Marcela P., 47 years old, Nuremberg
I had a wonderful childhood. My parents were commoners, simple, loving people who worked all their life for me and my siblings. I grew up with six brothers and sisters. We had always everything we needed and I have always appreciated my parents for this. And I intended to do the same when I have my own family. But things do not always develop the way we want them to develop. When I met my husband, the financial situation in Romania had not worsened yet. We applied for a mortgage loan and bought a house. After a while, our daughter was born. It was not easy for us, but we managed to make both ends meet.
In 2008 when the crisis struck, my husband lost his job and I lost a quarter of my wages. It was a difficult hit. It was the moment when I started worrying about us and about the future of our daughter. It was then that I thought for the first time, in a serious-minded way, about taking a job abroad. It was not easy abroad either, but I had more chances than in Romania. So that I nerved myself and after some lengthy research, I left for Germany.
At home, I had worked as a medical assistant in the Floreasca Emergency Hospital of Bucharest. I did not expect to do the same thing in Germany; I knew how difficult it is to be a foreigner, especially if you do not speak the language. I was lucky to find a job in an old-age home. I was glad and scared at the same time. I did not know what I was to expect.
It was very difficult for me, very difficult indeed. All alone, far away from home, without speaking the language. Every evening, after work, I would go home and cry. And this situation went on for a couple of months.
One day, I was at work and asked for the help of a colleague of mine, a foreigner just like me. But she was very cold with me: she told me it was not her business to help me and that, if I did not manage, I had better go home. Needless to say, my first instinct was to become upset and cry. Only later I realized that, although I was sorrowful, she was right. If I did not help myself, nobody was going to help me.
I think that this was the moment when I became aware where I was and why. I had left Romania with a purpose: to help my family and offer my daughter the best education.
I enrolled in German language courses and slowly, very slowly, things started clearing up for me. Looking back into the past, I now thank my colleague for not helping me that day. Indeed, what does not kill you makes you stronger.
Currently, I have managed to find a job for my husband too and, starting with next month, we will both work. Now, I am going home for the holidays. My daughter graduated from university and she is going to Cabo with her boy-friend. I am happy I could do everything I did for her; she is a good, hard-working kid and she deserves to be given the best.
Why didn’t I go as well? I miss Romania and my home. I have an old armchair received as a new-home gift from my grandmother. All I want now is to sit down in my armchair, holding my cat in my arms.
Alexandra P., 33 years old, Munich
Germany, for me, is a beautiful story. I was raised while being taught German by a grandmother and a mother who took great pains to give me the best education possible.
I was a unique child. Actually, I had only one parent. My father chose to leave us when I was born so that my mother brought me up by herself as she knew best. She gave me all the love she had and I have always had everything I wanted. She was mother and father to me.
Ever since I was a child, I saw her struggling to have two or even three jobs simultaneously, in order to be able to give me the best life possible. I remember how, in the evening, we would always sit together, telling each other about the day that ended and making plans for the future.
My dream was to be able to help my mum so that she did not need to work so hard. She would always tell me that if I am happy, she is also happy. Before I went to high-school, she went to work in Spain, so that she could pay for my private courses. And so, I was accepted to a very good high-school, with courses in the German language. It was difficult but I knew that my efforts would bear fruit one day.
At the age of nineteen, after having graduated from high-school, I left for Germany all alone and enrolled in an economic university. Although I spoke the language, it was difficult for me before getting used to that country.
I guess I missed mother the most, next to the evenings we spent together. Even if mother had left the country for many years, I realised how difficult it was for me only when I left Romania.
I arrived in Germany, alone among many foreigners. I was lucky I spoke the language and this fact helped me integrate easier.
I had a big problem with the low temperatures. I think I needed at least one year to get accustomed to the cold and the weather specific to Germany; in the end, I managed not to catch a cold every two, three weeks.
As the German language was no problem for me while at university, it was easy for me to find a job in order to earn my living. I have never refused a job and so I worked as a waiter, a translator and even a PR for bands starting their career.
I liked travelling most and, whenever I had the opportunity of such a job, I did not hesitate.
It was difficult at first, but I have been a flight-attendant for six years now and I do not regret my decision at all.
I have had the opportunity to see places I only dreamt about when I was a child, such as Tibet, India or South America.
And so I discovered my passion for yoga and the importance of balance in life. After two years of courses and research, I got the certification as trainer and managed to open my own studio.
I know I owe all this to my mother and not only because she supported me financially, although this was very important. Had I not seen with her what it means to be a hard-working person, dedicated to your family, ready to sacrifice any time for those you love, I know for sure I would not have been the person I am today. I am a strong woman, I am a successful woman because of her and because of the way she brought me up.
Now, my biggest wish is to manage and do what I intend to do, i.e. bring mother live with me, so that we can talk and tell each other stories like we used to in my childhood.
Daniel N., 34 years old, Karlsruhe
Ever since I was a child, I liked history very, very much. This is how a hobby decides one’s destiny! I live in Germany because I have always wanted to become an archaeologist and, in Romania, you could not make a living having this job. I don’t even know how many archaeologists Romania has currently.
The idea was that I wanted to have my daily activity somehow linked to my hobby, and so I chose the construction field. Just like with archaeology, you deal with buildings, plans, rocks and much, very much dust.
I have been living in Germany for nine years now, since I graduated from the Constructions and Installations School. I started first as head of a working unit and then later on, when I saw the work responsibilities and duties required, I said to myself that I could be very easily a team leader for the various construction works deployed on the sites of this country.
Now, I have around one hundred subordinates, some as old as my parents, others very young. I share with them joy and sadness, concern and their longing for home, for their families, for their loved ones. I try every day to be close to them and help them whenever they have a problem or when they cannot manage alone, as some do not speak German.
Taking all in all, I like living in Germany, I make a pretty penny here, I have a couple of good friends, Romanians and Germans alike, and I travel wherever I want. It is one of the reasons why I decided to live here: from the city I live in, I can very easily travel almost anywhere in Europe. Every week-end, I like to go camping or take my bike and hike on the mountain paths of our region, enjoy a French croissant and a chocolat chaud in Strasbourg or go on a trip to Zurich. It is very pleasant to wake up on Saturday morning and ask yourself: ‘Where should I go today? To Switzerland? Belgium? France?’
I love mountains and the feeling of freedom they give you; I love music so much that I travel hundreds of kilometres to be part of the atmosphere of the concerts given by my favourite bands and I love independence and the possibility to act as I want or according to my wishes. That is why I am the sum of all the landscapes, images, people, happenings, sounds and flavours I have collected during my entire life.
Moreover, I love beautiful places wherever they are located: mountain towns, perched on French or Swiss mountain crests, colourful fairs full of impatient tourists and heavenly waterfalls springing from sharp rocks, parts of nature that bewitch your eyes; I guess everything that is beautiful stirs my emotions. I could tell you for hours without end about the delights I have seen and lived. Lately, I have recharged my batteries in the country of the geysers and reached the conclusion that it was only because I left Romania that I was able to see and live so many things.
I try to find the good things foreign countries can give me, besides money that is; and I can say that I have a good salary as a construction engineer. I, at the age of 26, had built my own house in Romania, had a good car and lived decently. Now, I am thinking that I have to secure my future. Indeed, I must have a place to go back to. After many years in the future, I would like to open a Bavarian bar with good beer and real music.
To sum it up, on the one hand, life in a foreign country brought me more money, more freedom next to diverse experiences, good and bad alike, which all have taught me something. On the other hand, I was in a difficult position more than once: first of all, the fact that I was away from my family and my close friends. This aspect is probably the most painful one; the rest is easier, such as the fact that at the beginning I did not speak German well, I did not know the rules or regulations and lived here and there, not to mention that work is harder at the beginning etc. These are stages that we all have to go through when we live abroad and not in our homeland; but, they also help you since, because of the difficulties, you become stronger, more courageous and more ambitious.
Now I am a happy man, accomplished, at peace with everything. I have experienced all sort of things, I have travelled to many places, have met many people and have known many cultures. Because of all these, I feel that I have won. Currently, I am a much more complex human being than I was before I left my homeland.
Ioana S., 50 years old, Berlin
My life in Germany started a long time ago, that is almost twenty years ago. I was a young translator, irremediably in love with German, eager to engage in conversations and practice my linguistic knowledge as much as possible.
Occasionally, I was guide for groups of young people who paid a visit to our country wanting to discover its culture and civilization, by accompanying them across Romania and showing them the most beautiful tourist sites.
In addition, I travelled quite often to Germany during this period of time, to several cities such as Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart or Koln.
During this to and fro travelling between countries, I met my husband, a true-born German, twelve years older than I am. Shortly after we met, he proposed and asked me to come to live in Berlin, his native town.
He was an engineer, had a nice home in the suburbs and loved dogs. I loved him very much but the thought that I had to live all my life in another country frightened me a little.
In the end, I accepted and so I found myself with lots of luggage full of Romanian things, leaving the life and the country I was used to. I will never forget the day I left Romania, all alone, in an embroidered coat, from an airport that until then I liked, with my whole life packed in two pieces of luggage, going to meet the unknown.
From the very beginning, I liked everything very much: my new home located in a green oasis a few kilometres from the city centre, my new job at the most famous university from Berlin – first as lectureship then as time went by as a professor, my colleagues, my neighbours even the stores. A year and a half later, our first child, Maria, was born; then, after another two years, our boy Andrei came. And since then, all our attention was focused on them. I divided my time between the university and the children. I loved what I did, surrounded by hard-working students and colleagues devoted to their job. I have been involved in diverse activities at university and in many projects.
My children grew up; now, Maria is a young medical school student while Andrei is in his last high-school years, he has to choose a university he would like to attend. Maria goes to university in another city and so it is difficult for me to know her far away, alone and without my help. But, on the other hand, I am aware that she has grown and it is time for her to fly with her own wings. Soon, Andrei too will do the same and then I’ll be left only with my students.
Nevertheless, we come back to Romania every year, to pay a visit to my relatives, my parents and my home. I have taken my children with me ever since they were little to see Romania and the region I grew up in and studied, to meet their grandparents and cousins and to build an opinion about their mother’s homeland.
They both understand and speak Romanian very well. I have always kept links with my country, since I have always been confortable not denying my roots.