Some days ago, I saw a very interesting theater play: “Sophie and me”, written by the Austrian author Ursula Kohlerts. The story is about a fictional friendship between the two German women Sophie School and Traudl Junge. Both of them have lived under the Nazi regime, but had never met each other in reality. The play brings them together to ask the audience the important question: What would you do?
The women get to know each other as young girls at a “Bund deutscher Mädchen” (League of the German girls) camp and become best friends. The following scenes show how both characters will develop in very different ways.
I completed my bachelor degree from the University of Heidelberg in the field of German Literature, Political Science and Anthropology. Many famous intellectuals studied in Heidelberg. One of them is the most well-known female political theorist: Hannah Arendt.
During my time in Prague, I had the chance to visit the Franz Kafka Museum. Kafka’s life demonstrates that multicultural societies are nothing new in Europe. Kafka was a Jew. His mother tongue was German. He was born in the Czech Republic. He died in Austria. Despite the lame rhetoric of racist and populist politicians, Europe was always home to people with fluid identities.
In the beginning of September, I was one out of 100 participants from 50 countries selected for the IOM Summer School on Migration Studies in Prague, Czech Republic.
IOM, established in 1951, is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and has more than 100 offices worldwide. IOM joined the United Nations on September 19, 2016. The IOM Summer School was a great opportunity for me to gain more knowledge about migration theories and policies. I could discuss the root causes of racism and xenophobia with scientists and share interesting stories with people who work in NGOs, refugee camps and detention centers worldwide.
My mum’s dad had passed away before I was born. She told me a few stories about him and my curiosity to know more about my grandfather grew every year. He was a Slovakian citizen, but some of his family members belonged to the German diaspora in Slovakia. As a young man, he worked as an informant during World War II and moved to Germany after the end of the war.
Last year, I finally decided to visit the Slovak capital Bratislava because I wanted to get to know more about my cultural roots and this small overlooked place in Eastern Europe.
Whenever I tell others »I am a poet«
They look at me as if I am ancient
For them, my mind seems to be like a porcelain cup in an antique shop
Although I read yellowed pages of countless books
And I write some verse
My soul is not filled with memories of better days
I believe in the true meaning of poïesis
“to bring forth something new”
Caught between past and future
My body contains the code of evolution
But my lungs inhale fresh air
Scars on my skin, my dreams at night remind me of my mistakes
At the same time
I try to create a life that no one has ever lived before
My recent research topic was the life of the British writer, poet and anthropologist Verrier Elwin. He came to India as a missionary and dedicated his life to the tribes. Gandhi and Nehru were his close friends. Elwin wanted an independant India as well as an improvement of the life conditions of the Indian tribes. His weapon was no gun: “The pen is the chief weapon with which I fight for my poor.”
Verrier Elwin wrote many many books and articles, especially about the culture of the Indian tribes. He was convinced that by making them visible, the other people would admire them as much as he did. He published books about tribal social structure, mythology, songs, poems and fairy tales. He said: “Ethnography is itself a powerful instrument for the succour of the tribesmen. The more you can make people known, the more you will make them loved. If we can inspire officals, traders, contractors with a genuine interest in the life and culture of the villagers with whom they have to deal, they will treat them far better and try to further their interests.”
Elwin also had his weaknesses but his contribution in making a hidden culture visible and better understood. He shows how powerful a pen can be. Here is one of his poems:
Adibasi (1952) by Verrier Elwin
How tired they are, and what a sombre grace
Time has drawn on the wise old faces, grey
With the death of children, and no release
From want that rules day after anxious day.
There was life there once, and joy in recreation,
Dancing and laughter, love among the trees,
But little now save sullen speculation
Of what the future has and where it leads.
Old rules are broken, boys go to the town;
Children are married in a loveless tie;
The ancient forest is no more their own;
The women lose their treasured liberty.
New customs which are little understood
Drive out the old, leave nothing in their place.
The old men suck their wooden pipes, and brood,
And tremble for the future of their race.