My déjà-vu of the war and my fieldwork in Germany

Since March 1, 2022 I have been back to the “field”. The dominant purpose of this research stay is analysing the past. My aim is to examine the “arrival conditions” in Germany for the “Russian Germans” and Jews from the former Soviet Union by analysing old issues of the local newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ). What was the discourse in the country and in the city of Osnabrück about this “arrival”?

Because of the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, my fieldwork has turned into a personal and very emotional catapulting into the past. A reason being also that the focus of my current research is on the 1990s. I thought it was already harrowing enough for me to keep seeing Georgia, the Caucasus and the countries of the former Soviet Union in between the project-related newspaper reports. But now reading has gotten much more emotional. Every morning I go down to the basement of the university library where old books and newspapers are stored. On my seat (which I have to reserve specially because of Covid-19) are stacks of newspaper volumes. Always twelve per year. They are changed every other day. I work fast. I immerse myself in the past—my past. The Soviet Union is breaking up again right before my eyes. Karabakh, the Georgian Civil War, ethnic violent conflicts in the country are playing out once again. And also reports from all over the world, from Sarajevo, Somalia, Tajikistan tell about the suffering. I feel like the protagonist in the science fiction film “The Fifth Element”, Leeloo, when she presses the button with the letter “W” to study human history. I come upstairs for a lunch break. Come out into the sun, to have some fresh air. It is hard to work for hours in an FFP 2 mask anyway, but with the news on my mind and in front of my eyes, even more so. The weather is wonderful. The sun is shining. The sky is cloudless blue and I could actually enjoy it. Only grey-pressed atrocities from the past and smoky horizon pictures of Ukrainian cities from the internet make it difficult for me. Writing helps. I write obsessively these days. Nights are sleep deprived. I must not forget to write about what happened. It is important to write. Snipers shoot at the children in Sarajevo. Distraught crying little faces look at me from the newspapers. They have been evacuated.

On a video from the internet in a present reality, a toddler crosses the Ukrainian-Polish border alone, crying.

War is being waged in Georgia, the pictures in the newspapers tell me. Fear and panic are palpable. Hundreds of refugees cross the Russian-Georgian border every day in the current reality. Tbilisi once again feels fear and uncertainty. What will happen next? People hoard products such as sugar, oil and flour.

It is not so easy to classify the emotional state of the people living there. The refugees are “Russians”. “Russians” against whom they fought in their past. Compassion and humanity are mixed with unbearably painful memories.

I speak with migrants from Georgia in Osnabrück. Everyone seems depressed. All of them are sinking into their own – our – past. They tell me about the indescribable fear when Russian tanks were just outside the capital Tbilisi in 2008. I remember sitting petrified in front of the television in Germany, watching the burning city of Gori. Managed to call home every now and then. Mum whispered on the phone about Russian planes flying over their heads in East Georgia. I am not afraid. Strange, but I am not. I had some fears as a child. Back then I dreamt of the war day after day.

Today I’m tormented by thoughts of why we, humans, don’t learn from the past.

Migrants from Georgia in Osnabrück organised a support action. Stacked boxes were brought to Ukraine by large truck.

I sink into my memories again. Back in the early 1990s, we were also happy about “humanitarian aid”. There were basic products in boxes. Rice, oil, flour, milk powder, corned beef. I particularly remember carrot juice, which had such a beautiful colour but tasted awful, and “heavenly” gummy bears. I had never seen anything like it. Above all, they were in the shape of my favourite animal. I was pleased. I hope the parcels that arrive in Ukraine will also bring joy to the people. Cheer them up a little.

What else? I could keep writing, but what I am currently experiencing, learning and feeling has already been written about so powerfully. I place this here as the end of my thoughts:

“It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster”.

(Elizabeth Bishop)

Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Nino Aivazishvili- Gehne (2022, 14. März). My déjà-vu of the war and my fieldwork in Germany. Ambivalenzen des Sowjetischen. Abgerufen am 25. Mai 2024, von

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