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A Jewish Newcomer in Berlin (2000)

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These Jews and the Russian Germans constituted the fifth wave, though the Russian Germans are another story entirely. All the other groups taken together – Russian wives or husbands, Russian scientists, Russian prostitutes, students or scholarships – don’t add up to a single per cent of my countrymen living here.

How many Russians are there in Germany? The editor-in-chief of Berlin’s biggest Russian newspaper puts it at three million. And 140,000 in Berlin alone. But he is never quite sober, so I give no credence to what he says. After all, three years ago he was already putting the figure at three million. Or was it four? But it’s true that the Russians are everywhere. The old editor is right, there are a lot of us, especially in Berlin. Every day I see Russians in the street, in the underground, in the bars, everywhere. One of the women who works on the tills at the supermarket where I do my shopping is Russian.

There’s another at the hairdresser’s. The salesgirl at the florist’s is Russian too. Grossman the lawyer, though you would hardly believe it, originally came from the Soviet Union, just as I did ten years ago.

Yesterday in a tram two youths were having a loud conversation in Russian, thinking that no one could understand what they were saying. ‘I’ll never do it with a 200mm. There are always lots of people around him.’ ‘Then use a 500.’ ‘But I’ve never worked with a 500.’ ‘Fine, I’ll call the boss tomorrow and ask for the instruction manual for a 500. But I don’t know how he’ll react. You’d better be trying with the 200. You can always try again.’ Right.

Source of English translation: Russian Disco, Tales of Everyday Lunacy in the Streets of Berlin, translated by Michael Huise. Ebury Press, UK, 2002.
© Wladimir Kaminer. Chapter reproduced: Chapter 1 (“Russians in Berlin”), pp. 13-20. Used by permission of the Random House Group Ltd.

Source of original German text: Wladimir Kaminer, Russendisko (orig. 2000). München: Goldmann, 2003, pp. 9-18.

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