It's always interesting when I meet someone for the first time and they ask,
So, what do you do with yourself? I keep my first response simple,
I'm a German translator. Often people find that interesting enough and the topic changes. However, sometimes people follow with
What sort of stuff do you translate? to which I then say
Well, I work in the archives at the holocaust museum. Many people don't know what to say or think. So I reassure them the museum is my second family and has brought new meaning to my post-injury life.
A new beginning
In 2006 I had just finished another stint in hospital and wanted something meaningful to fill my time. I had been interested in the holocaust since reading the books
The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig in primary school, and Morton Rhue's
The Wave in secondary school.
One day my mother saw an article in the paper about the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre in Melbourne and suggested I contact them to see if they have any work. I applied for a position and turned up to my first interview as a well-dressed non-Jewish, German-speaking Australian girl in a wheelchair with a nose piercing. I was welcomed with open arms and have never looked back.
Getting on with the job
I was eventually offered a position as a German translator in the museum archives. I had lived in Germany for one year as a teenager on a Rotary exchange. I had also studied German at university. Nevertheless, even though I could speak German quite well because of these experiences, I had never worked as a translator.
Translating one language into another is very different to speaking it. It's bloody hard. I was lucky that my then supervisor, a Polish Holocaust survivor called Ursula, guided me through the process. She was strict with her standards but still kind. I found this refreshing because she was not being nice to me because I was in a wheelchair, but was appreciating my skills. For once I was not the girl with the disability, but rather I was
the girl who does the German translations.
A second family
I slowly started getting to know many other people at work. They soon became friends more than colleagues. The highlight of my day is having animated discussions over a cup of tea at lunch.
Most of my friends at work are Holocaust survivors. Over time I have learned some of their stories and this has given me a greater appreciation of the society I live in. Yes, life is difficult with a disability, but I am not living in a country that wants to kill me just because of who I am.
The closeness I share with my friends at work is indescribable. I like the way everyone looks out for each other. So not only did I find a fulfilling job I also became part of a second family. I am valued as a member of this family for being myself, and not just
the girl in the wheelchair.
A sense of purpose
The documents I deal with often contain distressing content. I have therefore built up a
shield because every document translated is another victim remembered. This is very important to me. My work in theatre gives me a continuing sense of creativity and purpose. My translating work gives me a different sense of purpose. Every day brings a new challenge but as the museum is a place of love, learning and even humour I wouldn't change it for the world.