The name of the graphic novel “Elternerde” can be translated as the fatherland. There is no such word in German, this is a neologism invented by artist Annamarie Otten. She took the definition of "fatherland" from the Hungarian language and literally translated into German. Where does such linguistic interweaving come from? Annamari's grandfather, grandmother, and mother were born in Romania in the Banat region, where people of different nationalities traditionally live: Hungarians, Serbs, and Germans. The town of Periam, in which the grandmother was born, is practically empty today, all the Germans living in it (most of them) moved to Germany a long time ago: neither the family nor the friends of the artist’s family were left there for a long time.
A girl who knows about her family’s Romanian past only from stories (Annamari was born in Hamburg in 1989) decided to liven up them in a sense. “I always wanted to learn as much as possible about the story of my grandmother and document it. Comics was a suitable tool for me, I read a lot of them at that time, ”says Annamaria Otten. Her Maus, Art Spiegelman, inspired her to create her own graphic history. The artist told the comic story of his father, who survived the Holocaust. The graphic novel subsequently received the Pulitzer Prize. Annamari did not draw her family in the form of animals (Spiegelman has mice and cats with human characters), all the characters have a completely human appearance. Spartan colors: blue background and black and white characters. The novella “Elternerde” became a thesis work of an artist who graduated from a design school in Munich.
The comic consists of four parts, arranged in chronological order: from the grandmother’s childhood to her emigration to Germany. The main character is called Anna (the artist’s real name is not the artist’s grandmother), at the beginning of the comic’s events she’s six years old. Anna has two sisters and a brother. In the autumn of 1944, her father was taken to the front, at the same time her brother suddenly falls ill, he is taken to the hospital with his mother, and the sisters are accommodated in strangers, they have to sleep in the drawers of the dresser. All this is happening against the backdrop of the bombing and continuous howling sirens. Later, the family was evacuated to Austria.
The last letter from Anna's father came in May 1945, a little later we received the news of his death, he died near Berlin.
After the war, an orphaned family returned to Periam, their house was plundered, pets were expropriated by the authorities, the economy had to be restored from scratch. This burden fell on the shoulders of the mother.
Grandma Annamari became a teacher, married grandfather George and gave birth to three children. The family dreamed of escaping from the Ceausescu regime, and she succeeded. They emigrated to Germany in the 1970s and settled in Stuttgart, but they did not forget about their homeland. In 1989, George and Anna brought humanitarian aid to Periam - 400 kg of food, of course, not without incident at the border.
In the afterword to the comic, Annamari writes: “My grandmother once said:“ I can't understand why my young German colleagues complain of tiredness since the morning. ” Grandmother worked all her life, survived the war, hunger, expropriation. She left her homeland twice, knows firsthand what injustice and suffering are. But she never complained of fatigue. ”
The story described and painted by the artist is universal. Every member of the post-war generation has a dozen of such stories (spoken or experienced alone). But this does not bother the author. “I hope that my comic strip will be an additional reason to talk about the past,” notes Annamari.
It is impossible to find a comic in a free sale, but you can read it in the cultural center Haus der Deutschen Ostens in Munich.