Photo: Kyle Born
Britta lives above Design Within Reach, on the corner of Westminster and Eddy Streets. She is originally from a town about an hour from Hamburg, in Germany. “I grew up behind the Berlin Wall. I had a great upbringing – I was a very happy child. Part of that is because I was so young, and part of it is because I never knew anything else. If I’d been older, in my twenties, I’d probably have had more to complain about.”
“I was 16 when the wall came down. I was watching TV at home, and they said “Oh, so-and-so will announce that the borders are being opened up.” They had a big press conference, and the guy who said it, they didn’t prep him correctly. An Italian reporter asked “So when are you going to do it?” and the guy was like, “Umm… umm…” and he looked at his sheet of paper for the answer, and then he was like, “I think right now. Immediately.” I was like, “WOW!” People took that and ran with it.
“The border was an hour from where I was living. You still had to get a visa to go over there, even though the border was open, so my dad went to the police station the next day, which was a Friday, and he got us visas, and then on Saturday, my dad, my mum and I, we all went across the border. There was a big line of cars, so we parked our car about two miles away and we just walked.
“I always remember this very well, we went into the first grocery store and right away we just smelled all the fruit. We didn’t have a lot of fruit, so I remember the smell of pineapple and bananas and oranges, and then we went to the church, and I remember the smell of the church as well.
I was in Germany for another year and a half, and then I left. There was lots of layoffs, a lot of people lost money with the conversions, then the next year was the reunification, and then I was in high school. For me it worked out really well, because they cancelled most of my classes, as they had to revise the entire education system. My classes in how to be a good communist soon fell through!
“My entire Russian course got cancelled, my literature course got cancelled, my history course got cancelled. So basically my last year was a lot of science classes. And then I graduated. That was a big part of why I came over here. Because there was so much upheaval with the education system, I wanted to take a year off to see what would happen, and then go back to study.”
She joined an American-based agency as a nanny, and was sent to a family in Newton, MA. ” I was looking after two kids, aged two and four. They were little brats. I hated the job, it was terrible. That was in 1991-2, then I went back home for two years, studied for two years, but I still had a boyfriend over here, so I transferred back. My mum still tells the story that when I was four or five, I said “I’m going to go and live in the United States one day.'”
She now works in Cambridge as a consultant for a high-tech company, commuting there twice a week. The rest of the time, she works from home.
“I love it down here. I go a lot to Tazza for lunch, to the Red Fez, to Local 121. I know a lot of people who live in these buildings. There’s a pool nearby we go to in the summertime. Everything’s very close. My bank is right there, my dry cleaning. I just re-signed my lease, so I’m going to be here for another year, definitely.”