I met Erika when I was doing my internship in Cologne, she is one of the most passionate, caring and loving people I have met here. When we met for the photosooting, we started talking about identity and and she told me she is still trying to figure out who she is and how she wants to present herself to the world. (which i think lots of us can relate to).
Then she told me a bit more about her life before coming to Germany. It all started when her great-great-grandmother, who was born in Germany had to fled the country because of WWII and went to Kazakhstan, there she had six children, one of them being the great-grandmother of Erika, who then had her mom and last but not least Erika was born.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the germans who were forced to leave their homes, had the chance to go back to Germany, so the great-great-grandmother of Erika returned to Germany, but one of the requirements for her daughter and grand-children to come to the country was to learn german.
Since Erika, her mom and Grand-mother did not learn german while growing up, the process to reunite with their family member took a bit longer. In addition to that, the law change and they were not allowed to go live in Germany anymore.
Fortunately in 2012 the late emmigrants “Spätsussiedler” were allowed to go to Germany when they had proof of language knowledge.
After tooking and passing the test, Erika, her mom and Great-grandmother came to Germany and started a new life, hoping for better opportunities which they could not find in Kazakhstan.
Erika went to vocational schoool or “Berufskolleg” (in german) where she improved her german and met some friends, there she did not feel judged and felt welcomed, since -as she tells me- everyone was comming from a migrant background, so they understood the struggles of finding themselves in a new country, learning a new culture and language. They supported each other.
Unfortunately when she went to high school she experienced discrimintation from some teachers, who, instead of helping her improve and move forward, focused on the fact that her german was not perfect and made her feel like she was not enough.
She is open to talk about her struggle with depression, she tells me a part that played a role in that was the change and challenges that came with her migration journey. At Kazakhstan she always got perfect grades and was a great student, and here she felt like she was not good enought and felt preasured to prove otherwise.
She felt preasured also because she felt all of her school mates that were born in germany were younger than her and were already going to university, but after a lot of thinking she realized that life is not a competition, everyone has their own rythmn and she can always go study when she is ready to do it.
One last thing she tells me, and that stuck with me because that is how I feel, is that she feels thorn apart between two homes, like she is in a limbo, where she doesn´t feel hundred percent at home, either here in Germany, nor in Kazakhstan.
Maybe this is a feeling a lot of people can relate to…