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A Taste of Freedom on Thanksgiving For East Germans

November 23, 1989

WEST BERLIN (AP) _ East Germans starting new lives on the western side of the Berlin Wall feasted on turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing Thursday, joining American soldiers for a mess hall Thanksgiving dinner.

″We’re sharing our holiday with the East Germans,″ said Maj. Terrence Meehan, public relations officer for the Berlin Brigade. ″We’re extending the hand of friendship.″

For dessert, besides pumpkin pie and hard candies, there were horns of plenty spilling over with apples, bananas, grapes and oranges set in front of a scale model of the Brandenburg Gate behind a tiny graffiti-covered Berlin Wall.

″I never had such a nice dinner. I never saw such a variety of food,″ said Beate Chilla, who arrived Wednesday from East Berlin with her husband and their two young sons. ″And everything’s decorated so nicely for the children.″

Paper napkins and tablecloths featuring orange and brown drawings of turkeys covered the mess hall tables at Andrews Barracks, a U.S. base on the southern outskirts of West Berlin.

Dozens of recent East German immigrants were bused from the city’s Marienfelde reception cam0 3/8re helped into voting booths on the first of three days of balloting.

″It’s a festival, everyone is having fun,″ said Dharam Chand, an election officer in this village 60 miles northwest of New Delhi.

Next to him on Wednesday, the line for entering one of the village polling centers was growing steadily. Each cart or tractor pulling up at the field in front of the center contained as many as 20 people.

Many were children wh/ 3/8 ormed groups and vied in shouting slogans of competing political parties. Several men settled under the shade of a tree to smoke the hookah, the pipe passed from person to person after each puff, before going in to vote.

″It’s my right to vote,″ said Karan Singh, a gray-haired farmer, when asked why the event was important. Singh spoke in Hindi, but switched to English to repeat: ″Fundamental right.″

″My wife and daughter-in-law are going in to vote now,″ he said, pointing to a group of about 10 women joining the queue with their heads and faces covered with red and green cotton scarves.

Wednesday’s polling was held in 15 of the country’s 25 states and in five of its seven federally-administered terri 1/4 olies. Other regions go to the polls Friday and Sunday.

″It’s the elections, but it is also a time to meet friends, gossip a little,″ said Chand, the election officer. ″Most of these people have taken a day off from the fields and won’t return home until late afternoon.″

″It’s also very peaceful. The police don’t have much to do,″ he said.

Elsewhere in the country, there was scattered violence during the polling. Dozens of people were killed in fights between rival political groups.

The farmers at Meham were reluctan 7/8 so disclose who they would vote for. ″It seems a close battle between the hand and the wheel,″ said one, referring to the election symbols of the governing Congress Party and the National Front, an opposition coali.Y 5/8 a)DK) W 3/8KU LiS- 3/8 CYA e- 3/8 iAQCgA 1/8 -k 3/8 iKIACAgie- 3/8 OAGQCYYK 3/8 OKAi-A 3/8eS K S 3/8 SgiKeARajiv Gandhi’s Congress Party and many political analysts predict it will form the next government. But precise predictions are difficult because more than two-thirds of the voters live in biclages, often isolated from the election issues considered crucial.

’.W don’t know what will happen,″ said the Meham farmer. ″But we’ll know by Monday.″

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