Memories of ghost trains and ghost stations in former East and West Berlin

Anja Werner & Sarah Fichtner (text & story)
Azam Aghalouie & Hassan Tavakoli (illustrations & video)

How did it feel to ride the underground train underneath the divided city of Berlin? Passing through dimly lit, construction site-like stations where trains no longer stopped? What was it like to hear those very trains rumbling underground, but not being able to reach them from East Berlin? To picture them as ghost trains that didn‘t actually exist?

Memories of ghost trains and ghost stations in former East and West Berlin is the title of a collaborative, international motion comic project made in Berlin. 

The story is based on the childhood memories of historian Anja Werner – born in Naumburg-Saale – and social anthropologist Sarah Fichtner – born in West Berlin. 

Illustrations and motion design are contributed by the artist duo (Mina) Azam Aghalouie and (Farshid) Hassan Tavakoli from Iran. 

It all began in September 2019, during a workshop organised in Berlin by the project Re-Connect / Re-Collect: Crossing the Divides through Memories of Cold War Childhoods, co-led by Zsusza Millei (University of Tampere), Nelli Piattoeva (University of Tampere) and Iveta Silova (Arizona State University). During this workshop, Sarah Fichtner shared her West Berliner childhood memory of riding the underground train through the “ghost station” of East Berlin. In turn, Anja Werner recalled a scene from her childhood where she actually heard such “ghost trains” rumbling underneath an apartment in East Berlin. The meeting of these memories formed a bond between the two storytellers. Intuitively, both knew that their perspectives had to be captured – in form of a joint story. It was equally clear that this story needed a more lively medium: the idea for a motion comic was born. They were able to capture the interest of the illustrator duo Azam Aghalouie and Hassan Tavakoli from Iran. Azam and Hassan arrived in Berlin in 2017 and remain fascinated by the extraordinary history of this city until today. 

The motion comic, which is set to make its online debut on November 9th, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, stands for encounters on multiple levels: memory meets memory, East meets West, two German stories meet the imaginative force of Iranian artists, illustration turns into motion picture.

The production of this motion comic was made possible by the generous support by the Kone Foundation, Finland, which financed the research project described above.

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