After 30 years of no contact, former trainees stand by their word

Historie | People at thyssenkrupp | A pledge must not be broken – even if it’s 30 years old. Even if Anke and Karin had not been in contact for decades. Even if they have gone completely different ways and they now live in totally different regions of Germany. At the age of 19, the two trainees pledged to meet up under the Eiffel Tower in Paris – on September 1, 2019. A full thirty years later!

There are some people where you realize straight off that the two of you are on the same wavelength. Conversations simply flow naturally from the get-go and time flies. The same went for Anke and Karin when they first met during their traineeships at Orenstein&Koppel, a predecessor of thyssenkrupp. Anke was a trainee in her first year, Karin already in her second year at O&K. “We used to sit together and chat every lunch break. And when there was something I didn’t know or I needed help with, I could always ask Karin,” recalls Anke.

Even 30 years later the chemistry between Anke and Karin is still right. It was always clear to both of them that they wanted to keep their promise.

Even 30 years later the chemistry between Anke and Karin is still right. It was always clear to both of them that they wanted to keep their promise.

They spent every lunch break together – but Anke and Karin always knew the end of their training period was in sight. Karin would take her training exam in January 1990, after which they’d part ways. That they still wanted to see each other again was clear to the two aspiring technical draughtswomen. That’s why they came up with an extraordinary idea on July 7, 1989.

Pledge recorded in writing on drawing tubes

September 1, 2019 was set as the day of their reunion – more than 30 years later! On the one hand, this date marks the starting date of their training on September 1, on the other hand, they would both turn 50 in 2019. All they needed now was to decide on a location that would be just as celebratory as their reunion would be. “I can’t remember exactly who came up with the idea and how we decided on the venue,” says Anke. They made a written note of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and of the date. From that moment on, this mutual pledge adorned the drawing tubes of both Anke and Karin.

30 years of silence do not invalidate a promise

In fact, it was these very tubes that continually reminded Anke and Karin of their pledge over the years. After her training, Karin moved from Ennigerloh in the Münsterland region of central Germany to Munich in the south. “Life was different back then. There were no social networks or WhatsApp, not even the opportunity to call each other regularly. That’s why we quickly fell out of touch,” says Anke today.

Karin, left, and Anke, right, have recorded their promises on their drawing tube.

Karin, left, and Anke, right, have recorded their promises on their drawing tube.

For a full 30 years, the two women did not talk to one another once. Absolutely no contact – not a single phone call, e-mail or letter. The only thing that connected them was written on their drawing tubes: September 1, 2019, 1 p.m., Eiffel Tower.

And that’s precisely what made these drawing tubes so important for both women. “Every time I moved house, my husband asked me: ‘Hey, does this have to go too?’ And I answered: ‘Of course it has to.’”

Such an incredible story that even close friends couldn’t believe it

Hardly anyone in Anke’s circle of friends believed this reunion in Paris would actually take place. “No way she’ll turn up,” they said. Anke however was always sure that Karin would show up. But: “What if Karin’s not well? Or she can’t make it for some reason? You can never be totally sure,” says Anke.

That explains why she was so excited as she traveled to Paris together with her husband. “If she doesn’t come, at least we can spend a nice weekend together there,” they say to each other. At 11.30 p.m. on Sunday, they stood in line at the security check – Anke with her drawing tube slung over her shoulder.

A long-awaited reunion under the Eiffel Tower

A drawing tube isn’t something that goes unnoticed for long in such a place. Employees approach Anke and her husband and soon discover the story behind the long-planned meeting. So you now have not only Anke and her hubby but also lots of security officers, photographers, and tour guides keeping an eye out for another woman with a drawing tube.

A written promise - 30 years later, fulfilled.

A written promise – 30 years later, fulfilled.

Given the crowd of love-struck couples, tour parties, and families milling around, Anke briefly worries she may never find Karin. But then everything happens very quickly – a woman walks by just a yard away from Anke. “Look, she has a drawing tube,” says her husband. Anke calls out her name three times before Karin turns around – and they’re standing face to face again for the first time in 30 years.

The chemistry hasn’t changed even today

At second glance, neither of them seems to have changed. And the chemistry between them is still there. Like in the old days during those lunch breaks, they hardly stop laughing. And time still flies. For six hours, Anke and Karin reminisce and, together with their husbands, talk about all the things they have missed out on sharing over the past 30 years.

And both agree that they certainly don’t want to wait such a long time again until they next meet up. “Even if we briefly played with the idea of whether we would like to schedule the next meeting for 30 years’ time, leaving it until we’re 80 would be crazy,” says Anke, laughing. There’s no way they could go that long without seeing each other. They’re going to meet up again next year – and they’ve also moved with the times and swapped cell phone numbers.

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