Mario Wächtler's Story Transcript (Germany)
It was only my future. That was the only thing.
I did not want to stand still. The goal was to change my life, it did not matter how. This was not possible in East Germany, because there were no freedoms and I did not want to end like my parents or other pensioners in whose lives nothing changed. Until the last day (of their lives) it would only have been routine, without anything changing. That was the first reason (for my escape).
I had the idea to escape via the Baltic Sea for some time, since I had been there a lot on holiday and since I was a rescue diver. I always saw West Germany here in East Germany on the beach. Therefore, I only see the one way to escape via the Baltic Sea. In my eyes this was also the least dangerous route and on that route, I was my only enemy in that I hoped I was fit enough and had the necessary stamina to make it.
This is the beach from which I escaped to West Germany almost 30 years ago as an East German citizen. I walked along the beach and had a bag in my hands and I had checked out the route and how it would work. I then hid here in the bushes, changed my clothes because I was wearing a neoprene suit. I stuffed all my clothes in the plastic bag and left it there and waited quietly in the bushes. Then two East German border guards passed by with a German Shepherd and my heart dropped into my boots. I waited 20 minutes after they passed by and then I slowly walked into the water and immediately dove down into the water and put on my flippers, and snorkeled for about 500 meters. Then I surfaced slowly and looked back to see if everything was quiet, and it was. From then on, the goal was only to ‘Go West’ and the only enemy I still had was myself, as to whether I would be fit enough, whether I was healthy enough to make it, and it worked.
I swam for 19 hours and the border guards later calculated that I swam 38 kilometers.
During the morning a ferry drove from West Germany to Sweden and I thought the sister ship should return soon. I did not know where I was and if I would be able to follow its path. And some time in the afternoon—I did not have a feeling for the time—the sister ship came back and the ferry turned and drove around me, so that I was between the ferry and the border patrol boat. A small lifesaver was thrown down to me that I could hold on to, and a rescue boat was let down, drove towards me and pulled me in, and took me back to the ferry. While I was being pulled up to the ferry, the border patrol boat turned away. There were some passengers on the ferry that were standing on the railings, and they started clapping.
This is when I knew that I had made it.
Then my stamina was at an end as well, I was totally exhausted, I could no longer stand or do anything else.
We do not need to remember the 40 years of the wall between Germany as a positive thing. We should solve our problems with all means, with ambition and motivation and never should we strive to solve them with weapons.