Alexander Fufaev
My name is Alexander FufaeV and here I write about:

2005-2007: A new life in Germany and the Förderschool

March 25, 2005. Early in the morning, we continued our journey to Germany by plane without Grandpa. After a three-hour flight, we finally reached Frankfurt. We disembarked and made our way to the reception area, where a large crowd awaited the arrivals. Among the people standing at the front, I spotted Joachim. My mother went straight to him and hugged him first. I followed her and hugged him too, feeling slightly unsure as I didn't know how to behave towards him. However, in that moment, it didn't feel so difficult to accept him as part of our new life. Especially when we walked to the parking lot and I saw his luxurious BMW 7 Series. In Russia, I always felt that only wealthy mobsters owned such cars. In Germany, however, it seemed normal because all the cars in the parking lot looked impressive.

As we got into his BMW, I curiously wondered what all the buttons and illuminated displays were for. Compared to Grandpa's LADA, the BMW's ultra-modern interior seemed like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

From Frankfurt, we set off towards Hannover. After a long but exciting drive on the German Autobahn without speed limits, we finally reached Lühnde. As we got out of the car, we stood in front of Joachim's house, which was now to become our new home.

Hardly had I entered the house with amazed eyes when a tall man and a little boy rang the doorbell. They were our neighbors Jörg and his son Jan, who was a few years younger than me. Although they spoke in German the whole time, I couldn't understand a single word. After they said goodbye, I finally had the opportunity to explore the house a bit. A staircase in our own house - that was something very special! And two toilets, as well as so many rooms! Unfortunately, my exploration tour didn't go any further because the sleepless night at the airport and the car ride had exhausted me, and I was dog-tired.

The next morning, I continued my exploration tour in the house. My room was located directly to the left behind the front door. The staircase led upstairs to the living room, the parents' bedrooms, Laura's and Dascha's rooms, and Joachim's office. In the lower part of the house were the kitchen, the dining room with its antique chairs, the bathroom, and the workshop where Joachim's motorcycle stood and where he always smoked.

The first evenings in Germany were deeply painful for me because the longing for Dima and the others was simply too great. I lay lonely in bed, staring at the ceiling, missing the familiar faces, my father's jokes, and the adventures with Uncle Sascha. I felt lost in this new country that was still so foreign to me.

But I had no other choice but to embrace this unknown life and hope that it would become more bearable over time.

The Remedial Class

After a short adjustment period, I had to go to school. Since I couldn't speak German, Mama and Joachim enrolled me in a language support class offered by the Geschwister-Scholl-Schule in Hildesheim.

On the first day of school, I went with Mama by bus to Hildesheim and from there by a second bus to the school to get used to the route. In school, I was introduced to my class teacher, Mrs. Schlömer, and then we started learning German right away: reading short sentences and writing dictated words. During break time, I got to know the Russians Max and Maxim, as well as my classmates David and his sister Sabrina from Poland, Kerim and his two sisters from Turkey, and Svetlana and Tanja, who also came from Russia.

After school, I simply followed the other students, who fortunately led me to the right bus stop. From there, I took the same route back to Hildesheim main station, where so many students were waiting for buses that I initially had trouble finding the right bus home. With the help of a memorized sentence, which I recited with my strong Russian accent, I finally asked a bus driver for directions, and he helped me find the right stop. After a half-hour ride, I finally arrived home, a few hours late. It was a very exhausting and stressful first day of school in Germany.

But not only the school day was exhausting, but also Joachim's rules. I had to go to bed at ten o'clock, buckle up in the car, and always wait at the table until everyone finished eating, while he was allowed to blow his nose. I also had to get used to not eating Oma's bread in the evening anymore, but so-called toast, which I didn't like. Moreover, the cheese and sausage with which I topped the bread tasted somehow different than in Russia. This particularly affected my digestion and the movie night on weekends. If Joachim fell asleep on the sofa during the movie and started snoring loudly, I just had to fart once to wake him up. Even a quiet fart was so terrible that Joachim woke up from it and fled to my mother's bedroom, while I tried unsuccessfully to suppress my laughter. I had learned that from him. What must come out, must come out - as he always said.

Sometimes, Mama, Joachim, and Dascha were out, and I had to take care of little Laura, who could barely crawl. When she filled her diaper, I carefully carried her downstairs to the bathroom to change it. I placed her on the toilet seat, removed the old diaper, and when I looked around for the new one, I realized it was out of my reach. Laura lay still on the toilet seat, so I was convinced that nothing would happen if I just let go of her for a second to quickly grab the pack of diapers.

*BUMMM* As I held the pack of diapers in my hand, I heard a bang and then suddenly a loud cry. Laura had fallen from the toilet seat onto the hard tile floor. The pack of diapers slipped from my hand as a huge fear came over me. What if she had broken something in the fall? Carefully, I lifted her back onto the toilet seat and joined in her crying, holding her tightly and checking if her limbs were in any way misaligned. When she finally stopped crying after a while, I could also calm down. The next day, she had a huge bruise along her leg. Mama wondered where it came from, but I only told her about the incident a few years later.

Alexey

With time, I got used to school, Joachim's rules, and Germany. Sure, there were often conflicts with students of other nationalities during breaks - sometimes even within our own class. But I was already toughened up when it came to such conflicts, and compared to my school on Petrovsky Boulevard, the disputes here were just child's play.

During break time, I usually sat with Max and Maxim and enjoyed my cheese sandwich, which I bought for only fifty cents from my pocket money. Sometimes, I supplemented my pocket money by stealing a few coins from a large jar full of loose change that stood in my parents' bedroom.

Once, a few other Russians passed by our bench and shook our hands, even though I didn't know them. Max and Maxim introduced me to them. These guys were already in the advanced language support class. Among them was Alexey, who later became my best friend here in Germany. He was a head taller than me, slim, had blonde hair, and originally came from Siberia. Maxim also had blonde hair and was slightly stockier than us. Max, on the other hand, had short brown hair and was half a head taller than me. All of them were several years older than me.

Since I had lent Gothic to Max, Maxim, Alexey, and the other Russians, the game was the only topic of conversation during school breaks.

“I was in the forest, and there were orcs!” Alexey told us in Russian. Gothic was rich in dialogues and texts that we naturally had to understand to progress. The game helped all of us improve our German skills - but not fast enough for our teachers, as evident from my performance:

“[…] He entered the class with basic German skills. He communicates with classmates in Russian. So far, he has made little noticeable progress. He completes assigned tasks with concentration but at an extremely slow pace. Alexander can read texts almost fluently and partly understand them.

He copies texts almost flawlessly and does dictations with relatively few errors. He still has problems with the Latin script, especially with distinguishing between uppercase and lowercase letters.

Alexander independently grasps grammatical connections and can apply them when he tries. Alexander still finds it difficult to integrate into the German school system. He often arrives late and does not regularly complete homework.”

Gothic

We jokingly adopted dialogues from Gothic. Once, I shouted at Max before getting on the bus, “Just wait, you scoundrel!” and chuckled to myself. Or said to the cashier in the cafeteria, “Show me your goods”. But instead of drugs, I spent my money on greasy cheese sandwiches.

After we had completed Gothic, we were so overwhelmed by the story and all the adventures that we immediately inquired about a sequel. There was indeed a second part of Gothic. Each of us bought the game. Unfortunately, my computer, still equipped with a CRT monitor, was too slow for Gothic II. After all, it was just an old box that Joachim no longer needed. Therefore, I was jealous of the others because they were much further in the game with their powerful computers. But eventually, Mama also bought me a new computer, which I was allowed to choose myself at Media Markt. It even had a flat screen!

With the new computer, I dared to invite my Russian friends to my house, where we held LAN parties. We played shooter games like Counter-Strike 1.6 and the best strategy games like Age of Empires II and Empire Earth.

When one of us had a birthday, I was always invited; even though I didn't always want to be there because usually, everyone got drunk. I didn't like alcohol at that time, especially not vodka. If I could choose, I preferred a cold beer or even better: red wine. The main thing was that it didn't taste like disinfectant.

Unfortunately, I couldn't choose the alcohol at Maxim's birthday party. There was only vodka. This led to me throwing up for the very first time after over ten shots - and right in a bar, directly onto a sofa. Max and Maxim carried me home to Maxim's place while I loudly mumbled the song "White Roses" by Yuri Shatunov. During this time, the four of us became really good friends, even though our friendship was marked by mutual - especially sexually charged - insults and banter. Together with Max and Maxim, I survived the first semester of the advanced support class. However, in the second semester, without my friends - at the recommendation of my teacher - I was sent to the eighth grade of the Hauptschule to demonstrate my acquired German skills. My previous performance was commented on by my teachers as follows:

"[…] Although he has now learned so many vocabulary words and expressions that he could easily converse with his classmates in German, he predominantly uses the Russian language. He is often unfocused and distracted. Alexander should participate more actively in class. Alexander can read unknown texts fluently, largely comprehend their meaning, and reproduce them in his own words. He copies texts almost flawlessly and makes relatively few errors in practiced dictations. He still needs to work on his handwriting. He independently grasps grammatical connections and can apply them. Just as in German class, he should also participate more actively in mathematics and work according to his abilities. […]"

German Class

The second semester in a real German Hauptschule class was not so successful because I didn't fully understand the teachers linguistically yet, and I didn't take the criticism written in the performance report of my teachers particularly seriously. Besides, computer games were much more fun than school. When I wasn't hiding behind the computer, I sometimes played soccer with Jan, the neighbor's kid, and his friends. The good thing about soccer was that we didn't have to talk to each other. It was difficult for me to understand everything the boys said.

Sometimes, the neighbors also invited us for barbecues. There, I didn't understand anything anymore of what the adults were talking about. Jan's older sister, Lisa, was also at the barbecue, whom I found quite pretty. We had nothing to do with each other, especially because I always looked away quickly whenever she looked in my direction.

The last time I looked deep into her eyes was from my room when I heard someone playing ball right outside my window. So, I briefly peeked through the slats of the blind and saw Lisa playing basketball with her brother. I stared at her the whole time while she dribbled right in front of my window. Suddenly, she turned to my window and caught me. I found that extremely embarrassing, so from that moment on, I always tried to avoid her. Since then, I also had less to do with Jan.

From Farmer to Computer Nerd

Due to my poor German skills, especially because of the inability to communicate properly with others, I isolated myself from the outside world and escaped into the world of computer games. This phase of isolation gradually changed my personality. But I believe that if I had met false friends instead of Max, Maxim, and Alexey, and hadn't had such a good stepfather, I wouldn't have become a computer nerd, but perhaps a junkie or a criminal. My Russian buddies and the other foreigners at my school, who were also stranded in a foreign country without any language skills, were in a similar situation. Some were constantly aggressive, others bullied a fat German guy with glasses who didn't believe in God. Then there were all the tough guys and us - the cultural outsiders. Everyone was the result of their social environment. I was really lucky that I befriended reasonable people and not gopniks.


Future Learning from Emigrating: The most important step to integrate a person into a foreign society (with a different language and culture) is to connect them with people who are already integrated.