TIME magazine has announced its 2015 "Person of the Year," and that person is German-born Angela Merkel. Currently serving as both the Chancellor of Germany and the de facto leader of the European Union, Merkel is, in TIME's estimation, "the most powerful woman in the world."

Merkel grew up in East Germany and recalls the construction of the Berlin Wall "as the first political memory of her life." The wall, paired with her status as the daughter of a Lutheran minister, helped her cultivate invaluable characteristics that have already changed the course of history: "patience, blandness, intellectual rigor and an inconspicuous but ferocious drive."

Since beginning her time as the leader of the European Union, Merkel has navigated the organization through not one but two major "existential crises" that could have dramatically changed the political landscape of the continent. The first was the crisis of the euro—the currency used by 19 of the union's nations—brought about by the poor financial decisions of Greece. The second, which Merkel spearheaded, was her decision to open Germany's doors to the rapidly increasing throngs of refugees and migrants, projected to total of 1 million this month (December).

Merkel justified her decision with the following statement: "In many regions war and terror prevail. States disintegrate. For many years we have read about this. We have heard about it. We have seen it on TV. But we had not yet sufficiently understood that what happens in Aleppo and Mosul can affect Essen or Stuttgart. We have to face that now."

The decision, however, marked a departure from form for Merkel, someone who admits to often playing the waiting game. But, as she explains, "We’ve always had this experience that things take long, but I’m 100% convinced that our principles will in the end prevail."

Read the full story over at TIME to find out more about Angela Merkel's childhood—spent dreaming of Hollywood—and her experiences before and after the Berlin Wall came down.

See Which World Leader + Celebs Survived Plane Crashes