Bridges of (Com)passion built in Leipzig


Harper Lee’s Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird maintained, famously:

There’s only one kind of folks. Folks.

A child’s wisdom, seemingly simple, but at the same time so profound that it has taken generations of adults just to scrape its surface for the true understanding of its universality.

It seems so much easier for children to build bridges.
It seems so much easier for children to build bridges.

We never had reason enough to contradict this truth, living in a pretty city at the heart of Europe whose face, until a decade or so ago, had been fair and blue-eyed, whose diet temperatures have never exceeded the heat of Christmas cinnamon.

Excitingly, recent expat infusions have rendered Leipzig almost unrecognizable: more mixed, more colorful, and spicier day by day. I’ve been wondering if we can say now, on our micro-city level: “There is only one folks. Leipzig folks.”

Are we trying to melt and mold? Is Leipzig a mini-melting pot, US-style, or rather a cracked salad bowl of Britannia?

Is the cobalt cozy and relaxed in the steel? Is the chili pepper languishing in the potato salad? There are all too many people who wish to force the elements out of their alloy by malignant alchemy. There are still a lot of those adepts of blandness saying Tabasco is too spicy, and mango too sweet.

Lack of imagination, of humanity, of compassion, solidifies in shameful anti-expat demonstrations and harrowing amounts of voters for extreme-right parties.

We are so obsessed with each of the ingredients of this “one folks,” the dichotomy of “us” versus “not us” leading to lobotomy. And can we make sure the Generation Z now sitting at school desks will, at long last, grow up with Scout’s belief?

The path through adolescence can be treacherous, especially with rickety foundations and alternative facts.
The path through adolescence can be treacherous, especially with rickety foundations and alternative facts.

On the threshold of the Leipziger Literarischer Herbst, a literary festival held here each autumn, the young journalists from the upper grades at the Free Waldorf School Leipzig tried to find answers to all these questions. This year, the festival is dedicated to Leipzig’s partner city Houston and called Bridges – trying to unite the US-American South with the German Southeast.

A bridge is a fragile construction, be it a stick put by a child across a puddle for an ant to cross or the concrete pillars holding cargo trains. A bridge is held together not so much by the material, but rather by the desire to connect, by the passion to connect. To connect countries, the bloodstream of folks, and personal flickers to the world by the deft nerves of love, until the feeling of oneness is the only possibility, and the bridge is dissolved for its redundance.

The Waldorf school’s 9th- and 10th-graders, aged 15-16, went on a quest for expats who cast roots in Leipzig and managed to build their businesses and passion bridges to the indigenous folks.

They interviewed an Albanian-born hair stylist whose salon became a hub of well-being in Waldstraßenviertel; a popular Canadian café owner in Reudnitz; and a Tunisian employee of a fueling station which fuels not only vehicles, but also stomachs and hearts. The expats shared their candid life stories, unveiled some of their secrets of success, and didn’t shy away from mentioning their worries and chagrins.

The young “one-folks-to-be” researched the recipes, made their own word alloys and salads; their own passions were ignited by inspiration, in various literary and photographic genres to form a fair, fresh, private philosophy of Leipzig oneness.

Autumny bridge.
Autumny bridge.

We will serialize our small collection of (com)passion recipes here.

You will hear them live at our special edition of the Cocktail Open Mic, as part of the Leipziger Literarischer Herbst, on 31 October. The event will explore how these young artists were inspired by the “new Leipzigers” they encountered, creating poetry, short prose and mini-essays. They will be presented to the audience enclosed in art photography and jazz music.

Bridges of (Com)passion

Wednesday, 31/10/18

Baileo Tanzpassion
Dittrichring 17, 0419 Leipzig

Moderation: Svetlana Lavochkina

Svetlana Lavochkina is a Ukrainian-born novelist, poet and poetry translator, now residing in Germany. In 2013, her novella Dam Duchess was chosen runner-up in the Paris Literary Prize. Her debut novel, Zap, was shortlisted for Tibor & Jones Pageturner Prize 2015. Svetlana’s work has been widely published in the US and Europe. It appeared in AGNI, New Humanist, POEM, Witness, Straylight, Circumference, Superstition Review, Sixfold, Drunken Boat and elsewhere.

Don’t you just love this rhombicuboctahedron? Yep, that’s the deservedly obscure name for the shape of this, erm, cultural asset. (Photo: Holly Doran)
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