The Christian Science Monitor assigned me an interesting story from the German-Polish border, examining how residents were reacting to Poland's recent rightward political shift following that country's elections. It's an incredibly fascinating place -- with tensions and rivalries that date back to centuries of conflict.
You can read the story here: With rightward tilt, will Poland pick a new fight with Germany?
The marshy Oder River separates the eastern German city of Frankfurt an der Oder from its twin on the Polish side, Slubice, but there are no border checkpoints here and crossing from one country to the next is as easy as walking across a concrete and steel bridge.
Wars, contested borders and economic disparity had once made bitter enemies out of residents on each side of the Oder, but following Poland’s entry into the European Union and the subsequent dismantling of borders, the twin cities have emerged as a symbol of German-Polish reconciliation and European unity.
But residents worry that Poland’s rightwing shift in last month’s general election could bring that cooperation to an end.
The vote resulted in a landslide victory by the right-wing eurosceptic Law and Justice Party (PiS), whose leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is well known for his staunchly anti-German views. Now, there are growing fears in both Frankfurt and Slubice that the party’s sweep to power could revive historical grudges and bring lingering resentments to the surface.
Slubice was part of Frankfurt until Hitler’s defeat in 1945, when the victorious Allies redrew Germany’s eastern border along the Oder River, handing Poland nearly 40,000 square miles of German land. Millions of ethnic Germans were expelled from their homes, replaced by new Polish settlers.
In the Communist era, Poland and East Germany became forced allies in the Soviet bloc, but residents of Frankfurt and Slubice remained deeply suspicious of each other and movement between the two cities was restricted.
When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, so too did the barriers across the Oder. But the relations were largely transactional: Germans would cross over to Poland to stock up on cheap cigarettes and gasoline, while Poles would buy higher quality products in Germany.