Katharina Dillman: Nicht Verzagen – Nochmal Wagen!
"Katharina Dillman: Don’t Give up – try Again!" Volk auf dem Weg, November 1993, 11.
Translation from German to English by Ingeborg Wallner Smith, Western Springs, Illinois
Our Youth organization – the “Russia-German Youth – RGY” is a child of the Landsmannschaft of the Germans from Russia. It was founded on May 3rd and 4th, 1991 as a separate organization within the Landsmannschaft. Its head, in accordance with its articles of incorporation, is a member of the nine member national Board of Directors of our Landsmannschaft.
The RGY was united in the feeling that youth work can be activated within our organization.
They did not realize, however, that the Landsmannschaft was financially not well off enough to fulfill all of their wishes.
That is, however, not the reason that not all projects were carried out. Self-critically, one must admit that bad organization, inadequate information and insufficient contacts with the youth groups were a part of this. Individual youth groups have filled this vacuum by means of youth work without the support of the RGY leadership.
In summary one can say, that we have not achieved our set goals. That does not mean, that we have not achieved anything. Above all, we have gained more knowledge.
The Russian-German Youth had the courage to try and today we know that there are enough reasons to try again.
What are the reasons?
40% of all resettlers are between the ages of 14 to 27. (The exact resettler statistics for 1992 are as follows: 0 to 5 years – 10.6%; 6 to 17 years – 24.6%; 18 to 24 years – 8.9%; 25 to 44 years – 31.4%; 45 to 59 years – 10.6%; 60 and over – 11.2%. (Editor’s note).
Children and young people, however, are subject to great strains both before and shortly after the emigration; they have little to say in the decision about leaving, sometimes nothing at all. For them it means giving up connection and leaving friends behind. They are homesick, even though many members of the older generation, who are still suffering from the shock of the bad memories of the time of their banishment, do not wish to admit that.
In addition the academic or professional education that they bring with them may be worthless in Germany.
But this will mean a worsening of their social standing.
Separation from the old and coping with the new – both must be worked through mentally and emotionally.
A xenophobia that is often brought against them too (out of fascists that they weren’t, become Russians that they aren’t!), produces an isolation.
One wants to stay among one’s own, to be left alone. Aggressive acts occur.
Isolation and coldness become their constant companions.
They need our help.
They need our support.
It is not our goal as it is sometimes interpreted, to isolate ourselves from out native youth. No! Our goal is much more to help our youth get a foothold here in the new homeland.
Not every form of integration can be regulated or prescribed by the state. It is more often produced through encounters, common experiences and actions of native and Russian-German young people.
Unfortunately most of the time everything falls apart because of the mutual prejudices. Here we see a large task for public relations, to break down these prejudices through information and meetings. We must learn to be able to show ourselves as we are. There are enough examples of young people who take a positive stand towards their origins!
In the shape and possibilities of our work with youth, we must be clear that youth work within the Landsmannschaft is a kind of leisure occupation for youth, to be compared to cultural work for all of those who love their national group.
Above all work with youth must be fun. It cannot be masterminded.
We should not be afraid to stumble again. We should realize instead, that we would have got over the hurdle had we been prepared to try again.
Today we are prepared to do this.
Our appreciation is extended to Ingeborg Smith for translation of this article.