He travelled from Antwerp, to Schengen in Luxembourg, to see The Princesse Marie - Astrid, the boat that the Schengen Agreement was signed on. But it wasn’t there. It’s in Germany now, in Regensburg, and sails as the MS Regensburg on the River Danube. It takes people on day trips to The Walhalla Memorial which is a short journey from the town. He found out The Walhalla Memorial is a hall of fame that houses statues, or busts, of significant figures from German history. When he left Schengen that day he saw a car parked by the road with a picture painted on its side. It didn’t occur to him until later that it depicts a scene in which a Viking ship sails past the Walhalla of Norse mythology, the great hall of Odin, where warriors who have died in battle gather in heavenly revellry. He thinks the car had Russian license plates.
‘I come from Ludvigslust. It’s between Hamburg and Berlin, in the former East Germany. I was born in 1976 and I stayed there until 1995 when I turned 18. I finished my secondary school there. My parents were divorced and I lived with my mother. My father lived in Leipzig. His dream was to leave East Germany. He was always very active in opposing the life there, in his mind and in his way of doing things. He was married again my father. I have a half sister. My parents got divorced when I was three. In East Germany, if you had relatives in the West, you could go and visit them and so his wife left for West Germany to visit an Aunt, because she had an 80th birthday or something, and they had agreed in advance that she would not come back. You could request for family reunification and so he did that. He didn’t really know what would happen though you know. Everything was possible at that time.
Some people could never leave. That was one option. They were held in East Germany forever. The other option was that you could leave immediately or you had to wait a couple of years and even then another option was that they put you away… you know? Everything was possible at that time.
Some people could never leave. That was one option. They were held in East Germany forever. The other option was that you could leave immediately or you had to wait a couple of years and even then another option was that they put you away… you know? So it was really quite uncertain. It was very difficult for him. He couldn’t work anymore. He had to stop working as teacher because, you know, they were afraid that he would corrupt the minds of the poor little children. Although when you are a sports teacher, what can you tell about the system? During running breaks you tell them the capitalist system is much better? (laughs) But seriously, they told him he had a pedagogical task and that he could not perform that anymore. At some point he got the notice that he could leave but he had to leave the next day. He decided that night that he would take the train from Leipzig to Ludvigslust, which was about 4 hours or something. He wanted to say goodbye to me.
My mother said go and pick your father up from the train station. So I went there. I was on my bike, I had this green bike, and he was walking next to me and it was about half an hour walk to home and we had a little talk. I mean he couldn’t stay long, it was just sort of an hour or so because he had to catch the last train back, and so then at some point before the station we stopped on the street and he said I have a present for you and he brought out this little box with this golden necklace and he said I bought this for you and said it was very special and expensive and I was so flabbergasted, I was thinking what am I going to do with this. By that time I had realised that this was it and that I probably wouldn’t see him again and then he gives me this necklace? I hated gold. I loved silver and he gave me a gold necklace. Only years later I could appreciate that he was trying to show his affection, to leave me something basically, but at that time I was a teenager. I had hardly seen my father between being three and the year before he left because he wasn’t really interested in us, I had just got to know him and I was like... I’m not going to see you anymore and you give me a necklace? And then it was all very hectic and he had to leave and get the train and I was with this necklace and I remember all the years I took the necklace in the box I never took it out I just put it in the cupboard and I think I looked at it once again later on. But I hated that necklace. I don’t have it anymore, I don’t even know what happened to it. For me it was a symbol, first of all, of not understanding each other and second him really never understanding, you know? That he was sort of happy. He could leave. For him that was a happy ending. He could leave. We couldn’t.’
Against the blue sky of the Western world, the stars symbolise the peoples of Europe in a form of a circle, a sign of union. Their number is invariably twelve, the figure twelve being the symbol of perfection and entirety.
‘I took the Ferry from Patras to Venice. There were bikers, truck drivers and some old people on the ferry. The truckers and the bikers had a battle of who could get more wasted. Basically they drank for 32 hours, I had to sleep outside on the deck because of my dog.
I slept a bit, under a table, but they would slam the beers on the table and I was like ‘Good Morning!’ At one point there was a storm so I was hiding inside and luckily I made friends with one of the guys who worked on the boat whose name was Nicos and he let me sleep in some type of emergency exit room. So I slept there for a couple of hours. Then I went from Venice to Verona on a train. I didn’t have a ticket but my train came so I jumped on it and said to the (ticket man) I need to buy a ticket and he said fine I’m coming. I sat there for a very long time and the guy didn’t come back then I saw him getting off the train and a new controller getting on. The second controller came and I was thinking, shit I know I look like the kind of person who doesn’t buy a ticket, so I took out my purse and then she was like ‘you’ve already been on the train right? and she walked right passed me! For two hours I was super nervous that she would come back and ask to see my ticket anyway. But she didn’t. Then I got to Munich and to Friesing and then to Regensburg. I’m going to Berlin’
It’s holiday season. The train is crowded with children. He is standing in the space between the compartments. He is going to Vichy. From there it’s not too far to Saint Andre Le Coq, or to Saint Clement.