Starts December 5, 2013
Directed by: Heike Fink
Writing credits: Heike Fink
Cast: Ursula von Balzun, Ursula Gudmundsson, Ilse Björnsson, Anna Anita Valtzsdóttir, Anna Karólina Gústafsdóttir, and Harriet Jóhannesdóttir
Length: 84 minutes
The Eisheimat (ice homeland) in this case is Iceland. In 1949 an Icelandic farmers’ organization placed an ad to recruit German women for work on isolated farms, jobs which native Icelandic women refused to consider. The ad was successful as 238 women applied and sailed north. Under the direction of Heike Fink six of them, all over 80 years old, all from northern Germany (Lübeck, Stettin, Mölln, and Bitterfeld), tell their experiences which are as various as marrying the ship’s cook on the way, becoming pregnant with the farmer, or taking along a German husband who was evicted from the country because he refused to work. Originally on a two-year contract, eventually all of them married an Icelander and settled in permanently, although Harriet Jóhannesdóttir lives in Germany six months each year.
After World War II, prospects for Germans to find work and stability were few. A million Germans, mostly men, immigrated to other countries, but it was rare for German women to seek their fortunes abroad. Here, the incentive of a new life in Iceland did not seem to be so much a financial one, but rather unhappy family situations in Germany, e.g., stepfathers or mothers wishing them out of the house. These women also seem to be more independent or adventurous than their contemporaries in Germany, more willing to face new challenges. All six women mentioned that the natives were more relaxed and laid back, as well as being friendly and helpful and used the “du” form of “you” predominantly. However, no matter how much they attempted to adjust, they would always remain German; homesickness was ever present. This was in the pre-internet days when ships carried letters to Germany once a month. We should all see this film, because (as I know my readers), most of us are foreign women living in Germany, probably because of having followed a German man whom we met in Boston or Dublin or Tibet. Although it’s not Iceland and we don’t suffer post-war hardships like collecting rain water to drink or sleeping in a barn, we can relate to the difficult situation of having to adjust to a new culture, possibly to stay forever. ( )