11 March 2010

Living next to the chemical works at Bitterfeld ....

From Jane's diary: 11 March 1990, 2am

It's two o'clock in the morning. I am supposed to preach in the morning, and I can't sleep.

The time at Wittenberg came to an end in February. Stephen finally managed to be given a visa and has visited a couple of times. The prayers for renewal are continuing but with far fewer people as in the autumn. The atmosphere is very different now. The election campaign has started, posters are being put up everywhere, even in the shops. I make a speech on behalf of the SPD, the social democrats. It was quite fun, though I have to say even I am not quite convinced that they would get my vote in this situation.

One by one the other students left Wittenberg and went back to their parishes and congregations. It was strange to say goodbye and to know that this part of my life here had come to an end.

I am doing an internship with Axel and Gisela Noack in Wolfen (known for its photographic film factory ORWO, for Original Wolfen. It used to be Agfa until the Second World War). I've moved into the empty manse in Greppin, a small industrial village half way between Wolfen and Bitterfeld. On three sides the village is surrounded by the Bitterfeld Chemical Works. The people of Wolfen and Bitterfeld argue as to who has the most polluted town, but the people of Greppin don't have to argue, they just know that it very rarely doesn't stink here.

From my window I can look over the cemetery to a wonderful view of the factory chimneys. The one that's closest to us has a permanent plume of smoke. It's 2 o'clock in the morning, and I have to hold my first sermon in the morning, and I can't sleep. The air is terrible. The factory seems to pump out even more filth at night than during the days. The noise just carries on. Sometimes in the middle of the night I am a sit up, bolt awake, when the sirens go. I can't get the nightmare out of my mind - what would happen if the chemical works went up in smoke?

(The picture shows the manse in Greppin, from April 2009. The chemical works have gone now. More pictures from this disappeared past can be found here.)


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