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April 2020, Aarau, Switzerland

“Saskia, what was it like for you to leave friends and family behind?”

Almost two months ago, Saskia wrote me an e-mail. 24 years old, born and raised in Austria, moved to Switzerland 4 years ago because of her job. She’s a nurse … and she would be happy to be part of my project.
›Can you tell me more about yourself?‹, I wrote back.
The first sentence of her response made me smile: ›If you’re looking for somebody who is able to lick his elbow, then don’t read on.‹ Her message seemed thoughtful, including the part where she writes that ›… she likes to bake to sweeten her and other people’s day. Because life offers many sour experiences.‹.

A few weeks pass by, the Corona virus hits and one day, I must think about her response again. ›I’d like to write about you during these times‹, I text her.
›I’m happy to help‹, is her answer. So a few days later I call her. This time, I’m not so nervous anymore. It’s April 17th.

»Hi Saskia. So nice it happens.«
»Yes, sure.«
»You live in Aarau, right?«
»No, I only work there. Maybe I wrote it incorrectly?«
»No, no, I’m wrong.«

It can be strange to hear somebody’s voice the first time after you only did some written communication. She seems a bit shy at first – no surprise, as a random guy wants to ask some personal questions. I explain my idea to her. »Only answer what you’re comfortable with«, I add.

I would like to know how she’s currently doing. »It’s not so much different for me«, she says. »The people I talk to the most in general are my colleagues at work. And due to the current situation, I have no bad conscience to say no. I’m bad at saying no. I try to see the good in everyone and everything which maybe isn’t always the best strategy.«
She tells me that she left Austria because in Switzerland her job offers more possibilities.

»Do you notice any differences in our lifestyles?«, I ask.
»I don’t mean it in a judgemental way but in Austria people tend to be a bit more spontaneous. I text somebody and ten minutes later we might meet. I think spontaneity contributes to deepening relationships. When I left my country I lost some friendships. You realise which ones were superficial. The people closest to me mainly live in Austria. I miss them and I struggle with not knowing when I’ll see them again. With one of my friends I make phone calls every day. I know her since we are 9 years old. She’s going through a breakup at the moment and if I would be in Austria, we would meet everyday. The past weeks made us strong, I didn’t know before that, that we can get this close. I thought it would happen with somebody else.«
»How hard was leaving 4 years ago?«
»It was very difficult. I had taken care of my grandmother who was heavily sick. She was almost blind. She had originally moved from Germany to Austria because of my grandfather. They had a house and my grandmother’s wish was to stay there and not to go to a retirement home. She let me know that she wants to see me happy and if I wanted to move to Switzerland, I should do so. It’s 10 hours by car and when I left the first time, I cried during the whole drive. I felt bad for leaving. Half a year later, she died. It hit me. I realised how far away I am from home. That I had done my part in fulfilling her wish made me being in peace with myself.«

She told me that after more than 2 years of long distance relationship her boyfriend finally moved to Switzerland too. »How would it be for you during this time if you lived alone?«, I ask her.
»I have no problem with being alone but I cannot imagine life without him. There’s somebody waiting for you in the evening. He knows me so well. He knows my friends in Austria, he met my grandmother … he knows how I feel.«
5 days later, I decided to make an exception. I met her and took her picture. Only from afar. I know this area very well form my childhood, and I get the feeling that I got to know Saskia quite well too.

»Why did you tell me all of this?«, I ask her this day.
»These are my experiences … everybody has them. Why should I hide?«