In family conversations, it often seemed to me that Kazakhstan is associated with the past, something backward, which needed to be left behind and overcome. With my choice of working through transgenerational traumatization of German-Russians in the former Soviet Union, I now perceive this association as a symptom of precisely this need to forget, deny, ‘move on’ that comes with diverse forms of trauma.
For my father, however, Kazakhstan was present, more than was the newly built life in Germany back in the 1990s. This has led to changes in the original constellation of my family, when Kazakhstan has kept on pulling him and took him back eventually.
While I have embraced other presents, too, an occasional calling that emanates from Kazakhstan remains with me. It lies within my comfort to hear people speaking the Russian language (which, nevertheless, is still an imperialist language for native Kazakhs). When someone would ask me, however, if I speak Russian, I reply “Я не говорю по русски. Я только понимаю немного” and shake off the possibility of re-connecting to a language that coloured and brought to life my early childhood.
It lies within a deeply rooted melancholy of listening to songs that embody a longing for the East, the tears that run down and clean my face when I grasp its lyrical poetry, its harmonical and rhythmic familiarity, and stand face to face with the void such music evokes within me.
On the first glance, there is not much that still connects me to Kazakhstan, besides being born and being emigrated from there. Yet, in the wake my 9 month-engagement with German-Russian family histories in the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan in particular, I have begun seeing a broader picture. One that goes beyond my personal biography, or that of my parents. Or that of my grandparents. Or that of my great-grandparents. I carry parts of these legacies within myself, many as ghosts that I wouldn’t dare to face, others as sweet or sour reminders of a past that lies before, but also a future that lies behind us. And so Kazakhstan has been calling me anew, ever since I had begun and more so since I finished working on my Master thesis (from March 2018 to December 2018).
Tomorrow, I am embarking on a journey to respond to this call, for a journey to Kazakhstan, my motherland, my fatherland, and not my land at all (for the histories it took).