Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 11:25 UK

'The Iron Curtain' picnic

Hungarian School Reporters

Laszlo, a School Reporter from Hungary, reports on the 20-year anniversary of his country opening its borders to the non-communist West.

The event, on 19 August 1989, paved the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall three months later.

The Pan-European Picnic through a Hungarian teenager's eyes
Laszlo, School Reporter, Gyongyos, Hungary

This June, we could hear a lot about destroying the "iron curtain" 20 years ago. On TV, on the radio and in the newspapers I saw reports and interviews about this event.

It began to raise my interest, and I asked whether a wall - the "iron curtain" - can separate people from something, in this case from the West.

I decided to find out more about the topic and ask people about it; people who experienced it themselves.

What exactly happened 20 years ago?

I think, for almost all the people who lived at the time, destroying the iron curtain means the same: freedom. I am glad to have investigated the topic, this way I can understand the atmosphere of the years when my parents were young.
Laszlo, School Reporter, Hungary

In 1989, the socialist regime was still in existence but people already felt that favourable changes were approaching.

On May 2, they switched off the electric alarm system between Austria and Hungary and on June 27 the two ministers of foreign affairs cut through the "iron curtain".

Soon after this an idea was born: to have a bonfire on the border with the participation of about 150 Austrian and Hungarian people.

During the arrangements, someone suggested opening the border for some hours to make it easier for the Austrian guests to take part in the event - it was a wooden gate near St Margarethen.

As time went on, the event received more and more popularity through the press and a great number of Eastern German people arrived in the area.

For my father it was a very interesting experience to see on the first page of his passport: "This passport is valid to all countries of the world". It was the first time he could travel anywhere, any time.
Laszlo, School Reporter, Hungary

The official program opened with an international press conference, after which, the official delegation was to walk across the border and go to the main square of St Margarethen (Margitbánya), and then back to Sopronpuszta, the site of the picnic.

However, it was impossible to carry out this plan because a huge number of people were rushing through the border. It was quite unexpected.

At the same time, at Sopronpuszta, people were enjoying the picnic, cooking gulyas, roasting sausages, drinking beer and wine-and-soda.

Surprisingly a thunderstorm put an end to the picnic, and people leaving the site could see lots of abandoned Trabant and Wartburg cars along the roadside.

What I have found out

Brentside High School students broadcast

All my family and friends lived, and still live, quite a long way from the Western border, so this event was not such a big change in their everyday life.

For my father, it was a very interesting experience to see on the first page of his passport: "This passport is valid to all countries of the world". It was the first time he could travel anywhere, any time, except when a country required visa. He could feel that his homeland let him leave - and why not? - he was born to be free.

My mother has similar feelings and thoughts about it. Her first memory was the big ordeal people had to go through when they wanted to travel to the West, or travel around Europe: applying for passports, visas, money limits, ($50 every three years) check-ups at the borders, and so on.

A member of my family was a border guard during socialism. The place which had been controlled strictly with guns full of cartridges, was free to pass for everyone some months later.

He could walk across the fields to some of the surrounding countries with his family, which he had been patrolling with a gun.

I think, for almost all the people who lived at the time, destroying the iron curtain means the same: freedom. I am glad to have investigated the topic, this way I can understand the atmosphere of the years when my parents were young.



SEE ALSO
Hungary marks 1989 freedom event
19 Aug 09 |  Europe
2 May: Hungary dismantles border
20 Mar 09 |  Europe
School Reporters have their say
02 Apr 09 |  School Report


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