In the city where I live there are people from 190 different nations. Here migration is felt, lived and discussed. I live in Berlin, where almost every second inhabitant comes from abroad or has so-called “migration background”. Here I feel at home surrounded by people who don’t really know where they come from.
Yes, that’s it, we don’t know where we come from. The Portuguese novelist Eça de Queirós describes this feeling quite well in one of his texts. He explains that with each new culture that is assimilated a bit of patriotism disappears. “New ways of thinking and feeling are introduced in our moral organism. Rue de Rivoli, Calle d’ Alcala, Regent Street, Wilhlemstraße – who cares, they’re all just streets”. We are everything and because we are everything, we are nothing.
It is this “status quo” of lost souls that makes me think of our future.
According to the latest studies by the United Nations, we are 232 million migrants in the world. Of course migration has many faces. There is national or international, individual or familial voluntary or forced migration. But we all have something in common: We leave a familiar environment to be confronted with something new and are always concerned with the question of “localizing” our roots.
The last question is perhaps the most difficult one for my generation.
The other day I met an Australian computer engineer. He said: “My girlfriend is from the Faroe Islands, but studies in Copenhagen. I ‘m from Australia and am working in Berlin. In a few months she will finish her master and we don’t know where to go next. I do not know if I want to stay here.”
In a society in which every second two people turn 60 years old, and more and more families live scattered across several countries or continents, I wonder how we will grow old. I belong to a mobile generation that will not return to a “village”, simply because this “village” doesn’t exist. Our home is the world! And that is the great conflict of my global generation. If you do not know where you come from, how will you know where you’re going to? How do you choose a place where you want to grow old?
This “globetrotter” life can have lonely end, like my parents prove. My father, an Austrian diplomat, died after having lived in places such as Thailand, India, Lesotho, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, the United States and Portugal (surely I’ve forgotten a country… ). At the end of his days, I remember an isolated old man who stared into nothingness through the window of his last apartment. My mother, a Colombian, lives in Portugal. She too, like my father, feels lost in old age. And she is alone. Because she has raised her children to be “globetrotters” according to her “modern” ideas. Maybe my parents are a reflection of the future of my generation.
It is worth thinking about this lifestyle. Especially at this time before Christmas.
Text: Josephine Landertinger Forero
Josephine Landertinger Forero is developing a documentary about this issue, with help form the Colombian Film Fund (Fondo de Desarrollo Cinematográfico, Colombia).
Lilia left her home country in the 70s and now, at the age of 66, wonders what her last home will be after having lived in eight countries. Aging in a global world confronts her with loneliness. How is it to grow old in a world full of “globetrotters”? Who is family? What and where is home?
As a documentary filmmaker and Lilia ‘s daughter these questions on a journey with the camera from Berlin to Portugal and Colombia.