This, he said, was very possible if I had the right attitude. All I had to do was observe certain patients and fellow workers whose names would be given to me, and report what they said and did and who they saw. It was simple. It was a patriotic duty. It was a way to get ahead. I told him that I would think about it.
That night I crossed the frontier into West Berlin and knocked on my aunt's door. To be a technician in a laboratory does not mean that much to me. There is a limit to what you can be asked to pay, and I have paid enough.
Ursula F., twenty-five years old, is a small, pretty girl with a mass of auburn hair. She has a quick laugh and a mobile, expressive face. She speaks a witty German, full of unexpected phrases.
A few years ago, when I was studying in Berlin Free University, I used to go out sometimes with a boy who hated Communism. He used to ask me, "How can you think of going back into that prison? Why should you put your mind into cold storage?" I was younger then, and I thought it was possible to live under the Communists. I used to tell my friend: "It is too ridiculous to last. Don't worry." Now I am older and I still think that the Reds are ridiculous and that they can be killed, really destroyed, by laughter. The trouble is, of course, that everyone is too scared or too tired or too bored to laugh. Therefore, they go right on Communizing and Bolshevizing and looking fat and severe. Anybody want to laugh?
I am asked all the time why I decided to come across the border. It is difficult to package up the reasons and give them to you with a red ribbon tied around them. To be truthful, it was no one thing. It is the corrosion and gradual wear and tear that get one in the end.
This is my case history: I came to West Berlin to study in the Free University. This was not a wise decision politically, but my love is literature and I wanted to read my books in peace and discuss them in freedom. At least, I thought, I'll have that secreted in some corner of my mind, even if I do go back. And so I have. After I had been in West Berlin for a while and had even fallen in love a little bit with the boy I told you about, I started to receive callers. These ladies and gentlemen talked to me very mournfully about my family and about my duty to the fatherland and how I should go back to East Germany. I kept saying no. I wanted to finish my studies. But they sometimes came to see me every day. When I was trying to study, two of them would come and talk to me for five hours or more, repeating the same things over and over. Finally I gave up. It was impossible. I went back home. I haven't seen the boy again, but maybe he is still here somewhere, and if he is, I want to tell him how right he was.
So I went back and finished my studies, and then I had good luck and was given a job in a publishing house. I started as a clerk, but after a time I was asked to read and criticize manuscripts. Some of them were pretty good, but we never accepted these. We were very eager to publish good, solid socialist realism, but anything with a grain of truth in it had no chance. I used to read things first, so I could do some good: if a young writer wrote a critical novel, I could always send it back to him and warn him not to submit it elsewhere if he wanted to stay out of trouble. Some of those young men, burning with talent and frustration, really needed protection. God knows what will happen to them eventually if they keep writing.