Imagine if you want to leave your country, but the authorities don’t allow you to do so.
Imagine your country cut off from the rest of the world by a wall that many dared not to cross.
That is how life was for people – not only in the former East Germany – but in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe.
Those who were caught on the run were sentenced to heavy prison sentences.
Thomas Lukow spent time behind bars in Berlin-Hohenschonhausen, a notorious jail where the Stasi detained prisoners.
“At some point it was clear to me: I want to get away from this country, I was young, I wanted to study, I wanted to see the world, I always had an itchy feet and my big dream was always New York. That’s where the desire to leave the country came from,” said Lukow, explaining why he had to try to flee East Germany.
He told euronews how the country’s intelligence service would interrogate prisoners.
“It was a gradual psychological process, which subconsciously became worse and worse. You asked yourself: ‘What do they really want? Where does this lead to? How many years will you get?”
In the early 1980s, Thomas Lukow was 18 years old when he quit the communist youth organisation of the German Democratic Republic.
He tried to flee at 21 years old but was arrested on the Czech border. A court sentenced him to a 20 month jail term.
Now, Lukow spends his days visiting schools to explain to younger generations how the Communist system worked in East Germany.
“It was a system that was enforcing their ideas in an immoral way, with terror and violence,” he said.
“So you have to ask? what can be good about this? if you let a whole continent – eastern Europe – degenerate, economically, ecologically and morally – then the idea is simply no longer suitable.”