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Hungary

Iron Curtain Border Guard Watches New Walls Rise

As a border guard in 1989, Arpad Bella personally opened a portion of the Iron Curtain between Hungary and Austria to a crowd of East German refugees. Today, while migrants rush to the gates of Europe, he sadly watches history run backward.

Arpad Bella, the man who first opened the Iron Curtain
Arpad Bella, the man who first opened the Iron Curtain
Doan Bui

SOPRON Sometimes photographs speak for themselves. This one, for instance, in black and white in an old yellowed issue of Stern magazine that retired border guard Arpad Bella has kept safe all these years. There he is, a much younger version of himself, standing in uniform next to a barrier at the border between Hungary and Austria, in Sopron. The wall is open and Bella allows through a crowd of people lining up to cross. They are Eastern Germans, and that was in 1989.

These pictures of crowds crossing through barbwire gates resemble other, more recent photographs — from this year, in fact. From Syria and Iraq come the same scenes of distraught exodus, but 26 years later.

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