Lotta packed a present for a friend for Christmas. She stuck a small potato on the gift box. I asked her why she gave her boyfriend a potato. Whether he was a vegetarian. Lotta said it was an "insider". But then she explained to me that her boyfriend was called "potato" by his friends. "Why potato?" I asked. "Potato – because it's really German." I found out her boyfriend didn't have a black, red, and gold bucket hat. He doesn't have a garden gnome collection either, and his favorite food isn't bratwurst either. Lotta said, however, that he was really, really German. I asked what was so German about her boyfriend. Lotta said her boyfriend was constantly checking the correct grammar and improving others. For example, if someone confuses "the" and "the" or if the genitive cannot. I said that this was actually not a sign of extraordinary Germanism. I asked her what she was like when her boyfriend was so German: "I'm probably Polish – at least about half!"
I found that very surprising. Lotta was born in Berlin, my wife in Hamm, myself in Mainz. Everything about us is as German as it can only be in Germany. "Since when have you been a Polish woman?" – "Well, we're kind of a Polish family too!" – "How? You are as German as your friend!" – "But you once said that we come from Poland!" Well, some of our ancestors come from Upper Silesia. On the part of my wife and on my side. My father had come to the end of the war as a toddler on the refugee route from the east. So we have a migration background, so to speak. In any case, my daughter's ancestors from the former eastern regions are sufficient to describe themselves as Polish. "Being Polish is cool," said Lotta. My daughter also thinks her friends are from Austria, Korea, China, Uganda, Syria and Armenia – and she is from Poland. In an environment where everyone seems to be traveling, Lotta obviously finds it more interesting to come from somewhere else. It is a problem today that so many children in German schools come from other countries. But this is normal for Lotta. Even in their kindergarten there were children from 20 nations. I remembered my own school days. At that time it was common for us to distinguish between the children who were "from here" and those who were "not from here". We found them exotic. Only later did dealing become a matter of course. For Lotta, on the other hand, different cultural backgrounds are as common as different hair colors.
I told my father that Lotta was now Polish. He said that his granddaughter was even partially right. Because my grandmother is probably the illegitimate daughter of a Polish father. There was always a secret about it in the family. Until the 1930s, our family was not called an examiner but Pannek. Only my grandfather, who was a bad Nazi, had asked to be renamed. He wanted a name that sounded properly German so that nobody would confuse him with a Pole. I imagine how annoyed he would be if he knew that his great-granddaughter is happy about every bit of Polish origin today. He who wanted so much to be a pure potato.