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When the wall came down

Exchange student discusses Berlin Wall

By Angie Landsverk



Phil Carstensen was born years after the Berlin Wall’s fall.

“You can see signs of where the border wall was,” says the Rotary Youth Exchange student from Germany.

While the fall of the wall took place in 1989, he said the event impacted his life.

“My parents were both born in East Germany,” Carstensen said.

They were teenagers when the wall fell, he said.

“If it had not happened she would not have had as many opportunities,” Carstensen said of his mother.

A high school dropout, his mother finished high school after the wall came down, he said.

She went on to get a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate.

Because the event affected his family personally, Carstensen chose it for the topic of his recent presentation to the Waupaca Rotary Club.

Dick Bidwell is a member of the club, and was at the meeting when Carstensen spoke.

“Part of what struck me is all this talk about walls, and here he’s talking about a wall that divided and separated and how it still affects today,” Bidwell said. “He is so articulate for a 16-year-old.”

Bidwell is the president of Winchester Academy’s board.

He approached Ann Buerger Linden, the group’s executive director.

“I just think this needs a wider audience,” Bidwell said to her.

The Waupaca Rotary Club, Winchester Academy, Waupaca Area Public Library and Waupaca Historical Society soon decided to co-sponsor a program.

“The Fall of the Berlin Wall: Its History and Impact” is the title of Carstensen’s presentation at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 1, in the library’s lower-level meeting rooms.

Coffee and cookies precede it at 6 p.m.

Donations go toward the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.

Each sponsor has it own constituents, Bidwell said.

For Winchester Academy, it has been a goal the “last few years to collaborate with other groups where it makes sense to do so,” he said.

A Winchester program was not scheduled on April 1, and the library’s meeting space was available.

“So the format is as if it were a Winchester program,” Bidwell said.

The presentation has a historic context and a current event connection, he said.

“The wall came down before Phil was born, but he’s still obviously living it,” Bidwell said.

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