What traces the “turning point” left behind


As of: February 25, 2024 11:03 a.m

A lot has changed in Germany since Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Life has become more expensive and the population is tired. What traces have the past few years left behind?

It is the exhaustion, the tiredness that many families in Germany know all too well. After the pandemic years, there simply isn’t as much strength left, says Ileana Dilger. She is the mother of three children and works for a daycare provider in Berlin. She notices the discontent of the families, who are at their limit. But she also sometimes just feels exhausted and hopeless because of the many crises of the past few years.

Poor conditions for looking after children, a shortage of skilled workers, a lack of school places, plus increased food prices and the constant reports of war in Ukraine and, for months, Israel. Many parents are withdrawing and trying to make the best of it, says Dilger. But many people are slowly running out of breath.

It has now been two years since the Chancellor gave his famous “turning point” speech, which promised support for Ukraine. But Germans have not been particularly optimistic about the new year since the beginning of the year. According to the Germany trend in January, 41 percent – now twice as many German citizens as at the start of the war – consider Germany’s financial support for Ukraine to be too extensive.

Dilger says she sometimes wonders whether there is also a vision for families. Also how to invest, especially in education and children. They did receive more child benefit, but what else?

Sometimes money is just tight, even if she just got a raise. The five of us live in a three-room apartment. They have given up looking for something bigger; the housing shortage in Berlin can be felt in every corner.

In some cases, rents have increased threefold, says Ileana Dilger. It’s just shocking sometimes. Two years after the start of the war in Ukraine, many problems in Germany have not been solved – and discontent is growing.

“My life stands still”

On the outskirts of Berlin, Natalia Poltava has been sitting in the refugee accommodation in the former Tegel airport site for a year and three months. She fled to Germany with her three children. They are nine, twelve and thirteen years old and live there with little privacy together with around 3,700 refugees from Ukraine and 500 from other countries. For more than a year, the family has not been able to get out of the refugee accommodation, which was only supposed to be a first point of contact.

“Life is very stressful here, my children can’t go to school,” says Poltava. “I sometimes get panic attacks here about what to do next. Life just stands still for us here.” Other refugees are also desperate.

60-year-old Natalia Kherson is close to tears when she says that she has not been able to find any other accommodation in Germany for over a year. She fled the Ukrainian city of Melitopol with her grandson. They simply couldn’t go back, the city was occupied.

Kherson says she is grateful that she was accepted into Berlin-Tegel. But she wants to work, have her own place to live, and live her life. “There are good things here, but also bad things in the accommodation. The main thing is that there is no shooting.”

Tired company

Mark Seibert from the Berlin State Office for Refugee Affairs says the situation is causing him sleepless nights. There is no longer a place in Berlin where refugees can be accommodated. “There is no chance even for normal earners of finding a place to live. Our shared accommodation is full. I currently have zero places in the accommodation,” says Seibert.

He notices the tiredness that has spread through the city. There are still many NGOs that would help in Tegel, but the solidarity, as at the beginning when the refugees arrived at the train station in Berlin, has become less. “I, too, have become tired because I want different accommodation for the people. I look to the future with concern.”

“Politicians acted haphazardly”

For some it is concern, tiredness about the current situation in the country. For others it is anger that is getting louder and louder, like in Wolfratshausen, Bavaria. Manfred Fleischer from the BCF Wolfratshausen sports club has been protesting there for months.

He is standing in front of a gymnasium that has been occupied by around 200 refugees since March 2022. His sports club has already lost many members because they can no longer train there. Young people would now have to drive miles to the next hall, and some would have given up.

His patience is now at an end. “Politicians acted without a plan, in the end it is the municipalities and at the very end my sports club, which suffers the consequences and fights for its existence,” says Fleischer. He demonstrated with other members in front of the hall in October 2023. Nothing happened. There is no perspective as to what will happen next, or a solution.

The responsible district administrator Josef Niedermaier from the Free Voters is very worried about the discontent and the protests on site. But he doesn’t find a solution quickly; he’s also looking for alternatives. Two years after the start of the war in Ukraine, he is at a loss about the mood in his district. “I could never imagine that society would react so violently.”

More on this topic today at 6 p.m. in the report from Berlin on ARD.

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