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Europe & me: Loud, cheerful and in the thick of it

Portrait Julia Irländer

I am 35 years old, I have freckles and a loud laugh, and I come from Germany. The fact that I was born here is pure coincidence, I could just as well have been born somewhere else on this planet. When I have to fill in the field “origin” on forms, I always find it strange to write “German” – I would definitely prefer “Human”. I studied in Austria, spent my semester abroad in Paris and then went back to Munich. I never felt Austrian, French or German, but always like myself. Loud, cheerful and in the thick of it.

Never in my life did I lack warm clothes, a roof over my head, a place to sleep and something to eat. The most uncomfortable nights I had to spend in my life were in a tent at my favourite festival. I was never forced to leave home, to beg for food or to swim oceans. People who have to do this are full of fear, but perhaps also full of hope: because they swim into a world where they may be better off, where there is no war, where they can find employment, where they can cook a hot meal for their children and take them to school. I remember as if it had been yesterday when, in the middle of my studies, I called my mum with 1.24 euros left on my account. She immediately got into the car, brought me 200 euros and invited me to dinner. At that time it felt like a small fiasco to me, but objectively it was rather a luxury problem.

Meanwhile I am a mother myself and hardly a day goes by without me looking at my children and thinking to myself: How lucky they are to be born and allowed to grow up in this country. In a safe country here in Europe, which is doing well economically, where there is peace. Of course, not all the countries in the EU can be tarred with the same brush, not all are equally well off, unemployment is higher here and lower there. But we are talking about the big picture, of which we can be a part. It is about the same values, the same goals, for a better future. It is about being able to meet the challenges of our time with joint forces and to seek solutions together – be it for climate protection, animal welfare or the constant changes that digital development carries with it. Perhaps the effects of climate change will not directly affect my children or their children. But some generation of my grandchildren will feel it, and that alarms me. I am very glad that we are not alone in facing the challenge to do something about this, but that we are trying, as a united Europe, to look in one direction.

Who needs borders in this world when it’s about the world as such? We only have this one world, so we should treat it carefully. Courage to be able to change things, not to be afraid of the unknown, but to be curious and open-minded. Tolerance, humanity and cooperation, that’s what I would like to give my children on their way. To commit oneself with all one’s strength for something that is close to one’s heart. And to know that they have a strong Europe behind them, one where all pull together and orient themselves towards the future.

 Julia Irländer lives in Munich and works in press and public relations for a non-profit organisation supporting children and youth culture. In her private life she is mother of two children, ‘cat mother’ and a passionate everyday cyclist. Since 2017 she has been blogging on about her family life and, together with a dear friend, has been producing the family podcast “Three years awake” („Drei Jahre wach“) since autumn 2018. Read more at und (in German). 
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