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Being Jewish in Germany, Then Switzerland

Voices from Europe: Questions of identity, visibility follow a move to Basel

Stephanie Butnick
March 13, 2015


This month at Jewcy, our partner site, we’re running a series called Voices from Europe, in which young Jews across Europe share stories stories and shed light on the reality of their day-to-day lives. Guest editing the site is Jane Braden-Golay, president of the European Union of Jewish Students.

In today’s post, Olga Osadtschy, a Ukrainian-born PhD candidate at the University of Basel, describes moving recently with her husband and young daughter from Germany, where she had lived since childhood, to Switzerland.

In 1996 my parents decided to leave Ukraine, our place of origin, and move to Germany. In the very same year they decided to tell me that we were Jewish. At first, being “Jewish” only meant having a free ticket to Western Europe, and it aroused the envy of my Ukrainian classmates. But Germany soon felt like home: I went to school and then university, and built a new family of friends, many of them Jewish immigrants like myself. I had no intention of leaving anytime soon.

However, my husband, our toddler daughter and I packed our bags for Basel in the north of Switzerland last year. We were convinced that moving to a German-speaking country would ease the transition, but even now, a year later, we are still trying to come to terms with the significant differences in culture and mentality of these neighboring countries.

Read the full post here.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.