02 January 2009
I was told that when I was only a toddler I would get very excited about snow and kept pointing at the window shouting: “Schneu schniet!”
Translated from the Low German dialect (Plautdietsch) my family speaks it means: “Snow snows”. My aunt used to laugh about this duplication and that way the story is told till today.
I did not speak much “proper” German till I went to school. It was always Plautdietsch for us at home; even though we were the only family I knew speaking it. I must have heard my parents speak German and Russian, but I do not recall it.
One day in kindergarten (I must have been about 6 years old) I was asked the names of my parents and truthfully I answered: “Maria and … “and there I stopped. The other kids went on asking but I just shut up. They where teasing me about not knowing my dad’s name and asked if it was Joseph. Obviously I knew my dad’s name. But just a second before I said his name I realized that the only person I had ever heard calling him by his name was my mum. She called him “Willi”, I knew that. But I did not know if that was his Plautdietsch name or his proper, legal name. I was not sure if the name even did exist in German and afraid of being made fun of I preferred to say nothing. It did not really save me from ridicule. (By the way my dad’s name is really Willi)
It´s funny that this experience is one of the few memories I have of my kindergarten time. It seems pretty insignificant from today’s perspective, but I know that that moment influenced me. I thought life was hard enough without me having to wonder all the time if I pronounced something in German or Plautdietsch. So I stopped speaking Plautdietsch at all. My parents where fine with it, but at my grandparents place I had to hear a lot about how I was not able to speak the “real language” any more and me being proud. Till today I feel left out when people won’t include me into their little circles for understanding, but not speaking, Plautdietsch.
Back to the snow. Today it started to snow and when one of my siblings said that famous sentence, I was thinking about how weird it is that I was the one who said that one day. That that little cute girl I know from pictures and stories used to be me. That “Schneu schniet!” would be my invention and that one day years ago was speaking only Plautdietsch. Well, what truly has not changed is my excitement over snow. In that expect I am still a little kid!