window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'G-XZCLKHW56X'); Lives in boxes - Ereb

Lives in boxes


Berlin, 10th April
It was a friend who suggested I work as a haulage contractor. And after ten years, in the industry, I can say that it was good advice. I love my job as every day is unique – new neighbourhoods, new people, new conversations, and new houses. It’s never boring.

Sometimes, customers require us to move just a few boxes from one flat to another. Whereas others hand us the keys and ask us to pack up and clear out the entire place. So, we get to see a lot of people’s lives. Especially when a couple splits and one partner has to move out. It’s often the first time they meet again, and arguments erupt. In these situations, I always say, “We’ll give them 20 minutes to calm down!

In my case, the entire process of moving happened very quickly. We didn’t have many belongings, so we had very little to pack. I grew up in Belarus. My father was stationed there with the army during the Soviet era. In 1996, just after I turned 18, we came to Berlin. We were granted an entry permit and German passports.

I’m a so-called Russian of German heritage. In 1762, Tsarina Catherine the Great assumed the Russian throne and invited people from the German principalities who were willing to immigrate to Russia and cultivate the land. The offer included ownership of land, financial assistance, tax breaks, religious freedom, exemption from military service, and the right to establish their own administrations. These immigrants came to be known as the “Volga Germans” since they were settled in the Volga region on the mountain ranges and banks of the middle Volga. People continued to emigrate from the German territories to the Russian Empire for 140 years.

During the 19th century, the Volga Germans enjoyed certain privileges in Russia under the tsar’s rule. That was until Tsar Alexander II abolished most of these privileges. In the 1920s, under Joseph Stalin’s regime, the Volga Germans were persecuted for the first time. After the German army invaded the Soviet Union during the Second World War in 1941, the Volga Germans were declared spies and collaborators across the board. They were stripped of their rights and not allowed to speak their native language, maintain their traditions, leave their homes, or emigrate. Some were also taken into captivity together with German soldiers, like my grandfather.

During the war, my grandfather came to Russia as a German soldier. While in prison, he pretended to be a Volga German because he feared going back to Germany. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Volga Germans were still considered enemies in their own nation. Despite hoping for freedom, my grandfather was sentenced to ten-years imprisonment in a labour camp located in Siberia. After being released, he travelled to Ukraine and then to Kazakhstan as a free man.

Since the mid-1980s, over 2.3 million Russian-German Spätaussiedler from the former Soviet Union have migrated to Germany, including my family. Today, Russians of German ancestry are one of the largest immigrant communities in Germany. Those of us who could prove our “German ethnicity” were eligible to apply for a German passport by German law. Although we have lost our German language, we Russians of German heritage are still identifiable as Germans by our names and the nationality mentioned in our domestic passports. These laws were established in the post-war period to facilitate the admission and naturalisation of more than twelve million German expellees and refugees from the German eastern territories and Eastern Europe.

A while back, I decided to promote my business by advertising that we can speak Russian, intending to attract customers from Eastern Europe. However, it didn’t seem to have any impact. I think they prefer to handle the process themselves. Otherwise, people from all walks of life come to me in Germany, from elderly couples to students. Some customers are also regulars. They don’t move every month but reach out to us every two to three years.

Since I moved to Germany, I have only visited Belarus twice. I had to choose between my Belarusian passport and my German passport, and I kept my German one. My whole family lives in this country now. And I like Berlin. I feel at home here. Every day I help people move in and out, but since I’ve been livng here, I can’t imagine a life elsewhere.


Valerius is the owner of a moving company. He was born in Belarus but came to Germany when he was 18 as a Spätaussiedler, which means he is a German emigrant who returned to Germany long after his family left the country.

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