December 18,2014, I was invited to a book introduction and reception on the occasion of the International Day of Migration at the Winterer Foyer of Freiburg's city theatre. The mayor for cultural affairs Ulrich von Kirchbach, was conspicuous by his absence because he had to attend another event.
The well-researched book in question bore the title 'Migration in Freiburg im Breisgau - its history from 1500 till today,' and the editors were Ulrich Ecker (City Archive) and Prof. Dr. Nausikaa Schrilla (University of Applied Sciences). The musical accompaniment was provided by the Heim und Flucht Orchestra conducted by Ro Kuijpers.
We all know that migration is not a new contemporary phenomenon and represents an essential factor for urban development, and in this context migrants (males and females) have left and still leave their impressions in the cultural heritage of the city they live in.
The society to which the migrants came was formed, challenged, emphasized and, most of all, enhanced and enriched by the new citizens. This is also the reason why the Cultural Department devotes its time and resources to this long-time research project, which was initiated in 2011 under the aegis of the Community Council of Freiburg City. The city archive was obliged to carry out a research on the migration story, as part of the history of the city. The result is a standard work written by 26 authors, among them historians, social scientists, ethnologists, social workers and the scientific archivists of this city who have compiled these fascinating stories from 1500 till the present.
The documents are readable also for the layman and is written in an interesting way, which was not visible till now---as far as research documents written by scientists are concerned. The publication also depicts the people from Europe and other countries of the world who made their way to this city in Baden-Württemberg, and have left lasting impressions in the community as its new citizens, have brought new perspectives and thereby enriched the culture of Freiburg. Without the contributions of these people, Freiburg wouldn't be as rich and diverse as today.
The book has 304 pages and 113 images, and bears the ISBN 978-3-923272-39-6 and costs 24,50 euros and is published by Stadt Archiv Freiburg, Grünwälderstrasse 15, D-79098 Freiburg, Germany.
Jean Aymonat immigrated to Freiburg in 1596 from Savoyen, Jerome Ferrand came in 1698 from Languedoc, Alberto Lurati came in 1872 from Italy. Joseph Bednaz was brought against his will to Freiburg from Poland in 1941, and remained here after the World War II. Agostinho Dias came all the way from Portugal with his parents who were workers in the Dreisam Valley in the year 1979. Jasmina Prpic fled to Freiburg during the war in Bosnia-Herzegowina in 1992.
The above-mentioned are only six out of many migrants who have come to Freiburg in the course of time in the last 500 years, established themselves here and brought their families or created new families here. The imprint of their influence is evident in the cultural heritage of the city and it was their integration in the teutonic society that was a matter of challenge and choices, that taxed the society, shaped it, moulded it and even enriched it in the process.
The book isn't about the chronology of events but about themes such as the role of religion in the migratory process, and the presence and echo and how it was reflected upon by the German media, the participation in the society, language learning, pastime schedules and social life of the immigrants. It might be noted that the different migrant groups that have settled down in Freiburg in the course of time not only worked here and sent their children to school but also lived their lives and helped to bring about changes in Freiburg. The numerous portraits of the new immigrants document the individual motives of migration, and the success achieved as well as goals not attained and resulting defeat.
The book handled the theme migration in its historical and local perspectives. From this a few deductions can be made regarding migration, which are firstly not new phenomena, secondly they're just as normal as migration itself, which has always taken place in in history, and thirdly we cannot imagine Freiburg without migration.
Freiburg is a lovely, attractive city and it is the migratory trend that makes it so attractive. The book analyses the past and the present, as well as the future and comes to the conclusion that migration will further strengthen and it will remain an open and diverse Black Forest metropolis, as we Freiburger are wont to say. As Prof. Schirilla mentioned in her talk about the book:'There are obviously gaps in the book. Die Lückenhaftigkeit des Buches sind nicht vermeidbar' but with time even these gaps are expected to be closed after the adage: writing is re-writing.
Of the 170 languages spoken by the migrants of Freiburg, only a small percentage has been represented, and it is hoped that this publication will lead to other ambitious publications as a series for the City Archive. The book does mirror the migrants and what they have experienced in the Occident. Through the contributions of the new citizens the Abendland has grown and become prosperous and can only be destroyed through its own doings, according to Nausikaa Schirilla.
I'd like to mention a forthcoming book by Svetlana Boltovskaja, a young, bespectacled, blonde I met and talked with at the book event. The title is long, as most academic works show: 'Educational migrants from the sub-Saharan Africa in Moscow and St. Petersberg: self and alien portraits.' ISBN 978-386226-256-4, price 28,80 euros, www.centaurus-verlag.de. I told Svetlana that during my college days in Kathmandu (Nepal) in the late seventies there were scholarships available for Nepalese and Indian students from the Lumumba-Friendship-University and Moscow University. The Soviet Union educated a lot of young people from the southern hemisphere (developing countries). Hundreds of Africans did their higher education in the old Soviet Union. Today, we find a rather small, active African community the nucleus of which consists of the former educational migrants.
Svetlana Boltovskaja's interdisciplinary study is an elaboration on the theme of 'intercultural Black Studies of Russia.' She has worked on the history of educational migration from the sub-Saharan Africa and has focused on the post-Soviet-period during which economic and societal-political transformations took place in Russia and in the African states. She works as a journalist, translator and as a museum-expert. She did her PhD in ethnology in Freiburg and coordinates different projects in the intercultural sector.