REFLECTIONS : El beso de Brezhnev y Honecker!

I may have sounded incoherent last week, as someone pointed out to me, but, actually, blame it on the missing ‘if’. My opening sentence was “I must apologise to you all because, actually, you didn’t get distracted last Sunday – I did!” and not “I must apologise to you all because, actually, if you didn’t get distracted last Sunday – I did!” 

I may have sounded incoherent last week, as someone pointed out to me, but, actually, blame it on the missing ‘if’.

My opening sentence was “I must apologise to you all because, actually, you didn’t get distracted last Sunday – I did!” and not “I must apologise to you all because, actually, if you didn’t get distracted last Sunday – I did!”

I totally agree, that ‘if’ makes a world of a difference and in the second sentence I wouldn’t have any reason to apologise. Otherwise, my reader is not right when he says that I’ve tried to project myself as chief promoter of the English language grammar.

If I were to project myself as promoter of the grammar of any language, it would be as promoter of the Kinyarwanda language grammar.

Well, I am none of those, so take my stories as the blabbering of a fading son of the volcanic soils.

That apart, last week I actually wanted to talk about the true object of my fascination. And more than Berlusconi or Khrushchev, I was most fascinated by the veritable dinosaur leader of USSR that ever lived during my time.

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1964 to 1982. Yes, the title is quite a mouthful. However, the man himself, more than his title, was more than a mouthful!

And I mean that literally. This was aptly captured by a photographer when Brezhnev was pictured passionately kissing the East Germ leader of the time (hoping you don’t have an over-sensitive tummy, or else you may throw up!), as was the custom in Russia.

Erich Honecker was leader of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1971 until 1989.  During his iron-fisted rule, around 125 East German citizens were killed while trying to illegally cross the border into West Germany or West Berlin.

Anyway, back to ‘mouthful’. The iconic ‘Brotherkiss’ was first reproduced by Russian artist Dmitry Vrubel in a painting on the Berlin Wall.

Even when the rest of the 155-km grey concrete that divided East Germany and West Germany was pulled down in November 1989, the three-quarter km wall that bore the mural was spared.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, the mural and its replicas on the wall were removed after decades of Berlin weather and pollution. Whatever was left was vandalised by souvenir-hungry tourists.

Happily, the remaining wall was redone with a special undercoat to protect it. To mark 20 years since the fall of the Wall, Dmitry Vrubel and the other more than 100 artists re-converged on the Wall to re-paint the murals again.

The ‘Brotherkiss’  mural on the remaining portion of the Wall, known as the East Side Gallery, was re-opened with pomp on 9th November 2009. The city of Berlin marked the occasion with a big event, attended by European Union and former Allied leaders.

If you caught news of the event on TV, you may recall seeing aging leaders of the time who graced the occasion.

Those who caught everyone’s attention were Michael Gorbachev, Helmut Khol and George Walker Bush, Sr., all rulers at different times during the period marking the end of Cold War. 

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the last head of state of the USSR, serving from 1988 until its collapse in 1991. He was the only Soviet leader to have been born after the Russian October Revolution of 1917.

Gorbachev’s attempts at reform as well as summit conferences with US president Ronald Reagan and his reorientation of Soviet strategic aims contributed to the end of the Cold War, ended the political supremacy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The now wheelchair-bound Helmut Josef Michael Kohl was Chancellor of West Germany between 1982 and 1990, and of a reunited Germany between 1990 and 1998. His 16-year tenure oversaw the end of the Cold War and the German reunification.

George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st US president (1989-1993) and father to George W. Bush, the 43rd US president. He is the most recent president to have been a WWII veteran, and the most recent president to have fought in a war prior to being elected.

If you looked carefully past those ex-leaders and others in attendance during the occasion, then you must have seen the ‘Brotherkiss’ itself.

In fact, at one time models wearing clothes inspired by those murals posed by the Wall, directly in front of the painting.

In any case, you don’t have to have an occasion on TV or go to Berlin in order to see the mural. A replica of it is displayed in the shop of French chocolate maker Patrick Roger. For making it, he was named “Best French Chocolatier” in 2000.

Brezhnev was an inspiration to many!

ingina2@yahoo.co.uk