I knew then it wasn’t Reagan’s work alone. John Paul II and Lech Wałęsa were instrumental in Poland, as was Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia. Years later I learned about Otto von Habsburg, last crown prince of Austria-Hungary, and his role in the Pan-European Picnic, held near the border between Hungary and Austria in August 1989. The frontier would be "open" symbolically for a few hours. When hundreds of East Germans seeking a route to the West (or just hanging out at that old socialist vacation spot, West-Central Hungary’s Lake Balaton) got wind of it and showed up at the crossing, confused Hungarian border guards let them through. Then thousands more began seeking asylum, even climbing over the fence and into West Germany’s embassy compound in Prague. And then an East German official misspoke on the night of 10-11 November, and the rest is history.
I left for Czechoslovakia the next fall, and that’s when my passion for travel began.
You can read more on the significance of Reagan's speech in this Russian Life article.