All These Papers

Object Day Berlin: Ella Nilova

“Show us your story!” – Beginning in 2017, the Jewish participants in the Object Days project have answered this invitation by recounting their migration stories.

Woman with numerous documents in her hands

Ella Nilova, born in 1962 in Zhitomir, USSR, now in Ukraine.
Living in Germany since 1998.
Director of the Janusz Korczak House in Berlin.
Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Stephan Pramme

I have this certificate: “Ella Nilova – head of the Group Council, Group 2.” That was at the Sokol pioneer camp. And one from my school days: “For special achievements in learning the English language.” I was very active; I have many awards and certificates like these. Every time I rifle through all these things, I ask myself if I should hold onto all these papers or throw them out. For now, I’m holding onto them. My children are not very interested.

There are also many photos of me, of our family and our life in Saporoshye. And then it crossed my mind: I spent eighteen years of my adult life there. I married at age 18, so I went straight from childhood to adulthood. To family life. I spent eighteen years of my married life there, which included everything: family, studies, work. But now I’ve been here for eighteen years already. I look at those photos and realize how eventful, how full my life was back home in Ukraine. And now the eighteen years I’ve spent in Germany: they’re hectic and empty somehow. I can’t say that I don’t do anything or I don’t have anything to do. I’m constantly doing things. I said that to my daughter Lena. She said, “Mama, I feel the same. It’s all a fog here. We left everything interesting or colorful behind.”

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