Specialised jobs

May 4, 2018

In 2011 EstDocs screened a documentary titled: Roots: One Hundred Years of War and Music. This documentary, made by Katrin Laur, is about the conductor and composer Olav Roots, an Estonian refugee, who moved to Columbia in 1952 where he became the conductor of the Bogota Symphony Orchestra.

Reading and rereading all the Information Bulletins printed in Geislingen, it becomes clear that Columbia had started to search for professional musicians already in the late forties. This was a time when countries started to realise that refugees might not only be an interesting group to recruit workers from, but also a group where some very talented people could be found.

Columbia was also searching for so many different scholars to teach at university level, that they could start an entire refugee university. Other countries followed, like Pakistan, searching for highly educated people for their universities.

But they were looking also for a different kind of specialised people and it seems some things never change: Columbia looked for a professional football player, to be precise: a very good player. What that meant, was not made clear, and who knows whether it was even open for discussion. Morocco was searching for professional football players as well.

Just to give an idea what kind of announcements sometimes were published:  in 1949 Venezuela was looking for one female cook, who knew French and Italian cuisine and could speak French, English and Spanish. The cook should work for the consul of Denmark.  

Who was the consul of Denmark at the time? Was he somewhat spoiled or was it normal for a consul to ask of a country to please him with a great cook, able to speak Spanish for practical reasons and French and English to discuss with his wife the menus? As it happened, in Geislingen language courses of all three languages were offered.

IRO, the International refugee organisation, made clear that refugees should not lie and they need to be honest when filling their papers. Otherwise, if found out,  they would be punished. It must have been challenging not to twist the truth a bit, when trying to get out of Germany and seeing the announcements for work calling for other than physical labour jobs.  

I was surprised to find an announcement in April of 1950, only few months before the camps would be closed, for work in England: they were looking for a documentary filmmaker. Would there still have been anyone in the camps who would come forward for this job? Unfortunately I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out.