nichtort_280“Home is a nonplace. Home is a utopia. You can experience it in the most intense way, if you are away and you miss it; the actual homefeeling is the homesickness. And even if you are not away, the homefeeling nourishes itself out of the missing, out of that, which does not anymore or not yet exist. Because the memory and the longing are turning places into homes.“ (Bernhard Schlink, Heimat als Utopie)

Transcarpathia is a region in the west of Ukraine, surrounded by the natural border of the Carpathian mountains and artifical borders of the countries Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. It used to belong to seven different countries: until 1918 it belonged to Hungary, then for 20 years to Czechoslovakia. For two weeks it became an autonomous country, then until 1944, it belonged to Hungary, then to the Soviet Union and since 1991 to the newly founded Ukraine. Nowadays the area is often dismissed by the Ukraine government. Statistically, is has around 90 per cent unemployment, with most people relying on their own land and livestock in order to survive.

Nowadays a lot of different nationalities and religions are settled in the region, and, depending on the inhabitants and the size of the village, the time is changed to either Ukrainian or Hungarian, which has an hour’s difference between them. This is a situation which a lot of countries (though mostly Eastern European) are now facing. These countries, which were part of the large Habsburger kingdom, were split up and have since become entwined in a game of ruling countries: borders were changed and countries founded according to geographical location and political interests rather than their history, language or culture. There has been no consideration for the society and culture of the people who have to deal with the outcome.

I was travelling in Transcarpathia and visiting various places in a search for the inhabitants’ identity, their ideas and their wishes. Talking to people from different national and religious backgrounds, the result is a very personal interpretation of an area and people who are confronted with a lack of national and individual belonging.

People who lack a national identity (either historically or because of little state presence in everyday situations) are limited in their personal and professional development. They withdraw into their personal surroundings: the home and the family.

This is just an interpretation of an issue I could barely get close to. Trying to understand peoples’ identities, which consists mostly of irrational and undefinable feelings, the interpretation feels it’s merely scratching the surface.

Evi Lemberger