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One year after the November 9, 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall, artist Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill, introduced her Breakthrough sculpture to a crowd of 7,000 people gathered on the campus of Westminster College. The 11-foot-high by 32-foot-long structure, perhaps the most important monument to be constructed on American soil since the Vietnam War Memorial, began as a dream in the mind of its sculptor.
With the support of Westminster College and patron Richard Mahoney, Sandys and her husband, Richard Kaplan, met with of officials in East Berlin in February 1990. Upon arrival in Berlin, the couple realized their plans to secure large portions of the wall would be costly, as 4-foot-wide sections were selling at a cost of $60,000 to $200,000. This obstacle, however, was solved when officials, impressed by the idea of a Berlin Wall monument being erected near the site of Churchill's 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech, allowed Sandys to choose eight sections as a gift to the College. Sandys chose her sections from an area near the Brandenburg Gate, frequented by artists, because of the dramatic color of the graffiti. The repeated use of the word "Unwahr," within the sections, which in German means "lies" or "untruths" also appealed to her.
"I had always wanted to make a sculpture for the Churchill Memorial at Westminster, and this seemed the perfect moment to do something," Sandys said. "Friends in Berlin had come back with tiny little pieces of wall, and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to make a sculpture'. I thought I'd better go straight (to Berlin) while there was some wall left."
On November 9, 1990, after a nine-month effort, the Breakthrough sculpture stood appropriately in the foreground of the National Churchill Museum. Former President Ronald Reagan, Senator John Ashcroft and German Minister Plenipotentiary Fritjof von Nordenskjoeld, Sandys introduced her sculpture to the assembled crowd. Forty-four years after her grandfather warned of an "iron curtain," the wide open doors of "Breakthrough" provided a concrete image of the newly realized freedom in Eastern Europe.
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