by Verena Spilker

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Everyone I know has something to say about freedom, because none of us really has it.

When the Berlin Wall came down I was nine years old. I remember watching TV with my parents - everybody cried and we were so full of joy and hope. It was emotional for me as a kid from West Germany, even though I did not have any immediate family in the East. 

Freedom: it was what the end of the Cold War seemed to mean - freedom of everything, for everyone. But this feeling somehow seems to have been lost since 1989. So where did it go?

I wanted to find out what Europe, with its promise of togetherness, of support and of civil liberties really meant to me and if I still believed in it. The storyline that interests me most in this context is our interpretation of freedom, starting with my own.  

As an anthropologist I am interested in why the world and human beings work the way they do. 

How does freedom work in Europe? How does it work elsewhere? And last but not least, how does it affect me personally?

When I was growing up, my perception was that as a woman I was taught to make sure that everybody else was alright before I looked after my own needs. So I wondered, do we actually know who we are and what we want? Or do we just know what we don’t want? And even if we don’t want something - are we actually able to say or do we just swallow our feelings so that we don’t upset others?

At the beginning of this journey I started to explore philosophical and religious concepts of freedom and I found myself getting more confused and distracted than before. So I decided to ask my friends for help. I wrote to over two hundred friends on Facebook and asked them to record a short voice message for me about freedom. I only gave them one day to answer and twenty-seven of them were up for the challenge. What they had to say took me on a very emotional journey, to say the least. I still have tears in my eyes when I attempt to talk about it. 

The result has been a series of podcasts featuring voices of people from all walks of lives, which is rich in perspectives. 

Avi suggests that freedom is something that can best be defined from a position of not having it. Ben is adamant that we can only be free if all of us are free. There is Chandra’s experience of why she moved to Europe. Anastasia has an interesting idea about where she thinks freedom comes from. 

I would really like to invite you to listen to all of these powerful messages. Once I complete the project, it will nest at, where you could also share your own thoughts and experiences.

For Reflecting Europe I have mixed a special feature to take you on a journey towards freedom. I hope we can share it together, because I won’t be free if you are not. And you will not be free without me. 


About the author:

Verena Spilker is the founder of Transnational Queer Underground, a web and media designer and anthropologist from Berlin. She is interested in exploring the relationship of the self to the other, how we exchange and the nature of places where we can come together.