ifa: Julia, from 2015 to 2017 you were an ifa editor at the newspaper 'Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung' (DAZ) in Kazakhstan. How was your experience in Almaty?
Julia Boxler: My stay was very intense and enlightening. Personally, I was returning to the country that my family had left 20 years before when they had immigrated to Germany. Although I was born in Kazakhstan and lived there until I was 10 years old, I rediscovered my 'old home country' in a brand new way.
ifa: How important was it for your work on site to already have an understanding of the country and people? Or, in other words, is the work something for someone without German-Kazakh roots?
Boxler: Of course, people without the cultural background of the place are just as capable of working for 'DAZ'. That's actually the norm. Interestingly enough, I was the first Russian-German, or Kazakh-German as the local German minority commonly refers to themselves, that has been sent to Almaty. Perhaps what I'm a little more aware of than people who don't have a personal connection to the country, is the diversity of the political and social systems in Germany and Kazakhstan. It was interesting to work as a journalist in a country with an autocratic streak.
ifa: You mentioned the term 'Kazakh-German'. Do you identify with this description?
Boxler: While I was there, I definitely identified more clearly with it as a part of my identity. Nevertheless, when I returned to Germany, I first needed some distance from the work-related topics in Kazakhstan. But the subject quickly captivated me again. Now I approach the topic of my background in a variety of ways specifically, but I also address post-emigration issues at large. As film maker and podcast producer, I work in cultural and journalistic areas and encourage a progressive discourse about this range of topics.
ifa: What experiences from your time as editor for ifa are important for your work now?
Boxler: Overall, I'm thankful for the Deployment Programme for giving me a better understanding of the many different points of view concerning immigration, identity, postcolonialism and also the discourse around the topic of homeland – on the one hand, through the many new friendships with locals and the work on site, but also through the exchange with ifa delegates in other countries. This has been very useful for the podcast X3 which my two colleagues and I co-produce. Thematically, we've broken new ground because the Russian-German and post-Soviet landscape that we highlight in various ways is rather underrepresented in Germany. Without my time in Almaty with ifa, I wouldn't have all of the expert knowledge and experience that I do now.
Interview by Holger Lühmann
At Home in the World: 25 Years of the Deployment Programme
From Germany out into the world – feeling at home at your next destination. In the Department of Integration and Media within ifa's Deployment Programme, this is possible. For 25 years, ifa Stuttgart has been sending editors and cultural managers to German-speaking minority groups in Central and Eastern Europe. This anniversary year, we present three former participants and their work.
Further interviews from the series 'At Home in the World':
About the Deployment Programme
ifa's Deployment Programme offers organisations of German minorities support in tasks. Work stays in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe and/or in a state of the Commonwealth of Independent States last between one and five years. ifa cultural managers and editors work on selected projects at the selected organisations and support them with their know-how. The aim of the Deployment Programme is to convey a modern and vibrant image of Germany and to strengthen local organisations in their cultural bridging function between minority and majority.