Waiheke Marketplace : March 30th 2016
Don’t get caught on the Hopwith SuperGold Card P5 Waiheke Wednesday, March 30, 2016 FIRST WITH THE NEWS — EVERYWHERE, EVERY WEEK Wine& Food Festival on Saturday P3 Syd Hunter (left) welcomes old friend Mike Jellen to hisWaiheke home. The last time they met was 51 years ago at Jellen’s family apartment behind the Iron Curtain. PHOTO: DIANA WORTHY Iron curtain pals reunite DIANAWORTHY Syd Hunter has vivid memories of the holiday in Czechoslovakia 51 years ago when a stranger invited him home to covertly enquire about life in the West. Waiheke resident Hunter is now 87 and that ‘stranger’, Mike Jellen, has grown up, from a 20-year-old student living a grim life in former eastern bloc Czechoslovakia to a 71-year old Canadian businessman. Now Jellen is visiting his old friend on Waiheke and they’re reliving the event in post-war Europe that forged their lifelong friendship. Hunter says it all began when he and his wife visited the Czech town of Brno, inside the Russianruled Iron Curtain, during a holiday in 1965. He and his wife were among the first to visit Czechoslovakia, Russia and East Germany after World War II, he says, but residents in those countries weren’t allowed to travel or talk to Westerners without permission. The British couple were in their Austin van looking for a campsite but signage was poor so they stopped to ask directions. ‘‘Mike Jellen hopped in the car,’’ Hunter says, ‘‘took us to the camp ground, and then invited us to his home once it got dark. ‘‘He didn’t want to be seen with Westerners as it could have got his family in trouble with the authorities. It was all very clandestine. Police spied on everyone and visitors had to register every evening at the campsite. ‘‘If you didn’t, you were arrested. I was later arrested in East Germany for taking photos without prior permission.’’ Hunter says he arrived at Jellen’s home to find his parents – a physiotherapist and a dentist – were planning an escape to the West with their two sons. They were keen to know as much as RELAX, UNWIND AND GET IN A WAIHEKE STATE OF MIND Call Jean if you’re buying or selling Jean Clark 0275 831 272 firstname.lastname@example.org 6667568AR possible before leaving for Austria, where they had family. Shortly afterwards they fled and, travelling through communist-ruled Yugoslavia, finally reached safety. ‘‘Around half an hour after we’d crossed the final border, we all got out of the car and ‘kissed’ the ground,’’ Jellen says. He moved from Austria to Canada six months after the escape and has kept in touch with Hunter ever since.
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