Child No. 95 by Peter Hilliges

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Peter Hilliges
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When I was seven years old, a white man asked me, “Would you like to fly to Germany with me?” I didn’t know what Germany was. I knew nothing but the African bush where I lived. But I wanted to leave, because I was going hungry in the refugee camp. For almost 11 years I lived in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR); originally I even stayed in a manor, and was often pampered.
At 17, almost as suddenly as I had been catapulted from the bush to Europe, I had to go back to Africa. In me, my mother saw the ‘German’ who could not even cook pap, the Namibian national dish. She remained as strange to me as the country she loved. I saw the unexpected drought, and experienced the poverty from which the GDR had protected me.
At the first opportunity I left Namibia for Germany. When I returned, my mother was mortally ill. It was too late. For her. For me. For us. For me all that remained were memories and unanswered questions.
Then my sister gave me an old black-and-white photograph: the woman in the picture tilts her head slightly to the right. The look in her loving eyes is clear and open. Her full lips smile gently, the straight black hair falls softly over her forehead. The white nurse’s cap sits on her head like a crown. She wears a high-necked, light-coloured blouse, over which the straps of an apron emerge. The slender left hand points to her heart.
I stood in front of a mirror, looking for her features in my face, and I felt that I had to look for the tracks of my own life. So that I could understand the almost unknown woman in the touched-up photograph. And perhaps, in this way, I could love her, like I had longed for her love my whole life.

“The book by Namibian author Lucia Engombe about her years as ‘Child No. 95’ in the GDR has shed a new light on this almost forgotten chapter of German-Namibian relations.“ Horst Köhler as President of the Federal Republic of Germany

“Lucia Engombe`s memories are detailed, quite personal and honest … Without self-pity, but with almost clinical precision, the author recounts her observations.” Insight Namibia, Windhoek

“Extraordinary and gripping” Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Germany

“Lucia’s life story – a path of suffering” Der Spiegel, Germany

“A fascinating historical account that fills the gap in the story of the GDR kids published thus far: the detailed retelling of a very personal fate that mirrored that of others, but was nonetheless so deeply distressing in its uniqueness. Related with a quiet sense of humour and successful arc of tension” Allgemeine Zeitung, Namibia

“Lucia Engombe succeeded in creating a fascinating, autobiographical report” Goethe Institute, South Africa

LUCIA PANDULENI ENGOMBE was born on 13 October 1972 in Oshakati, northern Namibia. In 1979, she was flown to the German Democratic Republic and returned to Namibia in 1990. After immense difficulties in the home country which was now foreign to her, Lucia completed her schooling in 1994. She is currently studying Journalism at the University of Technology (formerly Polytechnic of Namibia) in Windhoek, and is finalising her law studies at the Windhoek-based Triumphant College through the Open University of Tanzania. She is a Senior Producer for the German Radio Service at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation in Windhoek, where she now lives.


Child No. 95

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