A Family Story: The Life Paths of Katharina Huck (79) and her Grand Nephew, Andreas Pfeifer (24)

Thoenes, Bettinea. "Family Story: The Life Paths of Katharina Huck (79) and her Grand Nephew, Andreas Pfeifer (24)." Kazakhstan News, 8 August 2006.

What follows is the first part of a smaller series aimed at casting some light at how Germans from Kazakhstan have resettled in their ancestral homeland. A translation of an acticle that appeared in the German local paper Braunschweiger Zeitung portrays the typical Russian-German emigrants story.

There are no Hucks left in that village near the Volga. The brother-in-law had been there once again. People weren't too friendly to him.

Everything got torn down or converted, says Katharina Huck about her birthplace in the former autonomous German colony of Saratov. Village Huck was the name of the place - named after its founding father.

Katharina Huck (79) grew up there, but her grand nephew was born fifty years later in Kazakhstan - Katharinas third life station after the Volga region and the Urals. Today both grand aunt and nephew live in Braunschweig.

Their home? That had never been the village Huck nor Kazakhstan. My father always said: We are not at home. One day we have to reach home. The time will come. He gave this feeling to all of us, says Katharina. He had been a religious man. The family lived with the consciousness they'd return to their roots one day. That is gods will.

The most beautiful time of her life, of course, was youth spent together with her husband - despite aggravating reprisals against Germans in the Soviet Union, despite Germans being named as the inner enemy that got deported, banished, and driven into forced labor.

Like Katharina, who had to leave her village head over feet in 1932. She worked in a kolkhoz until she got - thousands of kilometers away from her village - deported to the Urals for forced labor. She worked in the trudarmiya, the workers army. Katharina shared her room with many others. In the Urals, she met her future husband. Like Katharina, he was from the village Huck. From there, his parents were deported to Kazakhstan in 1941.

Katharina and her husband could only follow them in 1958. The Germans had it easier in Kazakhstan, she says. As good laborers, they were respected there.

What can Katharina Huck tell about her family history? She shrugs. One didn't talk about that. The less you know, the better, people said.

And ones German roots werent showed around too widely. Once letters arrived of a relative from East Germany, family members were afraid. As downright traitors many Germans were viewed when numerous of them resettled to their reunified ancestral homeland in 1991. The papers reported wrote about it - and the articles werent all too positive.

In 1995, Katharina Huck arrives in Germany, too. Her nephew Andreas was with her, as she flew to her new but old home country.

How beautiful, she thought. She was thankful for all that which might come. Life has taught her to look ahead. I've never really turned around. Only one thing hurts: She wont be able to visit the grave of her parents anymore.

The 13-year-old Andreas has his life ahead when he sits on a plane in 1995, astonished by the motorways further down. That's a traffic jam, one of the fellow passengers told him. The illuminated streets, the abundant green, all that was new to him. The first months passed by like in a dream. It was simply beautiful.

Andreas Pfeifer arrived in a country whose inhabitants would regard him as an emigrant (Aussiedler). He left a country in which he was a German. A stranger.

But the family is there. Relatives haven't lost track during the tumultous history, 127 of them live in Braunschweig.

Katharina, without children herself, is grandmother to all - for nephews and nieces, grand nephews and grand grand nephews. There is no birthday party with less than 60 or 70 guests. Within the family, there was no discussion about the move to Germany - the time had come.

Andreas Pfeifer feels at home in Braunschweig. He took part in each of his school excursions and after a mere year, he spoke German fluently enough to master all his school assignments. He speaks almost without an accent now. And there is the occasional brawl with grandma Katharina over the correct use of the German language: People here don't speak proper German anymore, finds the 79-year-old.

Andreass mother is an optician. Her vocational training certificate from Kazakhstan is not recognised in Germany. After the premature death of her husband, she had to make ends meet by cleaning other peoples houses. She gave all, says her son. And Andreas, who is 24, had the early goal of earning money and support the mother.

After school, he found a training place to become an industrial mechanic. As one out of a few, he got a job by the same firm that trained him. Besides his full-time job, he now attends school and wants to become a technician. His brother has just begun studying. We were given a chance and used it, says Andreas.

What does grand aunt Katharina wish from life? That it doesn't get worse. And that there will be work. Then everything is fine.

Reprinted with permission of the Kazakhstan News.

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