Stories of migration

Frankly … integrated – The pestilence, the myths and realities

© Thorsten Krienke (, CC BY-SA 4.0

Germany in Lockdown, © Thorsten Krienke (, CC BY-SA 4.0

Almost six months have passed since COVID-19 was first noticed as a novel, unknown disease. Half a year later, the virus has caused a global pandemic. Thousands have died. Dominic Otiang’a takes a closer look at how Germany reacted - individually, and as a Society.

The novel Covid-19 has been in the headlines for several months now; It has overshadowed the oil price in Moscow, shoved the Turkish-EU border refugee crisis off the radar, replaced the refugee debates in Germany and stopped 'reggae' in Kenya. Careless remarks have been made about the virus so far, about what group of people it won't affect, and why or how the infections will end come summer. Some of the theories have been painfully disapproved, so far. Superstar-experts have emerged in each country, but, as the German newspaper Die Welt perfectly puts it: "There are, for the first time, more corona experts than national football coaches," alluding to the fact that football fans tend to express their views on what the national football coach should do or not do to win a tournament. As though they knew better than the official coach.

Neither the virus nor our sorrows know a country`s border

The fears and caution during this time also bring out one's connection to specific places and people; a person with an immigration background or of two nationalities would sympathize with the most affected countries while also being seriously concerned about the numbers from the other side of their identity. A Berliner in Munich would be searching for or enquiring about the statistics of Berlin. An Indian in Stuttgart would quip: "Oh my God! Have you seen India? Five thousand people infected! What! It's getting serious!" An Indian friend of mine was shocked more by the results of 5000 infections in his native home than the 80,000 patients around him in Germany. To speak for myself, I can confirm that I do not know why I freaked out to read the fake news that there was a COVID-19 positive case near my birth town 8000 kilometres away while I felt safe with the over 150,000 cases around me in Germany. It is probably partly because of the assurance from my friends: "We have better healthcare here!".

A diverse medical community has saved many a life

Many international media houses have also praised Germany for tackling the pandemic in a better way. I would, in turn, extend the gratitude to the many immigrants in the health sector on my contact list – starting with the guy who nearly got deported before beginning his apprenticeship. And his wife, a nurse, who had almost given up when adjective declension and the use of the articles, 'die', 'der' and 'das' in German proved challenging. Not forgetting my friend, a medical doctor who nearly quit medical school to go back to Serbia and start a used car dealer business. They are worth a memory, especially as medical workers have been under increased risk of infection.

In the face of an existential threat, the old talking points of a new ”alt-right“ have become irrelevant

In the pre-COVID-19 era, the masses were divided between left and right-wing political interests. Today, the decisions come due to various interpretations of Freedom and the rule of law; those who believe that the lockdown has stifled their freedom and those who say that "Your Freedom must not encroach on mine or put my life at risk. Or else you forfeit it." It is almost all about the interpretation of freedom in times of the pandemic.

Increased risks remain for social minorities

But as demonstrators continue to occupy public spaces in large numbers calling for an end to the lockdowns and demanding for their freedom and the removal of restrictive guidelines, the Robert Koch Institute reports a notable change in the rate of infection from manageable to critical. Well, the rate fluctuates at times. Reports in both Britain and the USA have shown that minorities have been hit hardest by the Corona pandemic. Given such statements, one wonders whether the same would be said of Germany. If yes, I wonder if those demonstrating are from the minority groups or whether they would care about these findings. May they be safe all the same, and to the many healthcare employees, viva!

"Frankly ..."

On an alternating basis each week, our “Frankly …” column series is written by Dominic Otiang’a, Liwen Qin, Maximilian Buddenbohm und Gerasimos Bekas. Dominic Otiang'a writes about his life in Germany: what strikes him, what is strange, where did he get interesting insights?

Dominic Owour Otiang'a
is the author of several novels and short stories. He was born in Kenya and lives in Stuttgart.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
June 2020

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