Heimat /Home is a trilogy: three texts by three authors meet on our blog for three consecutive weeks and inspire each other. They all revolve around the question: What does home /Heimat mean to me?
1) home, homeland, home town
2) habitat, biotope
3) native country, town or place
Text and illustrations by Guillermo Alberto Diaz Morales
Translated by Joanna Mitchell
Heimat* is one of the most popular words I have heard in Germany over the past years. This means that it is one of many. But what does home mean to me? Political, social, economic and cultural contexts turned Heimat into some sort of “super-star word” that appeared across all media. In the past years, the so-called “refugee crisis” was one of the most important topics, sometimes even monopolising the conversation. The problem was large and highly complex. The conversation, however, seemed to always revolve around this one question: the question of Heimat.
This super-star word suddenly stood at the center of attention everywhere (even though migratory movements have been an issue for ages, especially since the 2. World War). Suddenly, everybody started asking themselves what Heimat means – even those Germans who have lived in Germany “since forever”.
I myself am a twofold migrant, and for me the term Heimat no longer describes a physical place or location, but far more concerns the people who shape my life.
It took 18 years until I could revisit Colombia, the place where I was born. In Spain, I was usually just perceived as a migrant. In all those years, I never found a real home there, but I did make many temporary friends, of which only one has remained. Mostly, this was my own conscious choice. After all, nobody wants friends who do not understand or value the importance and influence of one‘s own history and culture. Generally speaking, I constantly felt foreign and somehow less worthy in Spain. Even though I grew up there, I cannot claim that Spain is my Heimat.
It was here in Germany that I found a new Heimat. In fact, it went rather quickly. I met many wonderful people with whom I felt very comfortable, who respected and appreciated me. I spent many days with them, and as time went by, we all learned to understand life together, sharing sorrow and joy, without separating from one another. Suddenly I understood the word Heimat – because, for the first time since my childhood and adolescent years, far away from “back home”, I once again felt at home with my friends.
All of a sudden I had two families: suddenly it was December, Christmas was approaching and my new friends invited me to spend Christmas with them. However, my family in Spain expected me to spend the holidays with them, my “biological” family. Suddenly I had to decide between a Christmas with my “real family” and my “new family”. And so I had to ask myself: “what does family mean?” “After all, family means Heimat,” I thought, “but then, what does Heimat even mean to me?” I had always assumed that Spain was my home.
What does Heimat even mean? This question could be the slogan of an advertising campaign for migration – in case somebody ever intends to advertise migration on “CableTV”.
“You care about Heimat and the past, but you‘re tired of having to endure the war or poverty? Don‘t worry! We have the solution! Leave everything you know and love behind and come on over! It might be tough, but it sure beats staying there.
MIGRATION! What does Heimat even mean?”
No, it wasn‘t that bad. It isn‘t that bad. I haven’t seen my entire family for years: my mother for three years, my cousins, uncles, aunts, grandmother for 18 years. I miss them from time to time, but not usually. I am surrounded by wonderful people whom I love and who love me. Sometimes, months go by before I call my father or my sister. I often have a bad conscience. My father keeps telling me: “don‘t lose yourself like that. Don‘t forget that your family is the most precious thing you have and will ever have. Because when you lose everything, only your family will be there for you.”
After these last years, I can state that my father is right. Family is the most precious thing that I have and will ever have. In the meantime, however, I have cultivated my own concept and definition of family.
* Translator’s note:
In German, the term Heimat roughly translates to ‘home’, ‘homeland’ or ‘native country’ and is used to describe either a place or feeling of belonging.