Natascha Wodin was born in the Bavarian town of Fürth in 1945 to parents who had been used as forced labour. She grew up in the so-called DP camps for displaced persons, and after the early death of her mother was raised in a Catholic home for girls. She then worked as a telephone operator and stenographer before training as an interpreter in the early 1970s. She began translating literary works from Russian into German and spent part of her working life in Moscow. Her writing career began in 1981, and she has since received many accolades for her work. She was married to the novelist Wolfgang Hilbig, experiences which she recounts in her major work, Nachtgeschwister. She lives in Berlin and Mecklenburg.
SOMEWHERE IN THIS DARKNESS
A personal history that shines a light on ours, too.
Natascha Wodin’s She Came From Mariupol was a powerful literary memorial to her mother. Her new book picks up the narrative from her mother’s suicide in 1956.
In this period of Wodin’s tumultuous life, the elder of two daughters is 16 years old and has spent time at a Catholic children’s home. She lives with her father in one of the “houses” down by the river, among the displaced and those forcibly removed, in a world outside of the world, set apart from the small German town nearby. Yet she longs to be part of the German community, to be called Ursula or Susanne, dreams of marrying one of the local tradesmen to escape her Russian heritage. Her father, however, who Natascha has feared since early childhood, effectively incarcerates her and bans her from wearing her red shoes, commanding her to clean their home. Wearing her mother’s blue taffeta dress, she escapes to the streets, vulnerable and alone.
The central figure of this story is a girl growing up in post war Germany as the daughter of victims of the Nazi’s forced labour policies, a girl who is avoided and mistrusted by the Germans around her. The story is told in retrospect, starting with the death of the author’s father in a German care home for the elderly. His life began during the reign of the last czar and spanned almost the entire 20th century. For his daughter, his history has remained an unknown void. Somewhere in this darkness, behind the silence, she forages for a key that will unlock something akin to understanding. This momentous story of the monstrous effects of homelessness and dislocation is told in Wodin’s acclaimed prose that while straining to remain objective is imprinted with a deep sense of the poetic.