In the Lower Saxony / Bremen group of federal states, Gerhard Schunn is known to every active member of our association as district president and active organizer of various events in Transylvania at the county and state level. He was born in Mediasch in 1962 and has been living in Wolfsburg since 1977. In an interview with Dietmar-Udo Zey, he gives an insight into his hard-working work for the Transylvanian Saxon community in northern Germany.
Passion – yes it will be. Even as a child, I was passionate about playing and training football. We – Saxons, Romanians, Hungarians – played in the best community on free pitches around the Gaz Metan stadium in Medias. We boys shared a passion for “skin”. When I think back to carefree times, I understand what it means to belong to and care for a community.
How long have you lived in Germany, how have you been doing abroad?
In June 1977 we moved with my parents and sister to Germany as it was in the old language. As a 14 year old I had no idea what to expect there. Will I also find good friends soon? We moved to Wolfsburg, where my grandparents and uncles lived. It was a vacation – it’s time to settle in a little. I quickly made friends at school, my classmates were interested in me, and I was curious anyway. Friendships were made that lasted until graduation and beyond.
How long have you been a member of our association?
I have to step back a bit: interest in the association, then the national team, grew gradually. After a year, in 1978, I joined the Transylvanian Brass Band in Wolfsburg. Not by accident, because I was already a member of the brass band at the House of Pioneers in Mediasch and sang in the school choir. I have now met a lot of new people from the district group and BdV who should get to know me better about these associations later on. I was now actively involved in carnival, crown festival, vintage festival etc and met a lot of people of the same age and like minded people. When the new youth dance group was formed, I joined it in 1981, although I was not an outstanding folk dancer at the time. But also? I listened to “Queen” and “Manfred Mann’s Earth Band” with my school friends. But I learned to dance and we went very quickly, often very boldly, with over eight dancing couples to Dinkelsbühl on the Heimattag. The moderators proclaimed us “the dance group that traveled the longest”. We had fun camping in an orchard by the wall. Participation in federal-level dance seminars has been added. Many new acquaintances were made.
And the dance remained the “germ”: For years you and your wife Monika have been running the successful dance group “Carpathian Tancerze”. But back to my question: since when and why did you join the association?
From 1984, Thomas Wollmann, then chairman of the district team, came to the rehearsal and handed some of us a yellow note. It was a membership card with my name entered. Thomas said I am now a member of the national team and should always carry this badge with me. It wasn’t until later that I found out that my parents had become members this year.
So your joining wasn’t your own initiative?
You could say that. But I was there in the literal sense of the word, even if not “officially” yet. Thomas Wollmann and his successors, the chairman of our district group, have always understood how to involve young activists in events. So the circle of those who took part grew and grew larger. When Thomas then became president of state, he appointed me secretary. I took up all other honorary positions, such as cultural advisor, dance director, and district president, with the confidence that I could make a difference for our community and would receive the full support of my fellow countrymen. This gave me access to the work of the board, of course as a full member.
How would you describe your decisions to take over tasks and offices in the association, rational or rather emotional?
It was both. I wanted to work and shape the board. When I was elected Cultural Adviser for Wolfsburg County in 2009, and a year later became chairman of the same group, an emotional attitude developed. Planning and implementing events, working together on the board and with members and friends who have accompanied and supported me in this community for years, is not possible without body and soul. It was the close relationship with our community that prompted me to take up tasks and offices. With each project, each event in which I was and am involved in the organization, the responsibility for implementation also grows. For me, it is a duty and an obvious matter to defend the preservation and care of our cultural heritage, animated by the life of the Transylvanian community in our region.
I would like to know: what inspires you or, on the contrary, what demands too much of you in your voluntary work?
I am enthusiastic about the energy with which we plan and deliver events at the county or state level each year – except during the pandemic period. I am grateful for the enormous help shown by a large group of my circle members. Volunteering often takes a lot of time, especially free time, but it’s not just me. If our community life is pulsating, I am satisfied.
Transylvania, proud to belong. Are you still connected to your old home country?
We were with my wife Monika at several Saxon meetings and media meetings in Transylvania. We also visit our birthplaces and explore the still unknown communities of Transylvania. We like familiar places and squares and we like to remember.
What are you passionate about, what do you think should be improved in the work of our association?
A friendly atmosphere in the management board and among members is very important to me. Good and respectful communication with cultural groups such as brass bands, choirs, folk dance groups – here I will mention “Carpathian dancers” and “Kokeltalers” – increases the willingness to prepare and implement events that are part of the life of our community. I think it’s great that some young parents come to our parties with their children. They enrich and enliven our holidays, such as the carnival, the crown festival or the nativity play at the annual Christmas party. Our parents’ generation is grateful that we continue the traditions they cultivate. Though it’s nice, we still have one job to do: recruiting new members.
What do you think should be done about it?
Quite simply: ask Transylvanians who have not yet joined our association, such as these young parents, to join our association when they come to our events. I always have my application form with me. Your children will then be part of it and will be able to continue our community life according to their ideas for years to come.
Dear Gerhard, thank you very much for the interview!
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