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Photo credit: Christine Strotmann

1,202 kmfrom home
"I am absolutely certain that exchange can help to fight prejudices."
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“I came to Germany as a child as a so-called quota refugee. We were of Jewish descent and from the former Soviet Union – hence we could come to Germany in 2001.

The journey took 36 hours by bus. I had never travelled before, and it was altogether very exhausting. Our first stop was Dresden, where I saw a shopping mall for the first time in my life. It was also the first time in my life, when I wasn’t able to communicate. That was a shock!

At the beginning things were very difficult. For several months my mother, my father and myself had to share a room; but after the first week I already went to school.

I had always been good at school, so I wanted to be good in my German school as well. Therefore it was clear to me that I had to learn German well and very fast. From that point on I was pretty much on my own, my parents never learned German, and from an early age, I made my own decisions.

As any teenager, of course, I had problems during puberty. For me these problems were reinforced by identity struggles. I was always torn between the school and my life there, and the parallel world, in which I grew up.

I was forced early on to be self-reliant and even though I never took the leaving certificate, I had a Master’s degree under my belt when I was 22. From my own story I have learned something: In Germany there are too many obstacles in the way, for people to climb the social ladder – regardless whether they have a migration background or not. That’s why I’ve established an independent initiative called “Netzwerk Chancen”. We want to be a platform for dialogue to enhance the equality of opportunities in Germany.

I am absolutely certain that exchange can help to fight prejudices. Therefore I am engaging in dialogue between the different social classes, but also between different cultures. I am glad if I can further the Germans’ understanding of the people in the Ukraine and Russia.

Interestingly, from working with Russians I also know that my mentality is absolutely German. I am German. To me that is self-evident and normal. Germany is a very diverse country.”


This is a story by Christine Strotmann.

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