Planet excerpts

Anne Lauppe-Dunbar is moved by an exhibition exploring the lives of Europeans who travelled or fled to Wales between 1750 and 2015, which brings to mind her mother’s flight from Germany, her own journey to Wales, and the current refugee crisis.

More excerpts from Planet 221  

On 9 November, 1947, my mother fled from the Soviet zone to West Germany. She recalls her flight from East to West as a silent, terrifying passage across no-man's-land. The dream of following her true calling, her Roter Faden or ‘red thread’ – to learn, work, and live within the anthroposophical movement created by Rudolf Steiner – was the reason for her escape, as well as the conviction that the Germany she had seen through the war years was not her home.

Home is very much on my mind as I shoulder my raincoat and head along Mumbles bay. The sea is the colour of spit. Grumpy clouds smudge out the flares of Port Talbot. There will be no sunset tonight to light the windows of Swansea. All week, come evening, cwtched up warm with my tea, I have stared at a television screen filled with plastic boats that wobble across an ocean. Their cargo? People whose fear has burned itself so tight to bone, they are hardly able to breathe. Clad in life jackets, they stumble to shore and the possibility of life. The word on my lips is like a silent prayer: refugees. What to do, what to do? More than a million people have arrived in Europe as of December 2015. 331,000 (and counting) have settled in Germany – the chosen land.

During the second world war, thousands fled from Germany. Those images – a suitcase, a horse and cart, a shape huddled under a filthy blanket – are forever remembered. James Baldwin writes how ‘People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them’.1 This year hundreds of thousands are fleeing to settle in Germany via a terrifying trip across perilous water; days of walking, queuing, crawling into train carriages not knowing if the train will leave, or where it will go, a chilling reminder of other trains that did not stop until their final destination.

Buy the issue or subscribe here