The theme of this column is narrating a transnational or cross-cultural experience that has indelibly shaped one’s life. For our author today, Leipzig-based Ukrainian writer Svetlana Lavochkina, such an experience has been learning English, and the mark left by the fascinating, rambunctious character from back home who instilled that love for the language in her, a love she has carried with her to Germany and nurtured throughout her life so far. Sometimes things come full circle in the most unexpected ways…
Today, Diana wraps up her series by narrating what it has been like for her to finally meet and enter the “real life” of her penpal Genia, and also to see Russia for herself.
“My sudden love affair with Aitmatov nearly made me flunk my German exam in tenth grade. ‘Heroes of Our Everyday Socialist Life’ was to be the topic of our written compositions. I wrote an essay about Aitmatov’s novel The Place of the Skull. [My German teacher] managed to save me from flunking. But Aitmatov saved me even more. I never again thought in clichés about Russians and the many other peoples in the gigantic empire that was soon to crumble.”
“In history class, I single-handedly denigrated the Soviet Union. We were sitting with our textbooks open. I felt bored. There was a photo of Lenin on the page. With my ballpoint pen, I drew Lenin an earring and a Mohican haircut… Forty years earlier in Thuringia, a schoolgirl had adorned a portrait of Stalin with her lipstick. Erika Riemann spent the rest of her youth in Soviet prison camps.”
Part II of this five-part series depicts the beginning of the accidental pen-pal relationship between Diana growing up in the GDR and a girl growing up in the Soviet Union – the pivot of the whole story. We welcome readers to share their transnational cultural experiences with us, as well.
“People, do you know the blend of happiness and surprise after trying out something completely new and seeing that something work out well immediately? This blog post is about a recent ‘something’ like that and at the same time about music, spontaneity, friends and one of my favourite venues in Leipzig.”