“Like a leaf in the wind” – Victoria’s patchwork life

Victoria’s life seemed settled and decided when she was only in her mid-twenties. But the fall of the Soviet Union changed it all.

Thoroughly, Victoria takes a violet pane of glass, breaks it into pieces and glues these mosaics onto a vase which already has pieces of many different colours and is after and after becoming a piece of dazzling patchwork art. Whoever sees the small woman with the roundish face for the first time, would find her totally inconspicuous. But when looking into Veronicas smiling brown eyes sparkling like the mosaic glass in her hands, one catches the glimpse of this appealing story that has been her life for 41 years.
Born into a Russian-Polish family in Vilnius 25 years before the Soviet Union broke into pieces and Lithuania declared its independence, Victoria was taught to keep expectations low from her earliest childhood: “Accept, whatever God gives to you”, her Grandmother had advised her. “Do not put it into question.” Victoria still looks up into the sky when she speaks of God. But what has been disguised as an orthodox belief, was before all a political rule: Submit yourself to your fate, there is no way out. Not easy for a young girl as curious as Victoria. Dreamily and pragmatic at the same time, the 17-year old decided that when she couldn’t see the world behind the iron curtain, she could at least have a glimpse beyond the city walls of Vilnius. She left her family to study medicine at one of the furthest attainable places: In the Siberian city of Krasnojarsk, 4000 km east of Moscow, where she settled, married a medicine student from Siberia and had two kids. Her life seemed settled and decided when Victoria was only in her mid-twenties.
But the fall of the Soviet Union changed it all.
Like never before she felt the desperation of being imprisoned in a far-away place, detached from her beloved ones: “I heard of shootings in Vilnius on television and was horribly afraid for my relatives and friends living there. But I had no chance to contact them.” Thus she packed suitcases again, shut another door – and returned to Vilnius with her new family. Her love however didn’t stand the historical changes: “Whatever we did, we were always on the wrong side: After the Stalin regime had come down, Lithuanians discriminated us for speaking Russian – although we had suffered as much as any other opponent!” She easily adapted to her former hometown, but her husband couldn’t: He only spoke the disgraced Russian language and didn’t find any work in Vilnius as a consequence. “The situation tore us apart.”
For the first time Victoria no longer accepted “what God gave her”. She wanted more than that. She packed her suitcase, left the determinative thinking of her grandmother back home and stepped out to travel all over that unknown part of Europe she was so eager to discover: “At that moment I already felt European, although we wouldn’t join Europe until 2004.” After having experienced discrimination and economic instability in Vilnius the provincial cosiness and equality in Denmark attracted her so much that she settled with her children in 2003: “Everything was cute and comfortable. Danish people are all on first-name-term with each other and I easily made new contacts.”
She looks out of the window where the German autumn blows by leaves and masses of people, and her still-young face shows a slight trace of resignation: “Perhaps I am such a leaf myself, letting myself blow from one place to another.” For the first time there was no political reason involved when she moved to Hamburg head over heels in 2005, perhaps no reasoning at all. The wind that has captured Victoria is called Victor, a German of Kazakh origin. Smilingly she puts the last mosaic into the shining vase, as if she was suddenly aware, how much her handicraft reflects the story of her life.

interview: 90 min., writing: 4 hours