Georgi Hauschild: Exploring an unknown past in Bulgaria

Written by on November 23, 2017 in People - Comments Off on Georgi Hauschild: Exploring an unknown past in Bulgaria

Georgi Hauschild from Germany was adopted when he was a young boy. Most of the memories of his early childhood in Bulgaria are blurry or have faded altogether. Whenever Georgi thought about his days as a child, he sensed a feeling of discomfort and anxiety.

When he was six years old, he became part of a German family. Growing up that way, Georgi enjoyed what tends to be labelled as a happy childhood. However, some questions had remained unanswered for more than 15 years.

It turned out that he picked just the right moment to find some answers: “For all these years I was simply not able to address the matter. The whole thing was always a very sensitive issue.“

Everything changed in April, 2017. For the first time in many years, Georgi set foot on Bulgarian soil and confronted his past. But this time, he was not abandoned and he did not have to look for answers on his own.

Georgi is currently doing a social care educator apprenticeship at Robert-Kümmert-Akademie in the German town of Würzburg. As part of a vocational exchange within the Erasmus+ framework, he completed an internship in Bulgaria, made possible by a partnership between that academy and the Sofia-based Cedar Foundation.

On one of the last days of their stay, Georgi, his mentor and two colleagues decided to visit an orphanage in Gabrovo, a town in central Bulgaria. In Georgi’s words: “I simply wanted to see the building from the outside and take a few pictures“.

When the group approached the remotely located complex, Georgi immediately recognized it. He remembered how he had stared out of the window onto the “bridge“ which connects the road outside to the main building. He had longed to be picked up one day: “Sometimes, a car would approach. Then you could see one of the kids walking across the bridge. After they got into the car, you knew you would never see them again.“

Georgi remembers how strong his desire was to have parents and a family of his own. Understandably, he has only a few, mainly vague memories of his time at the facility. “It is as if it had been deleted from the hard drive“. Most of his early conscious memories involve his family in Germany.

Why does thinking of the past make him uncomfortable? He cannot explain it. Georgi remembers that the beds were uncomfortable and that if one broke the rules or went into areas they shouldn’t, they would be punished. But there had always been enough food. In fact, it was a nice kindergarten, he explains.

Perhaps the real problem could be found in the time before the orphanage, but those memories, he believes, he will never be able to recover.

The decision to enter the building brought back memories and certainly helped to make Georgi feel more reconciled with his past and helped fill in some blank spots in the timeline of his memory.

One of the educators recognized him instantly. She showed him through the building, where Georgi remembered small details, such as the spot where the television had been mounted to the wall, the old bathtub and the position of his bed in the dorm room.

“I recognized the music room. I used to play the accordion there.“ One picture on the wall seemed particularly familiar: The metal train on the playground. The educator brought in a box full of old pictures. Almost as though the pictures were a metaphor for his memories, most of them were blurry and some images had almost faded away.

However, Georgi was happy to see himself smiling into the camera: “I used to be known as an approachable child“ he remembers. His former kindergarten teacher was touched by the unexpected reunion: “She said that in all the years she had worked at the facility, not a single adopted child had returned for a visit”, Georgi states. “Until now.”

The entire facility will probably undergo renovation in 2018. If his visit had taken place just a year later, Georgi would not have had the chance to see the familiar painting hanging on the wall, where it had been since his childhood. Everything would have looked different and many of the memories his visit helped to recover may well not have been without the visual stimulus of the familiar.

Today, orphans no longer live in the building: “Currently it is used as a day-care facility for children with psychological disabilities. It was an incredible coincidence that I happened to come back to Bulgaria at this time.“ Georgi seems very happy that he overcame his fears, which has helped him to bury some of the traumas of his past.

Georgi believes other adults who grew up as orphans should explore their roots as well. “I have suppressed it for too long“, he says. Whenever his parents offered to take him to Bulgaria, he declined. Now Georgi can even imagine studying Bulgarian: “I cannot remember a single word.“

He is also considering another visit to see the country where his life began.

One of the aims of the Erasmus+ programme is to familiarise apprentices with different vocational education systems around Europe. The title of this year’s exchange programme is ‘Apprenticeships Against Discrimination’. Several groups visited partner institutes throughout Europe.

By Pat Christ of the German daily Main Post

 

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