How do I feel 2

Wossi 2: I often feel lonely

My father often brought me children's books from his travels in the GDR, which contrasted nicely with those that were usually read to me. In the children's books of the GDR, Hirsch Heinrich broke out of loneliness from his enclosure and ran into the forest, but was so sad there that he returned voluntarily, but then the teacher and his school class cared for him very nicely, a cloud lair dreamed of sheep in heaven and saved a child and in the book “Universe-Earth-Man” I was able to admire stone age people.

In my western children's reading, a child's thumbs were cut off so that the blood spattered, a girl burned miserably, one starved to death, and one dipped into a giant inkwell as just punishment for not taking the advice of the adults to heart. In another book, two cheeky boys were first ground into flour because of their wild bullying behavior, and I found it particularly cruel that the fragments of the boys were rearranged in their original forms, then baked in a hot oven and finally thrown to the ducks to eat.

In the fairy tales that were read to me, bellies were cut open, bricks were put in, people were turned to stone, poisoned and other things like that which promoted sleep. So it was that the GDR books made me easier and I loved them.

Even as a child I had heard Tucholsky's and Brecht's songs, sung by Ernst Busch; Later, when I was growing up in East Berlin, I visited the Brechttheater and had always bought me history, art and Marxism books, but also literature from the Weimar Republic, exile, from Heine, Lessing or Büchner from my compulsory exchange in the Alexanderplatz bookstore and still was always remained a tourist. More than that: a stranger. We had neither relatives nor friends "over there", I was unable to get in touch with the real people there. I've always regretted that.

But I was also not free from skepticism about what I was experiencing “over there”. After all, the tone there was just as authoritarian as I knew it well enough from my childhood, and which Peter Weiss complained about when he explained why he would never want to live in either East or West Germany. I traveled twice with trade union groups, and even then everything seemed a bit stiff, inauthentic and deliberate. After all, I grew up with Dutschke's “Neuer Linke”, when I was 13 I listened to the students on the Hamburg Moorweide and had strong criticism of “State Socialism”, the Wall and the Stasi. I was also a fan of Biermann's songs. So you can't say that I didn't have a clue of the country into which, in 2003, I finally “emigrated”.

So I started my first day at work without prejudice and happy. To have landed here, she would not wish that for her worst enemy, a colleague greeted me on the first day, saying what I would have been doing here. She paid no further attention to my stuttered reply. Anyway, nobody took any notice of me. When I came in and shyly threw my "hello" into the room, no one looked up.

It took me a year to understand that it is customary in the East to literally shake hands with everyone and wish them a good day when you step into the room early in the morning. You absolutely had to do this as soon as you entered the room, because those seated in it never did, but they expected it from those who entered. How often I stepped into this faux pas cannot be said. If I came too late to a conference and everyone was already seated, I never dared to squeeze out more than an apologetic "hello", which was met with motionless faces. It was expected, of course, to arrive on time, but also to defile around the entire table and shake hands with everyone.

How often had I asked myself why I saw so often averted faces and dismissive looks and why dark debates about the rudeness and arrogance of the Wessis were going on in my presence - until I finally began to shake hands over and over again. Immediately everyone became friendly, a smile was given to me, a handshake, a lively “hello”. Later I caught myself in Berlin Kreuzberg when I was visiting the family of my ex-husband, where my children were already sitting comfortably around the dining table, so that my hands wanted to stretch out to shake, but it was customary here, in the arm to take.

And something else struck me: every time I spoke up in a conference to contribute a thought, it was punished as unheard of; I saw it in the looks that were given to me. Because you don't unnecessarily extend conferences, and you don't ingratiate yourself with the boss by suggesting innovations. You listen, you write down, you are quiet, you come and go on time. It took me a while to figure out that what I was saying was being interpreted as arrogant, better-minded and addicted to profiling.

The others also kept complaining about their work while I whistled through the schoolhouse. The others had passed the whistling after all this: after demotions, non-recognition of GDR degrees and downgradings, all in all 15 years of swallowed anger, from which I not only seemed to be completely free, no, for which I should now really atone.

“They should bleed now, too!” Said an otherwise very nice colleague to me in my first week with flashing eyes - and said “the Wessis”. During one of our east-west debates, I took the liberty of saying that many people in the West are also doing badly.

Of course, as a Wessi, I was exposed in the first second, you could tell from my facial expression, my alternative appearance, my improper demeanor, my lack of shyness to interrupt people, just everything about me. I seemed to confirm all the prejudices one had about Wessis. People from the alternative scene who are dressed a little more colorfully, wear their hair down, walk around in jeans, like me, never became teachers in the GDR. You can only find them here in artist circles, at craft markets, in Christian camps and around the campfire in remote village communities that are not listed in any address book. Only one hundred percent came into the civil service. Today I often agree with their complaints about the West and meet with them on the lowest denominator of the political and economic truths of Karl Marx. But they always come to different consequences than I do and then we part ways again and I remain “the” typical Wessi.

The gender-conscious language is unknown here and is laughed at as crazy. You don't know Luise Pusch, nor has a woman ever added a ridiculous “in” to her job title. We feel made small in that, said one who now works as a Hartz IV recipient in a library, used to be a “forest worker” and studied political economy. She recently told me about a secret meeting of the Bilderberg Group, where the 50 richest people in the world would secretly meet to concoct the next economic crises, the next wars and the Lisbon EU treaties. They would already build nuclear bunkers in the mountains of Norway.

A long time ago I discovered a culture barn in the Boddenunterland with readings, cabaret and music and a very nice Andreas with his Sabine. My astonishment, my enthusiasm, even my laughter betrayed a hundred and fifty visitors to Wessi in one fell swoop, because what the others had heard for the thousandth time was completely new to me. I was delighted with Hans Eckart Wenzel, the cabaret artist, with Sakowsky, the writer, and countless others whose names I have already forgotten, while the GDR people can recite them by heart even in their sleep.

"Don't you know Scarlett O?" Said Andreas, amazed and wide-eyed. No, I stuttered. "A great woman, the greatest we've ever had!" He sighed. It was a Mireille Mathieu style singer, I had never heard from her. "Don't you know Täve Schur?" And the expression on the questioner's face was downright threatening. No, I admitted, whereupon the entire group around him broke into a sullen murmur. (A famous cyclist.)

I decided to read and got myself books by Erik Neutsch, Harry Türk, Helmut Sakowsky, Daniela Dahn, Eva Strittmatter. But once I was happily joining the “seven bridges”, a colleague immediately examined me: “Well, Ms. Röhl, you probably don't know them, do you?” Yes, I replied quick-witted: “Puhdys!”. But it was carats. Once again I had embarrassed myself hopelessly.

In fact, the GDR people know more about the artists in the West than we do about those in the East. Western television and radio were in great demand and watched a lot. We know Heino, Udo Jürgens and Udo Lindenberg, once lights in the artist's sky, which, compared to their artists, seem very meaningless to them today.

The emancipation of women was practically a little further in the East, but theoretically backwards. Feminists are perceived as bloated chickens who make a lot of ado about nothing. Difficulty orgasm? Power behavior of men? We didn't know, the gentlemen did what we wanted, Ha Ha! The Eastern woman wants work and then the man also has something to do in the household. Fortunately, they have passed this striving on to their daughters, who really don't want to know anything more about the housewife role.

I've been living in the east for six years now and have really grown fond of the Ossis. But I can't say that I got to know her. I often feel lonely and unsecured, and when I visit a street café in Berlin Kreuzberg and see the many gray-haired peers - my students would say aging hippies - then I feel among like-minded people and the strangeness that surrounds me East surrounds every minute becomes abundantly clear to me. But when these “aging hippies” open their mouths and complain about the Ossis about how stupid they are, how authoritarian and backwoodsmen, then I don't feel completely at home in the West either.

Born in 1955, comes from a Hamburg journalist family, lived in West Berlin and now teaches at the specialist college for curative education in Stralsund, where she founded the women's shop Lisa.