The Europeans – Irene

Nostalgia for the glory days

Irene - The Europeans

Irene was born here almost 100 years ago, during the city’s glory days as the capital. The seat of government was here. The finest architecture from that period adorns the streets: the administrative buildings, ministries, banks and embassies that a capital attracts. It was a multicultural place where languages and names from all over the world could be heard. Irene herself lived in a community where only her language was spoken, at school, in church and in the shops. Then war broke out. First the Germans invaded, then the Russians. Irene speaks German even though her family has lived here for six generations. After the war, she returned to a city consumed by fear. A provincial town, a former capital. Only in secret did she and other German speakers meet to celebrate their religion, language and traditions. In public, she disappeared into the masses who were supposed to take the country forward as a united people. But she saw the opposite happening. Her children barely speak her language. Her oldest son served in the army of the last occupier, just as her father served in the army of the first occupier. “I feel at home wherever I am,” says her son. “My family is incredibly European; throughout history we’ve lived in almost every country. But we’ve only felt like that recently, because we now live in a city where only one nationality is in charge and is dominant. Their big hero, the one immortalised in the knight statues all around town, didn’t even speak their language! Apparently, they need something to be proud of now. In the future, things will mix again. Nothing stays the same.”

Irene - The Europeans

For more information on the project, visit