Peter Reichert became a new Canadian, together with 68 people from 24 countries, in a Kamloops ceremony on Nov. 1.
Peter was born in 1961 in Leipzig, communist East Germany.
As a youngster he would often listen to the forbidden radio broadcasts from the West. Peter says he “began to appreciate that there were two sides to this [the political/military confrontation of the day].”
As he grew older, his views and his questioning labelled him and limited his opportunities. He was taught the Germans on the other side of the wall “were my enemy, not my brothers. This I could not believe.”
At 5 a.m. on Feb. 2, 1982, Peter had just finished his compulsory military service, and he made his bid for freedom, running across the kilometre-wide no-man’s land between the East and the West.
When he heard the machine gun bullets kicking up the earth around him, he stopped and was arrested. Later, he found out that if he had continued, he would have run directly into a mine field.
Peter spent 13 months as a political prisoner before being rescued by the West German government, which paid for his release and transport to the West.
Peter first visited Canada in 1998, and moved here permanently in 2003. He was impressed by Canadian’s helpful spirit.
“The people brought me here, then the nature.”
The citizenship judge asked him to share his story, so other citizens could be reminded of the precious freedom we live.
Now, Peter continues the stonemasonry trade he learned in East Germany, practised in West Germany, and brought to Canada, imbuing his work with technical precision and the artistry that comes from a love of stone.
“Thank you, Canada,” he says.