Our book "Distelblüten - Russenkinder in Deutschland" will be translated into English
by Ursula Scott,
One of the “Thistleflowers” asked her brother to paint a picture for the first meeting of the German “Russian Children” in March of 2014. She told him that when reading Tolstoi’s short story “The Tatarthistle” * she often saw a connection to the “Russian Children” and to their mothers.
In the story this thistle is described as strong and resilient, its beautiful blossom vulnerable.
It cannot be plucked and it cannot be broken. It can only be shredded, stomped into the dirt or ripped out by its roots. It does not fit in with the other, more delicate field flowers.
Two pictures were painted, gifts to the sister and to the participants of the meeting in Leipzig.
* Preface to “Hadschi Murat”, Leo Tolstoi.
The steel helmet with the red star on German soil. The thistle, symbol of the children fathered by Soviet soldiers. Many thistles turned later into roses.
The memorial in Berlin-Treptow. The Soviet soldier holding a child on his arm. He was known for his fondness of children and he left children behind.
Many of them lived in the shadow of society. Unseen and not mentioned. Some to this day.
Text by Birgrit Michler.
The process of confronting the psycho-social consequences of WWII and the Third Reich started decades after the end of the war (Glaesmer 2014). In the meantime a number of research results are available which describe the long lasting and complex consequences of the traumatic experiences of WWII. In cooperation with the study group of Philip Kuwert (University of Greifswald) we have intensively committed ourselves to the study of this subject in recent years.
Out of a study addressing the consequences of the rapes at the end of the war a question arose about the possible existence of children of these rapes. To explore this question, contact was established with an interdisciplinary research network that deals with children who were procreated by local women and foreign or respectively, enemy soldiers in conflict and post conflict regions.
The German Besatzungskinder (children of the occupation) are part of these children of the war. They were procreated at the end of WWII and during the years after by Allied soldiers and German women. Up until this point historical works about the Besatzungskinder existed, but psycho-social research addressing the consequences of growing up as a child of the occupation of WWII was missing.
In cooperation with the study group at the University of Greifswald in 2013 we initiated research to investigate the experiences of these Besatzungskinder and how they are doing now. As we attempted to find participants for the study, we made numerous contacts and met with individuals who had actively dealt with their life story, had contact with other children of the occupation, or perhaps had been able to find their father or his descendants, and who had coherently integrated the story of their birth into their identity. On the other hand, there were Besatzungskinder who described themselves as psychologically afflicted and alone with the subject. Some of them had never spoken with anyone about it, attempts to find out anything about their father had been unsuccessful or had never been made.
This observation brought close the thought that the possibility for an exchange and contact with other individuals of similar background might help to find ways to positively deal with the subject. Maybe the exchange with like-minded persons would have an integrating effect. Now one was part of a group of people with similar experiences and no longer an individual standing alone.
On the internet websites are available for the children of former American www.gitrace.org as well as French soldiers of the occupation. www.coeursansfrontieres.com
They help children with their search and facilitate meetings between interested individuals and those who are searching. Therefore, during the search for participants for the research study at Leipzig and at Greifswald university interested individuals were asked if they have or desire contact with such organisations. Especially persons whose father served in the Soviet Army during or after WWII stated a great need for support with their search for their biological father.
However, at that time an official way to start a search was not available to them. That situation called for change. The so called Russian children should also be able to enter into an exchange with each other.
This is how the idea started to create a network for the children of Soviet soldiers. All participants in the study who reported that their father was a Russian soldier were asked if they would be interested in a network for the purpose of communicating with each other. The plan was realized in March of 2014 and resulted in a small circle of nine people. At the first meeting of this group at the university of Leipzig the idea to write this book was discussed.
Furthermore, out of the original network a website for the ‘Russian children’ developed.
PD Dr. P.H. Heide –Glaesmer
Glaesmer H (2014). Traumatic experiences among the older German population – significance for the mental and physical health of the population.
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Our book will be available as pdf file in a few month.