"Learn, learn and learn again." - Lenin
I grew up with this "quote". It was given to me as a piece of advice since I can remember. I was told it when I stood with my school report in front of grandma's and grandpa's door and hoped for 1 Mark for each A and 50 Pfennig for every B. My Opa said it when the last math class test did not go that well, or just as a farewell greeting combined with a clap on my shoulder. It got so far that I with rolling eyes obediently repeated Lenin's quote when Opas asked "Well, how do I always use to say?".
"Learn, learn and learn again."
Now after almost 37 years, I can say that there is something to it.
I've learned that you can sometimes understand your home and family better if you look at them from a distance. This journey took me first to the UK, now to Norway and on my way there I've met so many wonderful people from all across the world. From them and through the exchanges I had with them, I have learned that my home country, my childhood and many of my characteristics are special and that there are stories that are worth telling.
We East Germans, we the children that watched the Berlin wall fall, but also we the WW2 grandchildren and great-grandchildren who still have or had grandmas and great-grandmothers, that had told us stories of World War II. We the generation that can and wants to ask more. We who find the photos and want to do the research our parents did not do. We who were never directly influenced by the trauma of the World War, but who nevertheless perceived a lot subliminally. It is us who now want to explain the absurd GDR idea of FKK nudism to an Englishman. It is us who tell the Norwegian author more about the mass suicide of women in our own hometown or who, together with our American friend, go through the SS pictures of our family. And we are also the ones whose job it is to strive for this intercultural communication.
I learnt a lot in the last years about my family's, Norway's and my hometown's history that have resulted in three projects close to my heart. One is a book that is until now only been published in Norwegian but that deals with the mass suicide in Demmin. The another is a more recent project I am allowed to take part in, where I will research events in Berlin Treptow in the 1940s that will be turned into a documentary.
The last is a very personal project in which I research the history of the Oskar Elster, the brother in law of my great grandmother. He was a prisoner of war in the Crossville camp in Tennessee, USA after he served under Erwin Rommel in Africa.
So with the stories around my hometown Demmin, the many unknown stories from Norway, with my memories and thoughts, and the projects around the Demmin Novel , Oskar Elster & 1945 Berlin Documentary and all the things I learned on the way, maybe there a some people out there that can relate to it, find it interesting and have similar family stories. It is for those people that find themselves in these stories.
Nothing more I wish for.
"To reunite, you have to leave first."