Bridge across the Iron Curtain
On December 10, 1989 near Bratislava, on both sides of the river Danube by the Devín Castle, a project named Hello Europe took place. It was a people’s manifestation of desire for opening the borders and removing the barbed wire barricades. In reality, the event was planned as well as perceived as a nonviolent abolition of the Iron Curtain. The founders of the project were Martin Bútora and Ladislav Snopko, who belonged to the core of the founding members of the Public Against Violence Movement. Despite the fact that the realization of this kind of event was back then unimaginable, the organizers managed to carry it out even without any incidents. Although it was a very chilly day, tens of thousands of people joined the project and set out to the border crossing Berg. Thanks to many negotiations at the local authorities the organizers managed to guarantee that the people could cross the borders without any greater restrictions. This kind of movement at the Austrian border was until this time unprecedented. A huge mass of people set out to the Austrian side of the Danube River, where exactly opposite to the Devín Castle, they met with representatives of the Austrian side, particularly with the mayor of Hainburg. A temporary stage was built there from which several organizers spoke to the people. During this event approximately ten thousand people, mainly Bratislava citizens, gathered at the Devín Castle. Between these two big groups sailed a boat on the Danube, on which the loudspeaker system had been installed. It was strong enough to be heard by both riversides. The groups at the Devín Castle as well as on the Austrian bank had microphones, from where the signal was broadcasted by transmitters to loudspeakers placed on the boat. This way the aim of organizers was to create some kind of symbolic bridge of understanding that would connect both sides of the river Danube, which had been until then divided by barbed wire from the time of the Iron Curtain. The attendance of man named Karel Kryl was a unifying factor since Kryl, as an emigrant who worked in Radio Free Europe, and his songs were at the same time a symbol of resistance against the totalitarian communist regime in Czechoslovakia. By his presence Kryl connected both worlds divided by the Iron Curtain. There were more than a hundred thousand people present at this event; according to some estimates it may have been attended by approximately 150 thousand people in total.