Ronald M. Schernikau
* 1960 IN MAGDEBURG †1991 IN BERLIN
“I’VE BEEN TRYING TO BECOME A GDR- CITIZEN MY WHOLE ADULT LIFE.”
When Ronald M. Schernikau moves to the GDR on 31 august 1989, he does not arrive in an unfamiliar place. His mother, Ellen, leaves the GDR illegally in 1966, with six-year-old Ronald, hidden in the boot of a car. She wants to live with her son’s father, who left for the West in 1960, and who unbeknownst to Ellen married another woman and had two children with her there. Ellen and Ronald are not able to travel to the GDR again until 1972, when the Basic Treaty between the GDR and West Germany eliminates punishments for “deserting the republic” (Republikflucht, leaving East Germany). They visit family and friends in Magdeburg often.
Ronald becomes political early. He joins the German Communist Party (Deutsche Kommunistische Partei, or DKP) at 16. At the same time, he begins his career as a writer. At 18 he publishes his first book, “kleinstadtnovelle,” (“novella from a small town”), a coming out story that takes place in the West German provinces. After his A-levels, Schernikau moves to West Berlin, joins the Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Westberlins, or SEW), becomes part of the gay subculture there and lives in precarious conditions as a writer. Most publishers do not want to publish his work.
I can justify my application politically only in the sense that the GDR needs communists, too.
Schernikau also makes connections in East Berlin. He persistantly pursues his goal of studying at the renowned Johannes R. Becher Literature Institute in Leipzig as a West German. His year-long struggle with the SEW, whose approval is necessary, and with numerous authorities in the GDR ends in success; on the basis of the cultural agreement between the two German states, Ronald M. Schernikau is allowed to begin his studies in Leipzig in 1986.
“I ALWAYS WANTED TO SHOUT, IT’S ME!, A GDRCITIZEN PLAYING A WESTBERLINER PLAYING A GDRCITIZEN! BUT I BRAVELY RESTRAINED MYSELF.”
Ronald M. Schernikau is overjoyed when he is allowed to join the Leipzig Literature Institute in 1986. He marvels at his fellow students, who do not want to hear anything about precarious living conditions in the West, and they are astonished by “the Westerner” and regard him with a certain degree of suspicion. Released from shortage of money, he studies diligently. He completes an internship in a brown coal facility.
He works on a book called “legend,” which is published only after his death, and on other texts that are ultimately published under the title “die tage in l.” (“the days in l.”) by Konkret Literatur Verlag in Hamburg in the spring of 1989. He submits the manuscript to the Literature Institute as his thesis and receives a 1.0, the highest grade possible. However, Schernikau is not able to publish his “declaration of love for the GDR” in the East. His assessment of the system’s weaknesses and impositions is too precise. During his time in Leipzig Schernikau decides to remain in the GDR and applies for citizenship. He returns to West Berlin for only a few weeks in 1989. On 31 August, Schernikau finally moves to Berlin- Hellersdorf and takes a job as a radio play dramaturge at Henschelverlag, a publishing house. He receives GDR citizenship on 11 October 1989, shortly before the fall of the wall on 9 November.