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Friday, March 24, 2023

Germany: “Those who require counsel and adept aid come to me”

In a difficult moment in life, I want to find support and support, feel human participation, get the right advice. Many of those who came from Russia, as they say, experienced in their own skin all the difficulties of adapting to a new country. It was especially difficult in Germany for those who had just learned the language of their newly acquired homeland, not to mention its rules and laws. And here “experienced” migrants came to the rescue, conveying to newcomers from the countries of the former Soviet Union not only their life experience, but also the telephone numbers and addresses of the community.

The Landsmannschaft der Deutscher aus Russland (LmDR eV) offers its members various possibilities for integration in Germany. Twenty specialists from different Länder carry out social work within the framework of a project of the BAMF Ministry for Migrants and Refugees. For the past 19 years, Veronica Nissen, an employee of one of the offices of this organization, has provided professional advice to former settlers. One of her current clients, Igor L., who arrived with his family from Kazakhstan in the summer of 2021, speaks of the consultant as a responsible and competent person: “She is quite simply an indispensable specialist for us.

We managed to learn about the fate of the woman, her professional interests and the current problems of clients, getting to know Veronika better. Here is what she told us about herself.

— I was born in Rostov-on-Don. My parents brought me to Bad Neuheim, Germany, when I was 14. To say that at the beginning it was very difficult for our family is to say nothing, but we constantly felt the support not only of compatriots, but also of social workers. I urgently needed to understand the basics of the language and study hard to keep up with my peers.

The dream of becoming a social worker appeared during my studies. Thanks to my parents and my own perseverance in mastering all the complexities of the profession, as well as many years of study, I began to work in my specialty. I like to help people: I really feel happy when someone solves their problem with my help. Sometimes I have to turn to the highest authorities in order to achieve a fair resolution of my clients’ life conflicts.

Are there differences in the advice of a lawyer and migration consultants?

According to German law, we are not entitled to give legal advice, although we regularly update our knowledge of the legal foundations of social work for our work. Our customer support is free. We tell people which organizations in Germany they should contact, how to ask for any help, help them fill out questionnaires, interpret the content of a letter from a competent organization or write a response.

Who turns to you for advice and help with day-to-day problems?

People come to me who need advice and competent help, and they are not necessarily Russian speakers. We do not refuse anyone. For a year, refugees from Ukraine have appeared with their troubles. In Bad Homburg, where our office is located, the disproportionate number of visitors, we had to work twenty hours a day, so great was the need for translations in all necessary cases. It happened that our office was visited by specialists, for example, public health insurance companies, to arrange health insurance. At that time, they came to see us as a group, we served everyone who needed help, translated and filled in forms with them.

Veronica, can you find time for your other interests?

At some point, I received additional training, which allows me to work with children and young people. For more than 18 years, my cooperation with the organization of German Youth in Russia – DjR has continued. This is work that gives me real joy: organizing concerts and holidays, teaching adults from time to time how to properly organize the leisure of the younger generation, thereby contributing to the creative development of children. I like to teach. Twice a week I offer German courses in Mülheim for elderly migrants, refugees from Ukraine and young mothers who cannot follow the official courses. This is a new activity for me. My students study diligently, hence the hope of their good results in the future.

In January this year, the Federal Government created the legal framework and, for the first time, published on the Internet the anti-poverty program for pensioners who came to Germany from the former Soviet Union. The previously created distress fund (Härtefallfonds) will pay compensation to late settlers and refugees from the Jewish contingent whose pensions, awarded by the German pension fund, do not reach the subsistence level.

As you know, this has happened to many older migrants, as their work experience in their home country has not been taken into account. Please explain the application process. How much can a pensioner claim?

Under certain conditions, age and property prerequisites, as well as the timely submission of applications to the board of the federal fund by the end of September 2023, applicants will be eligible to receive 2,500 euros. If the government of the country in which the needy lives contributes and replenishes the fund, the amount can be doubled. You can inquire about the package of supporting documents and the form of the questionnaire not only in our offices, social services of Jewish communities, but also directly on the foundation’s website. My colleagues and I help fill in the questionnaires and, if necessary, we will tell you where to get the missing documents.


At that moment, Veronica’s cell phone rang. “It’s my husband who worries about where I’ve been,” she said before continuing in German. At the end of the conversation, she added: “It is only thanks to his care that I manage to face many responsibilities.” It was dark outside the windows for a long time, and tomorrow my interlocutor again had a day full of work and worries. Therefore, I could only wish Veronica good luck in all her many affairs.

Elena Grinberg,

Frankfurt am Main.

Photo from Veronica’s personal archives.

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