You can’t as we’re conducting a police operation on this terrain

‒ A police operation? On November 9th? On the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall? It’s like spitting all the Europeans in the face!

‒ Setting the dates is not in my power

‒ Whose power is it?

‒ We only execute the orders

‒ But what are the orders? Do you shoot people here?

‒ I here no shooting

‒ I want to tell you straight in the face, I hope someday the people responsible for what you’re doing here will face a court and get convicted for breaking the human rights. Because that’s what you mainly do here ‒ breaking the human rights ‒ Philipp talks emotionally but he’s not upset. He was expecting such a course of events and knows exactly what he’s saying.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Patryk Witt

‒ You have to understand one thing. We act according to the Bulgarian and European law. If you don’t like it you can sue us. But that you do in court and not here.

Philipp calls Stefan who is to negotiate on our behalf. His uniform remains unchanged ‒ a pullover with the DDR emblem, tar on his face and shears in hand.
‒ Let us agree on this: I’ll leave those shears on the ground, I’ll raise my hands and peacefully start walking towards the border. Will you beat me up then? – he asks the chief of the Bulgarian border guards.
It’s not going to be peaceful as it’s against the law – replies Penov
But I’m asking whether if I’m going to approach you completely defenceless and harmless will your people beat me up
I told you that you cannot cross
And can we try?
You’re not a dumb guy. You know perfectly well you’re not supposed to do that
Then let’s do it differently. I’ll cut the tape. You know, symbolically and we’ll keep on talking
No

We walk away several metres from the police line. We don’t have many options. A police helicopter passes low over our heads a rather clear message: You can go to some other point of the border but we’ll get there before you. A decision is made to try and cross the police line as Stefan proposed ‒ without the saws and shears, with empty hands raised.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

Say it loud! Say it clear! Refugees are welcome here! – shouts a several dozen strong group approaching the police line. Chants more likely as the words being shouted completely lack aggression. You can clearly hear the voice of Esther who sang songs by Bob Dylan in the back of the bus the whole drive. The police stand in double‒line now preparing for the clash. But there is no clash. The boy wearing a crocodile costume, the singing girl, and several dozens of others just serenely walk into the police shields. They keep singing. They remain in the tranquil embrace for several minutes.

I’m pressed exactly between other protesters and the police line. I can hear some Bulgarian command over the portable radios secured to the policemen epaulets. Five seconds later I understand ‒ the line moves abruptly forward and pushes the group several metres to the place where “all EU citizens may do as they please”. Someone is hit with a shield; someone loses their press pass that disappears under the police boots.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

But in reality nothing serious happens, no one gets hurt or even bruised. They don’t arrest the crocodile. Similar tugs with the police probably number in the hundreds all over Europe each month. Moments later the situation is calm again.

Is this the part you want to play in this show? Are you going to hit us like that with those shields? Is that what you want to convey to the people in Europe? – shouts Stefan for the last time. Penov leaves towards the border and only replies that we should have more respect for the police. New police cars arrive, more people spill from them. Police dogs bark as helmets settle on the heads of young men wearing black uniforms. We walk down towards the buses.

Today we won’t topple the European wall we know that for sure. We return in silence.

Under the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin the celebrations have reached their climax. The orchestra plays Ode to Joy. White balloons along the whole length of the now non-existent border between Eastern and Western Berlin rise to the sky. Germany is celebrating her 25 years of freedom.

TERRORISTS OR A BUNCH OF HIPPIES?

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]olice is waiting for us at the buses. They were following us for two days now, right from the Serbian border. Only markings and drivers change. We’ll be escorted to the Greek border. The buses fill up with people. We get our phones back as power saws and shears return to the hold.

Several hours pass and we’re at a border crossing once again, this time in the Bulgarian town of Svilengrad. Police cars stop on the shoulder. Border guards only check our passports and wave us through to the Greek side. Exceptionally fast.

Several hundred meters further it’s not that easy. Road barriers are surrounded with police buses that illuminate the whole area with blue flashes. They point us toward a parking lot where several hundred policemen emerge from the darkness running. Some with long batons, others wearing gas masks and brandishing tear gas canisters, all with firearms fastened to their belts and balaclavas on their faces. For every person on our tired, smelly bus there are at least two policemen.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Zentrum für Politische Schönheit

What was the point of bringing all those people here? – I ask a man going through my luggage. We’ve agreed on the bus we won’t talk to them but I couldn’t help myself.

There were two stories. One, that there are artists coming. Second, that terrorists. We’ve prepared for terrorists and you’re just a bunch of hippies – replied the guard tossing my half open bag back at me.

THE POWER OF NAIVETY?

I had ample time to think about what the impatient guy had said while searching for the evidence of terrorism in my luggage. In a way he was right. Because what else can you call a bunch of guys who before leaving triumphantly smoke a joint on the stairs of the Theatre? Or a dozen of people dancing bare foot and doing yoga at every border crossing? Or fleeing the secret police in a Greek town to skinny dip in the sea? We really are a bunch of naïve hippies.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Patryk Witt

Many of those who were riding the buses these several days had one aim in mind ‒ to destroy the EU border. Besides that they also had in mind hundreds of texts and lectures considering the immigration policy, refugee rights and fortification of the borders. But when asked why they took the journey almost all replied shortly: That border simply should not exist. It is the cause and consequence that thousands of people die trying to cross it and hundreds of thousands are exploited and die too although not as manifestly.

No one was willing to embroil into arguments that Europe should help immigrants and refugees as it is the birthplace of human rights. No one was getting excited with liberal rhetoric that presents newcomers from outside the Union as valuable human resource. Although all those humane calls for cooperation and empathy are just ‒ we should be helping each other out and immigrants can enrich the European culture ‒ politically they are completely unproductive.

The border regime that would select the immigrants and refugees more liberally would still remain a regime in which Europe occupies the position of power forcing others to beg for mercy.

You can demand a more humane way of treating people at refugee centres but is the demand for the Italian or Spanish soldiers to beat a little less and to stop sending Africans, who try to beach at Lampedusa or scale the fence in Melilla, to death the limit of modern political imagination? Over a hundred people put a lot of effort into activating their assets of naivety, to forget all the paradoxes the discussion on immigration is entwined in, and to imagine a more ambitious goal: the fall of European walls.

Activists Are Trying To Topple The European Wall
Photo: Kaveh Rostamkhani

 

THE RETURN

We enter Berlin at night. We did not fulfil our promise. We are not carrying even a piece of the barbed wire from the fence separating the European Union from Turkey.

In a few places the balloon stalls are still standing. They will probably stand for a while shamelessly reminding, along with a hundred different installations around Berlin, that there is no wall, that there are only remnants and memories.
Give it a rest. No one will accept that easily this sentimental bullshit anymore. Anyone who held a newspaper in their hands in the past week knows well about the walls in Europe and refugees. You’ve set off a bomb in the German press! I’m collecting all the texts published about your action. If I wanted to print that it would be over two hundred pages! – I am being assured by one of the several dozen persons waiting for us in front of the Theatre.
And remember that our action is called The First Fall of The European Wall. There will be next ‒ says Stefan now without the DDR pullover, tar on his face or the shears.

 

Written by Dawid Krawczyk. Translated by Konrad Zwoliński.


The article was originally published in Polish on krytykapolityczna.pl

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Dawid Krawczyk

Dawid Krawczyk

Journalist, editor and translator working for Opinion Daily. Studied Philosophy and English studies at University of Wrocław. Member of the Political Critique Club in Wrocław, Poland. He is on twitter as @DJKrawczyk.

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Dawid Krawczyk
Journalist, editor and translator working for Opinion Daily. Studied Philosophy and English studies at University of Wrocław. Member of the Political Critique Club in Wrocław, Poland. He is on twitter as @DJKrawczyk.

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