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Talea Nea
Shadow's Child - Talea Nea
April 2019


"For me, it's always that Mary Poppins thing. I'll do it until the wind changes." Neil Gaiman

"Real writers, and real artists, finish books and move on to the next project." Holly Lisle

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Talea Nea
Shadow's Child

I grew up in a land that had no colours. It had a dictatorship and spies on every street corner, but it had no colours.

In that land there were no advertisements, because it had no wares. It only sold two kinds of chocolate, both tasting horrible according to my parents. I don't remember the taste of that chocolate.
I do remember how our notebooks looked, though: a greyish dark green, a very rough cover, no pictures, no different colours; the same booklet for all ten school years.

To this day my mother lowers her voice when they talk about political topics, a habit created from a lifetime of fear of the wires picking up such dangerous conversation.

I was a child when the Iron Curtain fell. I remember my father taking me to the big monday demonstrations that took place in all major cities of our little country, and my trousers getting splattered with candle wax that my mother then had to iron out again, every single week that autumn.

I remember the first time he drove with us through the checkpoints into West Berlin to go grocery shopping. (Once the wall was open my father would drive the long way over to Berlin every single week to buy groceries because he refused to buy and eat anything from that old, ugly system anymore.)
I had never been in such a big store before. It had bananas and kiwis and oranges as if it was normal. I had never before in my life eaten a kiwi; bananas and oranges at most once in a year.
I remember looking at rows upon rows upon rows of different brands of cornflakes in that huge store - I had never eaten cornflakes before and had no idea what that even was.

One summer day when my mother and I were on our way back home she spotted many people standing in line in front of a store. After she had found out what they sold she put me at the end of the line and said to me: "Talea, they're selling cherries. I will hurry home and get some money, and you will wait here in the line until I'm back, ok?" I waited obediently. I didn't have a sense of time but like every soul in that country I knew how to wait.
Back then the rule was: If you see a waiting queue you get in line first and ask what is being sold second. It might even be bananas (though cherries were amazing enough!), and wouldn't it be a pity if they sold out before it was finally your turn? (Yes, I remember that, too. But in this case we were lucky and got delicious sweet black cherries after a long, long wait that became more endurable once my mother had finally returned to me.)
But that was Berlin, a city big enough to have such special sales once in a while. When we later lived in a small town everything was way more rationed; I don't remember any special sales. I remember rough skinned, grey-green booklets to write in, and the weird political marches we school children had to participate in on May 1st.

In the summer after the Iron Curtain fell we drove to West Germany. Apparently we had family living there that I would get to know now.
It was a weird experience - there was colour everywhere. Everything glowed with advertisements; I didn't know where to look to keep my eyes safe from that much agressive glowing.
Everything was beautiful, too. Lovely even streets without any cobblestone at all. Clean streets, clean houses; flowers and colours, and everything was neat, tidy and prettier than in any picture book I had ever seen.

When we returned to our part of the country it was not its shabbyness and its grey houses I noticed most stongly, but it was the sudden return of a noise I had never before consciously heard: The highways clattered. [Image: Horrible Highways]

After having driven for a week on silent, modern streets without any holes and not anymore built from slabs of concrete like ours, it was utterly strange to suddenly begin to hear our car clatter again as we skipped from cement plate to cement plate: rattle, rattle, rattle.

Slowly our country changed. The school system changed first - at least from my pretty limited point of view back then.
Later new streets were build. Shiny, increadibly pretty cars could be bought - instantly, actually. Nobody had to wait for 15 years anymore before they could finally buy the car they had applied for, and be happy if it actually came in the colour they had ordered it in.

Berlin has changed so much. When I return there today everything looks wrong: Pretty playgrounds. Modern streets. Buildings made from gleaming glass and steel. A multicultural city. (It still smells the same way it also smelled in my childhood, though.)
Sometimes I recognise a corner, and the Fernsehturm still looks the same.

I was a child in a country made from shadow and dust.

Sometimes I am surprised to find myself in a world that back then even the Science Fiction novels could not imagine.
And sometimes I am surprised at all the greyness I remember. Really, was it really like this? But it was, wiretappings and all.

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what a fascinating read! I have been to Berlin once, and I found myself mesmerised by the city. Thankyou for sharing this.


Thank you! :)

Berlin will always be my hometown, no matter where I live.


This was really fascinating. Thanks for sharing it.


Thank you for saying that. This is very personal.


It sounds like quite a change. I enjoyed reading about your memories. :)

(b&w&c) auge1:green

For all the adults back then it absolutely was. For me as a child it was mostly something I just noticed, nothing more, but I was truly glad that my father drove that long way to Berlin to get that very tasty west-food.

Other then that, the monday demonstrations were fun. I didn't know that I maybe should have been afraid that the regime might decide to come in and shoot us all down. I hadn't known anything about the Prague Spring...
Yet the adults knew and did it anyway. It simply was time for that change. It was in the air...

I remember the mood over the whole country. Every car wore a little green ribbon on their radio antenna, the colour of hope.

Thank you!


I could almost imagine myself in line beside you. awesome job!


Wow, I loved this. And now you are MY hero. <3

(and I want to ask you a million squillion questions about what it was like, but that'd be rude and nosy.)

butterfly on flower

but that'd be rude and nosy
- It would? Oh. I didn't know.

Shoot away if you like. I might not answer everything because some of this is very personal to me, but I'll do my best.

Thank you for your nice comment! :)

Edited at 2013-06-13 07:04 pm (UTC)


Wow. Really fascinating, and such a well-described testimony to the bleakness of before and how awful that lifestyle was.

I was a child in a country made from shadow and dust.
That phrasing is beautiful, and really matches the images you conveyed of that country.

(b&w&c) auge1:green

I feel that my testimony is barely a testimony because I lived such a sheltered life despite the tragic and fear of things happening around me that my parents never told me about. The less I knew the safer we all were.

That phrasing is beautiful, and really matches the images you conveyed of that country.
- Thak you! It really always felt that way when I looked back at that childhood in that country: I only remembered everything being grey, and very quiet. Today I understand that nobody wanted to be noticed. The Stasi was everywhere, after all.

Burton's Alice

Your use of detail made this world come alive. It's interesting to see it from the perspective of a child, which is different than anything we knew about it over here. The difference between the world behind the Iron Curtain and outside of it is beautifully illustrated by your first view of a grocery store.


Thank you!

That grocery store was definetely a shock to the system. When we came there that first time it was morning, maybe ten o'clock, and it was nearly empty. Such a huge store, but nobody was in it!

Today I know this store was just normal sized, but ... you have no idea how strange it is to go from ONE single brand of chocolate, bread, butter, milk, pasta, etc, to a myriad of brands and choices for increadibly many different products most of which I had never heard of. That, at that time, was incomprehensible to me. ... Especially the bananas that nobody stood in line for!

We had small Konsums (name of our grocery stores), smaller then a little flat, and either they had what we needed, or it was "out, deal with it." So strange thinking back to that, as in: How did anyone even survive?


This was amazing! I love the contrast of the dull gray and shadow and the blinding color of the other side.

I remember when the wall came down. I was in college. We were so excited watching it on television here, knowing that history was being made. We knew that our privilege didn't exist behind the curtain, but I don't think we truly comprehended what that meant exactly.

Thank you for the glimpse of what it was like.


Thank you!

It definitely meant a very significant change for a big part of the world.
All russian-controlled countries changed slowly from then on. It was much harder for the other eastern-european nations, though, than it was for East Germany, because we had West Germany who helped with increadible amounts of money to get us up to speed, but still.

They couldn't simply change the mindset of the people with whatever money they gave. These 40 years of dictatorship left a significant wound; and still East Germans are not quite like West Germans. It's not because of any prejudices but because of training. Thankfully, it's now more then twenty years ago, so the shadow in the hearts is slowly growing out of that part of my nation.


Fascinating... I left Moscow when I was too little to remember it, but my parents had similar experiences they recall. My mom went back there after 15 years and hated it, though. I guess they changed the city too much. Too her it became ugly and polluted.

pink flower

That's very interesting. Not everybody in East Germany was enthusiastic about all of the changes as well, because changes are always challenging in one way or another.
I think the lack of that fear of the government (read: of the Stasi, the horrible intelligence and secret police agency of the GDR) is definitely an improvement.


Edited at 2013-06-13 08:03 pm (UTC)


I loved this. So hard. My inner Cold War history nerd is geeking the hell out over here, because you experienced those differences first hand.

This was just so incredibly fascinating.


Times before and after told with contrast of grey and color. Very effective!

rainbow legs

this was an amazing insight into a world I can only imagine. Thank you for sharing.


This was really interesting, and I think it was a great choice for the prompt. It showcases your beautiful language and imagery really well, while telling us some stories that shed light on your past and the landscape and colors of your childhood. I enjoyed this a lot! Thanks for sharing with us!


I have a good friend who is Czech, and she remembers her parents saying, "Don't talk about that in front of her, she might repeat it at school." This was really interesting to read!

Blinking Cat

This was very interesting - thanks for sharing!

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