Nomination for MIA Award 2013

I am very excited to announce my nomination for the MIA Award 2013 in category "Art and Culture". MIA Award is given annually to women with migration backgrounds who are especially successful in their field in Austria and who are active advocates in the issues of migration and women.

The award is handed out by the President of Austria, Dr. Heinz Fischer.

Please cross your fingers for me on 8 March 2013!

Link to my nomination:

MIA Awards 2013


From (and for) Unibrennt (uni is burning)

What fascinated me when I visited the demonstration/siege at the Vienna University (Audimax) yesterday was the fact that it was not only about education. I was extremely happy to arrive on time to listen to a speech by Corinna Milborn (author and journalist) who spoke about the multiple crises we are facing right now. She spoke about the fact that this is not only a financial crisis, but also political, environmental, educational, migration crisis. Among other speakers, Chistian Felber, the founder of Attack (the anti-globalization organization) in Austria, as well as Robert Misik, a renowned author and journalist were speaking in Audimax. Pity I missed them. Felber will speak again on Monday at 17h at the TU (University of Technology).

I must say: congratulations to this great agenda! It makes the movement move away from being only about the education to being about the system in general. Because, hey, if the system was not about the corporations/profits/moneymaking but the people, high quality education would not be in question. The protest is expanding throughout Austria and support comes from unions (metal/textile/food workers) and political parties (Grüne/Green & SPÖ/Social Party Austria), as well as the Upper Chamber of Employment. If you want to support, want to listen to the speeches, or are just curious, take a look at the agenda at

Here the information on speakers:

Corinna Milborn

Christian Felber

Robert Misik

And here a few pictures from yesterday. Check out my favourite banner: "Rich parents for everyone!"

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Proud to be (also) Austrian! II

I have been angry with Austrian students since half a year ago, when I’ve witnessed a class in which the students were asked to prepare 3min presentations with the topic “What moves me/touches me”.  27 out of 30 students started their presentation by saying “It was extremely hard finding something that moves/touches me”. I was mad!!! At the times of a major financial crisis, ongoing destruction of our environment, movements in Iran, two unjust wars, those young people who should be the intellectual elite of Austria were not able to find something that moved them?! Shouldn’t the students be the ones kicking-off changes in a society? At the same class, many students were protesting against the freedom and spontaneity so untypical for the lectures at the Vienna University. The professor tried to teach through opening her students’ minds, and making them experience the lessons, not learn them by heart. Quite few people in the class didn’t like this.

But surprise, surprise! The past few days, we learned that there is something that moves them, after all. And – now they are fighting for more freedom!

Since five days, the University of Vienna is under siege by its students. The dissatisfaction began with the transition form the old system (Mag.) to BA and MA system. Apparently, the new system is more restrictive and unfair. Yesterday’s demonstration in Vienna was attended by somewhere between 10.000-50.000 people. The demonstrations expanded to Graz, Salzburg, Linz. And hey, they are loud and determined. And they know what they want. They want more freedom in their curricula, they want a free entry (which I do not agree with. I think one should prove they really want and are able to study. By letting everyone study everything, you crowd the universities and thus decrease the quality of education). They want to be freed from fees. They want 50% of women employed at the university (YES!). They want no discrimination. They want better, transparent financing of the academic system (true, if we have billions to rescue banks, why are we stingy with our most strategic area – education?). And a more transparent, democratic system. For a complete list please go to: (Have patience with the site, it is currently very slow.)

Yes, we have been bitching long enough about this new generation being too passive, completely apolitical and unwilling to demonstrate. I am happy and proud (hey, this is the second time in a week that I am proud to be also-Austrian!!!) that Austrian students showed that this is not necessarily true. I hope they will make a change (since Obama didn’t really)  and inspire the older generation to openly and loudly articulate their dissatisfaction. Because this world is what we make of it.

I am off to the demonstration.

Proud to be (also) Austrian!

Each year on 26 October, Austria’s national day, Vienna witnesses the most bizarre parade. On this day, Austrian army is showing off its “power” on the Heldenplatz and Ringstrasse. This is bizarre because Austria is such a small country with such a small army that it cannot really play an important role in any war. Also bizarre considering Austrian neutrality. Anyway, we shouldn’t rob the men of the pride of their toys – let them feel great! Also – this is a unique chance for little boys to see a helicopter, a tank or an army plane in real life. Which is stupid, because a person who never had to see a tank in real life should consider him/herself extremely happy. So today during my Saturday lunch on Naschmarkt (Vienna’s food market), I argued that for Austria, it would be a much bigger ego-boost to make a parade like the ones we used to have in socialistic Yugoslavia. Back then, the citizens had a chance to salute the products (and services) that brought well-being to the country. Yes, we should have a parade of giant Mannerschnitten, Mozartkugel, Red Bull cans, Swarovski crystals, cardboard Alps, Käsekrainers (hmm, after a few Vodkas I am always very happy to salute the Käsekrainer [cheese-filled sausage]). And not to forget - my beloved Emperor Franz Josef who made this city into such a charming place that so many tourists are happy to come see it and pay 5€ for a cup of coffee.

But the story of the parade gets even better! Today, Austrian army made a world record in mambo dancing. Yes, you got it right, MAMBO DANCING. Today afternoon, 300 soldiers and their ladies danced to Mambo Nr.5 on Heldenplatz, the square where Hitler once held his notorious speech. And I must say that from today, I am officially happy to be (also) Austrian. I mean, can there be a better message to the world? Not only for the (probably unconscious) mockery of Hitler: If the soldiers around the world danced instead of killed (innocent) people, wouldn’t this planet be a fantastic place? The boss of Austrian army (jeez, how do you officially call that guy?) should get a Nobel for peace for this one.

I really that hope Mr. Obama heard of this dancing extravaganza. Wouldn’t be bad if he taught his soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq a few dance steps. Woudn’t make the war industry happy, but let’s leave that for another text. Because now, I’m in the dancing mood!!!! Where are the boys?


Wiens Andere Ausländer - the original

Wer sind Wiens Ausländer? Türken, Serben, Kroaten, Bosnier ....  Aber Wien hat ein Geheimnis: eine große Ausländer-Gruppe, die man nicht sieht, nicht spürt und über die man nie redet oder diskutiert. Niemand fragt sich, wer diese Ausländer eigentlich sind, ob sie integriert sind, und was sie für diese Stadt bedeuten. Obwohl diese Community von ca. 20,000 Menschen einen sehr starken wirtschaftlichen und kulturellen Einfluss auf diese Stadt hat, ist sie unsichtbar. Wer sind Wiens „Andere Ausländer“? Bereits wenige Jahre nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg begann Wiens Aufstieg als Sitz internationaler Organisationen: 1957 kommt Atomenergie-Organisation IAEO nach Wien. 1965 übersiedelt OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries). 1967 übersiedelte der gesamte UNIDO-Stab von New York in die österreichische Bundeshauptstadt. United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) gründet 1980 in Wien ihren dritten Sitz - nach New York und Genf und vor Nairobi. 1978 begann der Bau der Zentrale im Kagran. Die Baukosten waren mit acht Milliarden Schilling (580 Mio. Euro) enorm. Diese teilten sich der Bund (65%) und die Stadt Wien (35%). Die UNO bezahlt lediglich eine symbolische Jahresmiete von heute 0,07 Euro. Vermietet wurde das Gebäude der UNO für 99 Jahre.

Was wenige Bewohner Wiens wissen, ist dass Heute in ihrer Stadt insgesamt 25 internationalen Organisationen, wie z.B. die Europäische Raumfahrtorganisation ESA (European Space Agency) und Europäisches Institut für Weltraumpolitik (European Space Policy Institute, ESPI), Organisation für Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit in Europa (OSZE), ihren Sitz haben. Hier arbeiten ca. 5000 Menschen. Viele Länder haben spezielle diplomatische Vertretungen bei diesen Organisationen, bei den größeren Ländern arbeiten bis zu 20 Diplomaten in diesen Vertretungen. Stadt Wien schätzt, dass internationalen Organisationen insgesamt ca. 11,000 Arbeitsplätze generieren. Man muss noch die Familie und Angehörige sowie die internationalen Schulen und Universitäten dazurechnen, um eine ungefähre Größe dieser Community zu schätzen.

Diese Menschen sind gebildet, sprechen mehrere Sprachen, sind Experten in ihrem Bereich, und wurden durch ein sehr striktes Verfahren für ihre Positionen ausgesucht. DieDiplomaten sind  nur „auf Besuch“ in Wien, da sie meist jede vier Jahre das Land wechseln. Die anderen, die Mitarbeiter bei den internationalen Organisationen, von denen ca. ein viertel Österreicher ist, bleiben meist bis zu der Pensionierung in Wien. Diese Jobs sind hervorragend bezahlt und bieten neben Sicherheit noch Extras – unter anderem sie Befreiung von Steuern.

Die erste Generation dieser „anderen Ausländer“ ist in den Siebzigern nach Wien gekommen ist, mittlerweile ist schon die dritte Generation dieser „anderen Ausländer“ auf der Welt – und das ist oft die erste, die fließend Deutsch spricht.

Offizielle Sprache in den internationalen Organisationen ist English. Gearbeitet wird auf Englisch, im Freundes- und Bekanntenkreis ist meistens Englisch die dominierende Sprache. Kinder besuchen englischsprachige  Kindergärten und Schulen: 1959 wurde Vienna International School gegründet. Die Schule hat 1400 Schüler, von Kindergarten bis Gymnasium, von denen 80% Kinder der UN-Mitarbeiter sind. American International School, im gleichen Jahr gegründet, ist mit 730 Studenten die zweitgrößte internationale Schule in Wien. Weiters gibt es noch Danube International School, Vienna Christian School, und Lycée Français.

Und wer bis zum Studium noch kein Deutsch gelernt hat, auch kein Problem: Auf die Uni geht man meistens in ein anderem Land.  Die Einstellung, in einem neuen Lebenseinschnitt in ein anderes Land zu ziehen, haben diese Jugendlichen von Beginn an mitbekommen. Zum Beispiel Ravin. Seine Mutter ist Kroatin und sein Vater Inder, beide arbeiten bei der UNO. Geboren ist Ravin in damaligem Jugoslawien, aufgewachsen in Wien, studiert hat er in den USA und arbeitet jetzt in England. Zu Hause, in Wien, wird Kroatisch, Englisch und Hindu gesprochen.

Wenn die nur Englisch sprechende Jugendliche in Wien zum Studium bleiben wollen, haben sie mehrere Möglichkeiten – die amerikanische Webster University öffnete vor 28 Jahren ihren Wiener Campus. Hier studieren 500 Studenten und arbeiten um100 Professoren und Angestellte. Man kann aber auch zwischen Christian University, MODUL und Krems wählen.

Das Englisch, das diese internationale Community spricht ist ein eigenes Vienna-International-Englisch. Es beinhaltet viele Deutsche Wörter und hat eine Mischung aus dem britischen, amerikanischen und österreichischen Akzent. Dazu hat noch jede Organisation, sogar jede internationale Schule in Wien, ihren eigenen Akzent – wenn man mit den Menschen aus dieser Community spricht, weißt man gleich, ob sie oder sie bei OSZE oder UNO arbeiten oder auf welcher internationalen Schule in Wien sie waren.

Deutsch spricht man genug um das Essen in einem Restaurant zu bestellen und einzukaufen. Mehr braucht man auch nicht. Was wenige Wiener wissen, ist dass ihre Stadt alles auf Englisch bietet: drei Kinos zeigen Filme in Originalfassung (ohne Untertitel); English Theater und International Theater spielen ihre Vorführungen ausschließlich auf Englisch; Es gibt Buchhandlungen wie Shakespeare & Co. und British Bookshop, die auf englischsprachige Bücher spezialisiert sind. Und seit 23 Jahren gibt es Pickwicks, eine Videothek in der alle Filme auf Englisch sind - was in den Zeiten vor DVD auch wichtig war.

Grosse Banken in Wien bieten spezielle Betreuungen für Diplomaten und Mitarbeiter der internationalen Organisationen.  Das „Vienna Service Office“ bietet als Außenstelle der Stadt Wien kostenloses Service für Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter der UN-Organisationen und deren Familienmitglieder. Neuankömmlinge finden hier eine große Anzahl an wienrelevanten Broschüren und Prospekten. Das Magazin „Cercle Diplomatique“, in 1971 gegründet, hält das diplomatische Corps im laufenden.

Diese Community hält fast hermetisch zusammen. Man arbeitet zusammen, die Kinder gehen zusammen in die Schule, und am Abend trifft man sich in Pubs wie Charlie P’s. Sie vernetzen sich auch durch Institutionen wie „American Women’s Association“. Und jedes Jahr vor den Weihnachten organisieren die UNO-Frauen einen Internationalen Wolltätigkeits-Bazar, auf dem Folklore und Produkte aus allen Ländern präsentiert werden.

Wien gibt diesen Menschen viel – die beste Lebensqualität auf der Welt, seine Geschichte, seine Kultur, und unzählige Privilegien. Schaffen es diese „andere Ausländer“, Wien genug von dem „anderen“ zu geben und Wien dadurch zu einer wirklich internationalen Stadt zu machen?

Oder sind sie dafür zu unsichtbar?

Meet Louis Begley

What’s the Hurry?Louis Begley has managed to live two parallel lives, both very successful: attorney and author. At his reading in Vienna, he explained how he did it: Without nay hurry. by Ana Tajder for The Vienna Review, March 09

When it comes to living parallel lives, all successful and all different, few have out done attorney and novelist Louis Begley. Begley was a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, a distinguished New York Law firm, when he surprised the literary world with his first novel Wartime Lies, about a young Polish Jew caught up in the inferno of the Holocaust. The novel appeared in 1991, when Begley was 57, and was very well received, winning the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for a First Work of Fiction and the Irish Times-Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. Begley continued writing and practicing law for 16 years, working during the week and writing on weekends before finally retiring in 2007, at the age of 73. On Feb. 10, Begley was invited to read and discuss with the audience at the Hauptbücherei am Gürtel, in Vienna. After presenting several excerpts from Wartime Lies, he was asked about the autobiographical aspects of this book. He got quite annoyed, presumably because he had been asked this very question hundreds of times in the past 18 years. He later on specified that on principle, one should not confuse the literary merits of a book with the biographical facts concerning the author. By the same token, though, some parallels cannot be overlooked. Just like Macek, the main character in Wartime Lies, Begley was born in 1933 in Poland to a wealthy Jewish family, and both escaped the Nazi army. Begley’s family fled Poland in 1941 and after a long odyssey, settled in the United States in 1947. Seven years later, Begley graduated from Harvard College in English literature, summa cum laude. In 1956, he entered Harvard Law School on a scholarship, graduating in 1959, magna cum laude. Begley still resembles a lawyer, in his dark blue jacket and red tie; reserved and quietly authoritative. But the audience in Vienna quickly succumbed to his boyish charm. “Why did it take so long to write your first book?” the audience asked. “What was the hurry?” he joked. Later during the discussion, he did explain that initially he had lacked self-confidence and wasn’t actually sure that he had had anything to write about. His life in the United States didn’t seem interesting enough to him, and the wartime experience was, as he said, “unmentionable. I didn’t think anybody wanted to hear about it.” Well, everybody in the room did. He read from the book in a low and soft voice – a trademark technique that the rumours say he used in court to grab attention. Although Stanley Kubrick bought the film rights for Wartime Lies and invested $11 million in pre-production, the film never got made. The director decided to let the media hype about Spielberg’s Schindler’s List calm down, and do Eyes Wide Shut first. He died soon after the movie was finished. But another film based on a Begley novel was made: All About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt who is forced to deal with an ambiguous future as he enters retirement. Soon after, his wife passes away and he has to come to terms with his daughter's marriage to a man that he does not approve of, and the failure that his life has become. Originally set in the Hamptons and Manhattan, the movie version was reset to the Southwest, angering many Begley fans that found that this completely changed Schmid’s character. With all its commercial success, Begley sees the limitations. A movie can only resemble a novel, he said. But it can never be as good, simply because a film and a novel are two very different things. But Hollywood, he found fascinating. “There is money flowing like a huge vast river, and you only have to stand by with a little cup.” In the last two decades, Begley wrote several more critically acclaimed books, including the novels The Man Who Was Late and A Matter of Honor and The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head: Franz Kafka: A Biographical Essay. For years Begley and his wife, Anka Muhlstein, have made Venice their favourite European destination. At one point, his German publisher asked them whether they would write a book about the city. At first they refused. “We are not travel or restaurant writers. Also, I write in English and Anka in French, so we found the idea absurd.” But then he wrote a speech for a charity event to save Venice and Anka wrote an essay about its restaurants and their owners. The publisher was delighted and asked for one more short story in order to complete the job. Trusting the book would only come out in German, Begley wrote a story he described as “very pornographic.” Soon after it came out in Germany, however, the book was also published in the UK and then in America. “And now I have to avoid all those women in the States”, he smiles. Begley’s charm faded as he began talking about his latest book, The Dreyfus Case: Îles-du-Diable, Guantánamo, History’s Nightmare (to be published in German by Suhrkamp in May). Alfred Dreyfus was a French artillery officer of Jewish descent who was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having been a spy for the German Army. The case against Dreyfus was so weak that French counter-intelligence manufactured evidence against him. In 1894, Dreyfus was sent to the penal colony at Devil's Island in French Guiana and placed in solitary confinement. “You put yourself at danger when you write a polemic book,” he says. But then he brightened: “But I never enjoyed writing a book this much!” When Yale University Press asked him to write something about “Why the Dreyfus case matters”, he was not interested at first. But as he researched the case, he realised that it was not only a fascinating detective story about how dishonourable behaviour was used to protect honour, but also a compelling parallel to what was going on in Guantánamo. By the end of the discussion, the audience came full circle: how did he actually decide to write his first book at such an advanced stage of his life? “I never had the nerve to say, ‘Now I am going to write a book,’” he said, “I just did it.” And how did he feel when it was finished? “I was surprised.” Of course he was – he had just embarked on a new life.

All Saints....

Like on every All Saints Day, yesterday my dad and I went to Vienna’s largest graveyard, Zentralfriedhof. We always go a bit later because then it is emptier and we can also catch the twilight, which makes the graveyard especially beautiful. Yesterday, the sky was blue with pink and yellow clouds and the ground was filled with yellow leaves. The light was incredible. My grand, grand mother Ana Tajder, or Ana Teider is buried on this graveyard but we never actually tried to find out where. So we just stroll around, go to the beautiful Jewish part and then to the place where Russian soldiers who died in the World War II are buried. We visit the famous composers and the unnamed graves.

We were lighting a candle for the soldiers and I said to my dad how beautiful this act of bringing light actually is. But then I thought about it. And wondered, if we are just being narrow minded. Most probably we live in darkness and the dead swim in the light.

Maybe on All Saints Day, it should be other way round. Maybe they should light some candles for us…..


My first Fly Agaric/Fliegenpilz/Muhara ever

Today, I walked in the woods on Wechsel, south of Vienna. I only discovered my love for woods few years ago and every time I enter a new wood, I am mesmerised by the fact that each wood is totally different from the other. There are woods which look like fairies and pixies live in them. There are woods which remind you of baroque paintings. There are woods that remind you of Klimt’s paintings. Today’s wood was the Little Red Riding Hood wood. I was really expecting to meet a talking wolf in there. I didn’t meet the wolf, but I was delighted to find many fly agarics, the red mushrooms with white dots. And I felt very pathetic when I realised that this was the first time that I saw this mushroom in real life.

How alienated is that?

Boys without Balls

Because I heard a complaint that I am currently writing too much about politics, I would like to share here some newly gained knowledge about – castrati! I am inspired by yesterday’s concert by Max Cencic, a famous countertenor in Theater an der Wien.

Most of you will know (most probably through the 1994 movie “Farinelli”) that castrati were worshiped by whole nations, adored by both queens and kings. Still, it is interesting to learn that castrati were not, like many will believe, men who could sing as high as women. They were more: They (and their voices) alchemically embodied a combination of manly, womanly and childish aspects. Reports say that Farinelli’s vocal range was 3 octaves and he was able to sing any pitch effortlessly in both pianissimo and fortissimo. He could sing for five minutes without catching a breath and his coloraturas were so lively that often, the orchestra was not able to keep up his tempo and would sometimes just give up playing and listen to him sing in bewilderment.

But when you learn more about the medical aspects of castration and its consequences, you cannot but be disgusted of the human obsession with freaks. In 18th century, castration was already forbidden, but the public, or aristocratic, adoration of castrati never ceased. This is why many poor families had had their boys castrated in hope to secure them a life of fame and fortune – in spite of high death rates of this procedure. From Wikipedia: “Castration before puberty (or in its early stages) prevents a boy's larynx from being transformed by the normal physiological events of puberty. As a result, the vocal range of prepubescence shared by both sexes is largely retained, and the voice develops into adulthood in a unique way. As the castrato's body grew, his lack of testosterone meant that his bone-joints did not harden in the normal manner. Thus the limbs of the castrati often grew unusually long, as did the bones of their ribs. This, combined with intensive training, gave them unrivalled lung-power and breath capacity. Operating through small, child-sized vocal cords, their voices were also extraordinarily flexible, and quite different from the equivalent adult female voice, as well as higher vocal ranges of the uncastrated adult male.”

So what really surprised me is that the oh-so-adored Castrati were actually freaks. They were growing slower but longer, sometimes still in their forties. Very frail at their early age, they later grew higher than average, with too long arms and legs and then often became strongly obese, with female curves. Hmmm, I am very happy that Max has his balls - he is both nice to listen to and look at. 

For those who want to hear a castrato sing, here you will find a recording of the last castrato Alessandro Moreschii :

Made in Austria

Jörg Haider, the superstar of Austrian far-right wing politics (which two weeks ago, has won a third of the seats in the parliament) died on Saturday in a car crash.

More surprising than this news was the press conference in which the PR of his party started crying like a baby, bursting out in emotional waterfalls, saying how much he loved Haider. And it couldn’t be any clearer than that – they were a couple. The rumours weren’t only rumours.

The fact that Austrian right wing politics is not saying so many things disgusts me even more than the things they are saying. A conservative party with a double life, which is everything but conservative, is even more disgusting than a conservative party with a conservative life.

And wouldn’t it be just brilliant to have an outed gay right wing party? This would make Austria finally truly unique at something.  

Little Fly Friend

And now, something completely different. Few days ago, there was this little fly that woke me up in the morning. I was angrily helicoptering my arms around my head to scare the fly off but it continued coming back - so I got up. I was annoyed and wondered where this fly came from. We don’t normally have flies here, especially not in October! That evening, I watched TV and this little fly came and sat on my hand. I moved my hand and the fly flew away. But it flew so slowly that I realised it must be exhausted, or ill, or old. In the morning, I was in the bathroom, putting my make up on, when the fly came and sat on the mirror. This is when I started liking the fly. It reminded me of Orlando, the black cat Claudius and I had, who was always sitting on the washing machine, watching me put on my make-up. I liked the ridiculousness of the situation, weirdness of the fact that even having a fly around can make you feel less lonely. And then next day, I found the fly next to my desk - dead. I was a bit said. Especially because it proved that I was right – this poor little fly was here to ….die. I threw the fly into the garbage can. And no, I did not make a little funeral for it.

And then I went to my bedroom – only to find another dead fly, this one next to my bed! I was mad! So, it wasn’t one and the same fly the whole time! I didn’t have a little fly friend! The truth is that, out of some weird reason, the flies chose my apartment for their morgue. And as I am writing this, another one is flying around my head. I hope the last one. Very macabre…..

Say "welcome" and run

Like all people in Vienna, I was dead scared of the EURO2008 which just started today. So when leaving the house this afternoon to meet a publisher, I was trying to decide if I should drive or take public transportation. I was sure that the city will be overwhelmed with masses of football fans, cars and buses so I thought it would be better take public transportation. But I was also late (as always) and thought “what the hell, I’ll just risk it and drive”. A few minutes later, I was driving through the centre, wondering if I was dreaming. Vienna turned into a ghost-city! There were no cars. No people. Only a few accidental Croatian fans in red and white chequered t-shirts, lonely and confused. God, we really showed the world what great hosts we are. Perfectly organised everything, decorated the house - and ran away.

Speaking of football – did you know that on the days of important football matches, there is 30% more domestic violence?