Photo Credit: Carsten Busch
“I left Poland as a child at the age of four in the summer of 1989. We had permission to visit relatives in Germany, and just didn’t return. My parents could not bear living in Poland anymore. They had just realised nothing was progressing. What was about to happen later in 1989, of course, they could not foresee.
So my parents, with two little children and two pieces of luggage, went to a foreign country, to start a new life. I am still very grateful to them. Even though the iron curtain fell shortly after, Germany is the better place for me, I could grow up here with way more liberties.
To my parents the arrival in Germany was a shock. We are Silesian, so of German descent and in Poland we were always considered ‘the Germans’, so that’s how my parents saw themselves. But then they came here, and their German was not even good enough to understand the people. Furthermore in Germany we were immediately ‘the Poles’. My parents could never really bridge this gap – to be the Poles here and the Germans there, but never to be part of the group.
To spare my brother and me from this experience, they stopped speaking Polish immediately, even amongst themselves. So we all learned German straight away, but nowadays I have the Polish vocabulary of a child, unfortunately.
I personally considered myself as German very fast, but from the outside I was often labelled differently. Polish people had a very bad standing at that time in Germany and I have received racist taunts by other young people quite often.
To me my migration background is something positive. It’s an enrichment and simply a part of me. If somebody asks where I’m from, I tell them Poland but that I grew up in Germany.
Of course, I have a special connection to Poland. It is where my cradle was, period. But it‘s not my home. I cannot identify with the country.
To me migrating was the start into a wonderful life full of freedom and opportunities. This freedom is absolutely important to me – and as a German and European I have it, and enjoy it.”
This is a story by Christine Strottman.