The western border of Poland. At the time of the People’s Republic of Poland, the border prevented Poles from entering a different world altogether. Did they think that this other world is better? They knew for sure that it is quite different. The existence of this other world was discomforting, as are all unknowns, but more so than not, it enticed, beckoned, and promised change. Today, such borders are but a footnote in collective European history and a flashback in individual memory. The movie recounts these first days and weeks, when Poles’ perceptions of a different life across the borderline were confronted with the realities of western Germany. Poles had different reasons for crossing the border. Having packed up all of their belongings in a proverbial single suitcase, they abandoned their families, homes, friends, and dreams in the hope of getting a taste of freedom and earning their daily bread. They broke with their past experiences, whether good or bad, and took a risk. Either by free will or by force of circumstance. Their children followed, having no say in the matter. For some, engaged in politics or forced into politics, departure was a point of no return. This was the case for Władysław Kozakiewicz, Poland’s Olympic champion from Moscow. How does it feel to abandon the air one breathed in each day and be well aware that one needs to learn how to breathe anew? How much courage does one need to muster? For some, finding themselves in this new world did not take long, for others – it did take long indeed. The movie also gives voice to members of German minorities who were displaced from Poland. Some of them waited as long as thirty years to be allowed to depart. They fulfilled a generations-long dream. The individuals portrayed in the documentary, who now reside in Germany, think back on the days from over thirty years ago. The feeling of alienation sometimes hurt, but there were also funny moments to be had. They recollect funny anecdotes, linguistic blunders, their blank amazement and bafflement in shops. Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of merchandise, the colorful packaging, and advertisements, they had no idea how to make choices as consumers. They speak about their beginnings in the West with candor. When listening to their recollections, it’s impossible not to ask oneself: how would I act in their place? Would I be able to break with my past, having no certainty whatsoever how fate will run its course in my life and the lives of those closest to me? They managed to succeed. They say that now they are free as birds. But some will occasionally shed a tear for their homeland. During the traditional Polish Christmas Eve vigil supper, with traditional fish and mushroom dishes and an additional seat at the table, kept for an unknown guest. Do they have regrets?
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