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Guardian in the Haus der Heimat in Wiesbaden

Hueterin im Haus der Heimat Wiesbaden

Friebus, Svetlana. "Guardian in the Haus der Heimat in Wiesbaden." Volk auf dem Weg, June 2006.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


Vera Maier
It is on the roof of "her" Haus der Heimat where Vera Maier (50) really likes to be. She is the volunteer cultural consultant of the Wiesbaden chapter of the Landsmannschaft and caretaker in the "Haus der Heimat" -- a shelter for numerous refugee associations and other clubs. Her own occupation and the volunteer position are so closely related that her service in both goes on nearly around the clock. Vera Maier is not only responsible for order in the Haus der Heimat, but she must also see to it that there is always something going on there. And she barely arrives at home when the phone begins to ring.

"That's the way it always is around here. People either call or come to the door," says her husband Alexander. For 18 years now Vera Maier has been volunteering for the Landsmannschaft and the BdV [Association for Refugees], and since last year she has been a member of the CDU [the Christian Democratic Union, a major German political party].

"It has always been like this. She always has to help everybody and be everywhere," is how daughter Eugenia tries to justify her mother's dedication, [and she adds that] Vera Maier has never regretted emigrating to Germany. "For me there is no bridge back," she says [and adds:] Today it is more difficult for Aussiedler to gain a foothold in Germany than, say, 15 years ago. There are hardly any jobs, and it is very difficult to find a place to live. "When we were starting out, everyone who wanted to work found work," adds Alexander. Their entire family is working, and that means a large number: The Maiers have around 70 relatives, scattered all over Germany.

When Vera and Alexander are at home by themselves, they speak Russian. Vera, whose German is excellent, smiles and says, "it's faster that way." But their two daughters prefer to speak German, and four-year-old granddaughter Alexandra understands only a few words of Russian and cannot speak it. When they arrived in Germany 18 years back, the Maiers' command of German was meager. "Before emigration, my parents spoke German at home, but not we children. Making one's German name known brought with it the fear of being called a fascist, of being mistreated and even beaten," recounts Vera Maier. Her parents' ancestors were from Hessen and had emigrated to the Volga region. In 1941 they were deported to Kazakhstan. Vera Maier was born in Semipalatinsk, attended school in Kirgistan, and then completed training in sales.

In a cupboard Vera keeps a bible printed in the old German script. With this family treasure in their luggage and with two daughters -- nine and twelve years old at the time -- they arrived in 1988 in Germany from Karaganda and were temporarily settled in a transition apartment complex at Idstein. In 1989 the family moved to Wiesbaden, where Alexander first worked as a custodian, and for the last 15 years the trained carpenter worked as a driver, a job which Vera took over later on. After finishing school, daughter Eugenia completed training as a dental assistant and is finishing further studies toward a position in dental-medical administration. Daughter number two, Irina, today lives with her husband in Munich and works as a florist.

Advice and support was given to the family mainly through the BdV and the Landsmannschaft. Today Vera herself assists late-comer Aussiedler families. She is the chair of the Wiesbaden chapter and its volunteer cultural consultant. With her talent for organization she gets a lot done there. She is a woman who provides important impulses concurrently for several areas.

Her main job is trying to lure her countrymen out of their natural reserve. As many as 300 attend the events and celebrations staged by the Wiesbaden chapter of the Landsmannschaft. The traditional carnival-time ball at the Haus der Heimat attracts as many as 200 guests in costume. New Year's Eve is celebrated in full style by over a hundred invited guests, and numerous events for children and families are also becoming legendary.

"Many of the later Aussiedler are still too shy. Some hide at home because they fear being spoken to on the streets -- their German is not so good," says the cultural consultant with some regret. German-language instruction offered for adults by the local chapter does encourage some toward more openness. Other regular offerings include scheduled advising and informational evenings on the legal situation affecting the late Aussiedler. In the meantime, there are also evenings for dancing, competitive sports for children and adults, computer and drawing classes for children, plus regular excursions. The chapter also organizes art exhibitions and other art events that attracts local politicians as well.

The Aussiedler of Wiesbaden, however, do not just stay among themselves: "Local, native Germans also attend our events, and our sports activities even attract some Chinese folks," recounts Vera Maier. She has her own large number of local friends as well as good contacts with other nationalities from the former Soviet Union.

The local chapter places a lot of emphasis on public relations work. Vera Maier does not shy away from contacting the local press to invite them to events, and thus she builds the basis for positive reporting. For a year now, the Wiesbdaen chapter has had an Internet presence, by which chair Anton Uselmann and Vera Maier intend to address not only the 6,000 Wiesbaden region Germans from Russia, but also attorneys and social pedagogues, to offer business people opportunities and to attract more and more young Aussiedler.

Together with Margit Neumann of the Wiesbaden Media Center, she has dramatized the fate of the Wiesbaden area late-arriving Aussiedler via the film "Heimat," in which Germans from Russia report on their life stories. A jury nominated the film "Heimat" for the Federal Festival for Film, Video and Multimedia 2004 in Dresden, where it was awarded a Thrid Prize.

Today, whenever Vera Maier walks through Wiesbaden, it is nearly impossible for her to imagine calling any other place home.

For more on the activities of this local chapter, see the website, www.dar-wiesbaden.de.

Svetlana Friebus / Wiesaden-Hochheim

Our appreciation is extented to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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