At home yet not at home


When he was three years old, Herbert Werner and his family were expelled from Czechoslovakia. His mother was Czech but his father was German. We have heard a lot in recent weeks about the mass expulsions of Sudeten Germans after the Second World War, but Herbert Werner is unusual in that he has come back to live in the Czech Republic, after not seeing the land of his birth for over fifty years. He now lives in Prague and is one of the directors of the Czech-German Future Fund, set up to foster good relations between the two countries. Here he talks about his feelings on returning to his native Bohemia.

When I came here for the first time, I felt that I am at home and not at home at the same time. I felt that wherever I came to - for instance to the town where the family of my father came from - I felt fairly acquainted with everything, because, from what my parents had told me, I knew what was there... and there... and there... and then, on the houses, I saw the names, even of acquaintances, of people out of my family. So I felt at home. I went to see the graves of my forefathers. I felt to be alien and non-alien at the same time, and the longer I live in this country, I feel to be a part of this region, of this country as well, because to me all the stones speak Bohemian. They speak Czech and German at the same time. Today, if I am asked, "What are you?", I say I am a German Bohemian.