When Annie Macnaughton left the comfortable bubble of cosmopolitan Melbourne in 1990, she knew about the horrors of war and persecution, albeit secondhand.
She was well read, educated, from a family who travelled and regularly discussed world events at the dinner table.
She knew about the bitter standoff that was the Cold War and that only months before, the Berlin Wall had fallen.
Annie and her friend Cath left Australia in April 1990 and arrived in Berlin on the 1st July that year.
This was the day that East and West Germany ceased to exist and when the East Germans were given their Deutschmarks.
She received one of the last ever stamps for East Germany in her passport, a lasting imprint of a country and a movement disappearing as fast as the ink dried on the paper.
What could very well be deemed a rite of passage for Annie, was coinciding with millions of people experiencing their own rites of passage, the right to freedom for the very first time.
Annie and Cath entered East Berlin through the now famous Checkpoint Charlie, which for 28 years had been the only crossing point for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. They were in a little red car with their two West Berlin friends Christof and Andreas.
Before they entered East Berlin, they stopped at a small museum, haphazardly erected at Checkpoint Charlie.
Desoltion, decay and war stories aside it was in this tiny museum that Annie found herself moved instead by something very beautiful.
She wrote in her journal of that time.
Annie is referencing footage from Sunday 12 November 1989. A free concert was put on in West Berlin for East Berliners following the opening of border crossings at midnight on the 9th November.
It was perhaps the first time most East Berliners had ever experienced their own Philharmonic Orchestra.
Annie says more about how she felt when she watched this very clip, 25 years ago.
After leaving the Checkpoint Charlie museum, Annie’s experience of the day in East Berlin conveys two main messages; dullness and silence.
The small but potent value of stories like this is to take our understanding of persecution and war from our minds to our hearts.
It reminds us that life is not only hard because basic necessities are harder to come by or restrictions are in place. But it’s also the denial of beauty, expressed through art and music, which strips people of something very fundamentally human.
Annie says she came home from that trip the same but different. It reinforced what she already knew and she now imparts her understanding from this onto her own children.
Sometimes it is the smallest moments, the ones we are not expecting – like a moment of great music – that shift us into realising what unites us as human beings is far greater than what separates us.