Dagmar Gester (Germany) & Diana Ivanova (Bulgaria)

BgTrGrenze_DGester_40353“Since there weren’t any Bulgarian colleagues on hostwriter at the time, I had to track Diana Ivanova through other channels. I’m writing this application from Wroclaw, where I successfully contacted Polish colleagus via hostwriter. This platform is incredibly helpful.” That’s what German journalist Dagmar Gester wrote to us, and we are really happy to hear that hostwriter is slowly making its way in more and more countries. She made a cross-border-research with Bulgarian journalist Diana Ivanova covering the implications of the Wall in Germany and Bulgaria. Inquiring into national narratives of recent history and bringing them into a critical relation, we feel that this German-Bulgarian writing alliance is a great example of the power of collaboration.
The collaboration
To explore the situation in Bulgaria and Germany 25 years after the Fall of the Wall, the corresponding stories of contemporary witnesses were at the heart of Dagmar Gester’s and Diana Ivanova’s journalism project. On the one side, the traumatizing experience of a GDR-refugee in Germany who tried to reach the West via the Bulgarian-Turkish border. On the other, the memories of Bulgarians living in exclusion zones close to this border under massive surveillance and the self-assessment of border patrols of the Bulgarian “people’s army” formerly stationed there. Dagmar Gester and Diana Ivanova developed and reprocessed the material in cooperation, which they both describe as an extraordinary experience:

„This co-working opened completely new ways in terms of intercultural communication. The German colleague was not just a contributor, she was at the same time a witness of her fellow countrymen’s experiences. In that way, the Bulgarians we interviewed couldn’t simply get rid of these bad experiences and say, that’s not true. This leads you to surprising revelations. I will never forget that.“ Diana Ivanova

„What was especially exciting for me was to experience how strong language is conditioned by  culture, politics and ideology. That makes it difficult to find words to communicate beyond these imprints. The cooperation has definately raised my sensibility towards language.“ Dagmar Gester

The project
„The starting point for our research was actually very different in both countries: In Germany, there has been an ongoing debate about the SED-regime since the end oft he GDR, however there are still blind spots. Like the memory oft he Fall of the Wall as an event within Germany itself, while the Wall really devided all of Europe and was just as hermetical and dangererous even at the sections that were furthest away from Germany.

In Bulgaria on the other hand, the discussion is just starting and with it, the debate about the repressions of the border regime. The Bulgarian outer borders of the Warsaw Pact reached up to 15 kilometers within the heartland which made almost a third of the country an exclusion zone. However, little is known about it within Bulgaria. This „not-knowing“ has made the cynical ideology of the old regime that all refugees are „criminals“ stay in the heads of many people.

The narratives in both countries are missing an important transnational, european dimension. The aim of our journalistic work is to engage a national as well as international discourse in both countries.” (D. Gester & D. Ivanova)