Re-Storying a Past that Lies between us: An exploration of German-Russian Family Histories in the Soviet Union.

In my thesis, I look at the transgenerational transmission of traumatization in second and third generation German-Russian immigrants (Spätaussiedler) in Northern Germany. German-Russians are understood as people of German origin who had emigrated to the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Associated with ‘the Germans’ by the Soviet regime they collectively became a target of forced deportation and incarceration in the Gulags in the 20th century. While exploring recent literature, a shadow of assumed transgenerational traumatization hangs above German-Russian’s stories. Therefore, I set out to explore the meanings that descendants of German-Russians in Northern Germany associate with their family histories. Theoretically underpinned by the concept of “a past that lies before us” (Lederach 2005, 141), languages of the unsayable (Rogers et al. 1999) and metaphoric language (Lakoff and Johnson 1980), as well as victimization (Bar-Tal et al. 2009), I derived some central lenses through which I conducted narrative analysis. Eventually, I have concluded that, while generalized assumptions of collective and transgenerational trauma should be treated with caution, we all live with ghosts and their shadows impact the way we relate, engage and (un)remember.

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At the beginning was a call. An urge to explore the reasons behind my tendency to deny, ignore or push away my own background as a German-Russian. This call led me through stories of unimaginable suffering, starvation, deportation and loss. It also also allowed me to understand the relational impact of fearing my own ghosts. Today, I sometimes invite them over for a cup of tea and listen to them.

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