It’s the Austrian National Holiday today and it’s been more than a year now that we have left behind our family home and moved to the near-by city of Linz. A year full of contemplations on the ambivalent meanings of home and Heimat.
What is the meaning of Heimat after all, apart from political attributions and nationalistic identity and pride? It seems weird to celebrate a belonging that is more like a jackpot in the lottery of birth, a privilege that one didn’t do anything for. In terms of holiday, today I am celebrating gratitude that I got to be born in a safe place, a democratic space that provides for a life of freedom and choice.
Considering that life is a journey with no defined beginning or end and a somewhat fluid and transient phenomenon, the concepts of Heimat and home are rather linear and stringent anchors.
I have heard many different attempts explaining the meaning of Heimat. Heimat is where you don’t need to explain yourself, Heimat is where you have spent big parts of your childhood and people know your story, where your memories and the memories of the people around you melt into a collective one of your lives lived together. Heimat is where there is always space for you, no matter what, where you are a piece of a puzzle and if one piece is gone this piece is being missed.
Having moved away from our home where our children were born and where we got our routs into the earth as a family was a partly painful and emotionally challenging process. This was to my biggest surprise given the gypsy soul within me, having lived and travelled all over the world and loving the road just for the sake of the road. Jack Kerouac, you always had me at Hello! Nevertheless, when it was breeding time, Heimat was calling and we moved to my origins, into Oma’s villa where I had spent a big amount of my childhood.
It is the most beautiful domestic haven but gosh, I hated being back there at the beginning. Had I failed in the big world out there?
Soon I started to feel the healing powers of going back to your roots and cuddling up in Heimat‘s womb. I enjoyed the most loving neighborhood and soft human connection in everyday life’s encounters. And I just looooved these old wooden windows and shutters.
Shelter from the storm. Not from the inside’s storms though.
It feels deliberating that you can create a home wherever you want to go. You will always find warmhearted people to connect with. Friends who make you smile and who laugh about your bad jokes.
Part of my homesickness was the confusion about this difference between my home and my Heimat. Finally, I realize: By leaving behind our home, I found my Heimat. Wherever we live, we will always have our Heimat within. A footing for freedom.