A collaborative newsletter & community for English speakers in Görlitz.

April 2024

April is probably one of my favorite times of the year in Görlitz - it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel and like the year is full of possibilities! Spending more time outside in the sun also does wonders for my outlook. Speaking of which, on April 1st two of the city’s most beautiful green areas will be opening again for the season – the Nikolaizwinger and the Ochsenbastei.

Photos: Tessa Enright

The Zwinger are areas between the remnants of the former city walls that have been turned into green spaces. The Nikolaizwinger starts at the Nikolaiturm and takes you up behind the Peterskirche. The Ochsenbastei begins at Uferstraße and ends at Bergstraße, both giving you views over the river. Something you absolutely don’t want to miss is the Ochsenbastei in May-June when the wisteria are in bloom – it’s truly magical.

Thank you for reading this – our first newsletter. I look forward to seeing how it will develop and to the contributions of other English speakers in Görlitz!

In this issue...

Starting Over: An Interview with Yuliya by Tessa Enright

Photo: Tessa Enright

Yuliya came to Görlitz two years ago from Poltava, Ukraine – a city with 280,000 people. Coming here was a surprise even though she had always liked Germany. “My dream came true, but not in the way I wanted it to. I wanted to come here someday, but not because of war.”

After coming here, Yuliya quickly realized she would have to start over from zero. “In Ukraine I had everything. I had a good job, I had projects and everyone in town knew me. I was always doing something. I can’t stand to sit around at home.” In the Ukraine she was a journalist on TV and then later she worked for her local government. She also volunteered her time in an organization that helps women escape from domestic abuse or learn new skills, as well as an organization that helps stray animals. When her husband visits her here, she often sends him back with a car full of pet supplies, donations for the organization back home.

Yuliya has two daughters, thirteen and three. The oldest is doing great here, she says, “She had a hard time in the beginning, she came home crying every day. She was the first Ukrainian student in her class. But now she comes home from school talking about how much she loves it.” Yuliya’s daughter will soon be leaving the eighth grade and hopes to attend gymnasium so she can later study at university. “She has a lot of big plans.”

Yuliya’s husband has stayed behind in the Ukraine to work. “He can’t stand to sit around at home and do nothing here in Germany, so he stays.” Because of the job, he hasn’t been drafted yet, but this could change next year and Yuliya worries about what will happen.

When asked if she has made friends here, Yuliya says that she doesn’t feel alone. “I’ve met a lot of Ukrainians here, but also a lot of Germans who are always ready to help. And then I found the English speakers meeting.” If anyone can make connections in a new place, it’s Yuliya. She radiates friendly, open vibes. She tells me a few instances of strangers on the street coming up to her to strike up conversation. "I am always grateful because it helps me practice my German."

“I always wanted to live in a beautiful place where I could wake up, go outside and see beauty. That’s the way it is in Görlitz. I love the old town, just to walk around the cemetery or the zwinger. I like to sit there peacefully and read a book, but I don’t get to do this as often as I like because I have a three-year-old.” Yuliya also likes to run along the Neisse River in her free time. Though she comes from a bigger city, she says she doesn’t miss everyone always being in a hurry or stuck in traffic. She likes the slow pace of Görlitz. But sometimes she misses the Ukrainian food.

I ask her if there’s anything else we should know about her, and she smiles, “I am looking for a job, please hire me!” Ideally she would like to find a job where she as a lot of interaction with people. The only thing currently holding her back is her language level.

“I decided, I have to study the language because in Görlitz, English doesn’t get you far. I studied German in school, but it was a long time ago and it wasn’t enough”. Yuliya is currently feeling frustrated with her German course because she feels like she got pushed into a level that is too high for her.

The future is uncertain for Yuliya, but she stays positive and can joke about it. “I never imagined that I would turn forty and have to ask myself all over again: what do I want to be when I grow up?”

Just Across the Bridge: Dom Kultury by Jonathan Jerald

Photos: Jonathan Jerald

Just across the motor bridge over the Neisse there is a pleasant park with ponds, pathways and a sizable amphitheater, all dominated by the Miejski Dom Kultury or Municipal Cultural Center (take the first right after the gas station). It is an imposing neo-baroque/neoclassical structure with a handsome and surprising stained-glass dome.

The Dom Kultury was originally a monument to the first two emperors of a united Germany, Wilhelm I and Frederick III and was called the "Upper Lusatian Hall of Fame" and then the "Upper Lusatian Hall of Remembrance." The original imperial collections were looted or moved to Wrocław after the war and it has been a non-profit community center ever since.

It houses galleries (currently featuring an exhibition of work by local artists (Grenztraum: Knüpft Verbindungen), rehearsal and dance spaces, a theater and an intimate 64-seat screening room. Films are in their original language with Polish subtitles. Click here for the schedule. There is live music (piano recitals and the like) and a long tradition of live theater, dating back to the opening of the place in 1905. You might find announcements for upcoming events at the website, but I discovered the best way to get a handle on upcoming activity is just to go there and check out the posters just inside the entrance.

On July 6, 1950, the Zgorzelec Agreement was signed there by the prime ministers of Poland and the GDR, officially recognizing the border on the Neisse and Oder rivers. The history of the twentieth century is written in stone in the statuary attached on the front of the building.

Görlitz Artwork by Yevheniia Zhydkova

Yevheniia is a full-time artist from Gostomel, Ukraine. She is inspired by nature, meditation, rituals and looking for beauty in simple things and actions. She has chosen some pieces depicting sights in Görlitz to share with us in this newsletter - thank you Yevheniia! The first piece is the Muschelminna on Postplatz and the second piece is of the Dicker Turm.

Click here to see more of Yevheniia's artwork.

2024: Year of Elections by Tessa Enright

Photo: Tessa Enright

2024 is a big year for elections. Globally, more voters than ever before will be heading to the polls. The results of these elections will have consequences for years to come.

In Görlitz there will be a City Council Election (Stadtratswahl) and District Council Election (Wahl des Kreistages) on June 9th this year, where citizens will decide on new city and district councilors to represent us for the next five years.

Our partner city Zgorzelec is having a local election on April 7th. As well as elections for city and district councilors, Rafał Gronicz, who has been mayor of Zgorzelec since 2006, is running for reelection.

The 2024 European Parliament election will be held from June 6th to 9th. Citizens of 27 EU member countries will elect 720 politicians to European parliament. The number of seats in the European Parliament will increase by 15, so some countries may gain more representatives.

Who can vote in the European Parliament election? EU citizens can vote in this election, however voting from abroad is a bit trickier – if you are a citizen of Poland, for example, you can only vote in Poland or at a consulate or established precinct. Czech citizens, on the other hand, are not able to vote in the European Parliament election while abroad. If you are unsure about how to vote in this election while abroad, please consult this briefing from the EPRS.

Personally, I am not able to vote in any of these elections and there are others like me who have lived her for a long time but don't have a say. The new reforms to citizenship law coming this June in Germany will enable many of us to seek German citizenship, and with it the right to vote here, but it will be too late for this round of elections.

From those of us who are unable to vote here, we thank all of you who are for heading to the polls! Your votes will help shape the future - not just of our European city Görlitz/Zgorzelec, but of Europe and the world. As a US-American I will keep that in mind when I mail in my ballot this November.

Book Exchanges in Görlitz by Tessa Enright

Photos: Tessa Enright

"Books are a uniquely portable magic"- Stephen King

Book exchanges are an inexpensive way to obtain books – you never know what you will find and the randomness of it perhaps encourages taking a chance on books that one might not select for themselves at a book store. Neighborhood book exchanges can change impersonal neighborhoods into communities.

Where are the book exchanges in Görlitz?

If you're a German speaker, you are in luck because there are several neighborhood book exchanges in Görlitz with lots of German language books. But if you are still learning German and don't feel confident enough to pick up a German-language novel yet, don’t fret! The book exchanges provide an opportunity for learning and the community shapes the books that appear in them. You can look for books geared toward children or youth written in simpler German. And if more of us multilinguals leave English or Polish language books, for example, it will lead to more of these books being available for exchange. Happy reading!

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(Ich stimme zu, dass meine personenbezogenen Daten genutzt werden, um E-Mails zu erhalten und ich weiß, dass ich diese jederzeit widerrufen kann.)