Spectator on facebook

Spectator on facebook

50 YEARS SINCE 1968

Architect who fled in 1968 helped shape the face of Hamburg

Slovakia today grapples with the same problems as Germany and Austria, opines Peter Gero.

Peter Gero and wife in Germany. (Source: Peter Gero archive)

“There was hope for a life of freedom at home by the end of 1967,” recalls Peter Gero, a Slovak-born German citizen who decided to leave his native country when it was invaded by foreign tanks.

At the turn of 1967-1968 the totalitarian regime opened up to the idea of a pluralist society. Gero recalls the intensive, open discussions about politics, culture, economics and education going on in the country at that time. The atmosphere produced high hopes for the generation of people who were then in their twenties.

“The shock that the demonstration of brutal military violence brought was therefore even stronger,” Gero says as he recalls what he felt like in the days after the Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia.

Within a few days, on August 26, he decided to leave the country. His reason was simple – Gero was afraid that the short thaw in the regime was over, as were the democratising tendencies of Czechoslovakia.

Like most people who left from Bratislava, Gero bought a ticket to Vienna and from there he took a train to Hamburg, Germany. He had almost no knowledge of the German language. When he looks back at that time, he believes that being an immigrant to Germany boosted his career. He felt that his work performance had to be outstanding.

Read also:Gero: Bratislava is a good city for living

He became a prominent architect. The way Hamburg looks today is partly the result of his work. He held the post of director of city development and was responsible for the project of urban regeneration which transformed the old port warehouses in Hamburg into a new quarter, HafenCity.

Today, Gero sees Slovakia as a country of dynamic development tightly anchored in the EU and NATO.

“Our pluralist society has a hard job finding and creating a new identity for Slovakia,” Gero opined. The problems he sees in his native country are comparable to those that Germany and Austria are dealing with.

When he looks at Bratislava today he does not necessarily look for the city where he grew up.

“I like to interpret the footprints of history in today’s development,” Gero said.

The processing of personal data is subject to our Privacy Policy and the Cookie Policy. Before submitting your e-mail address, please make sure to acquaint yourself with these documents.

Top stories

Slovak healthcare needs thousands of medical workers

Slovak doctors, nurses and midwives are not hesitating in finding better work conditions abroad.

Illustrative Stock Photo

Fight with traffickers thwarted online sale of hockey tickets

The algorithm not only prevented traffickers but also ordinary fans from buying tickets.

Waiting for tickets in Košice

Spectacular Slovakia #3: Unexpected hiking (Enjoy Bratislava's greenery) Audio

In Slovakia, you can hike in the capital city. Listen to the latest episode of our travel podcast to find out more.

Institutions can be quickly destroyed, but they are hard to build

Head of the To Dá Rozum intiative, Renáta Hall, talks about the impacts of a dispute between the academy of sciences and the Education Ministry.

Renáta Hall