People and stories

“The system is against us.”

2015. Maik is 17 and lives in Dörrwalde, a tiny village in Upper Lusatia, Germany, with 175 people. There isn’t a whole lot going on there anymore. The next youth club is in Großräschen, but the last bus leaves at 4:00 PM and on Saturdays not at all. Maik trained as a painter, but he has no work. Instead of playing at the sports club, he hangs out at the bus stop and stares at the desolate open-pit mine where his father worked in GDR times. At the latest after the fourth beer Maik gets to listen to how at least cohesion prevailed at that time and everyone was there for each other.

Jugendlicher führt Faust zum Mund
© Violence Prevention Network/Klages

The buddies Maik is hanging out with, basically just complain that something has to change. But nothing happens. Until someone arrives, who can make things happen. Micha. He knows what’s up and who’s to blame for the misery. And he is willing to sacrifice for his conviction. One of his victims resisted, so Micha sat in jail for three years. “But the system with its filthy justice can’t break us, just like it can’t give us any hope!” Micha sees Maik’s potential. “Man, you’re pretty smart; don’t you see what’s going on in this country? You don’t have to put up with that – we can use people like you!”

Micha feels that it’s time to take a stance. The bus stop becomes the nationally liberated zone of Dörrwalde. Liberated by Maik personally. Micha is proud of him. Micha gets him work.  A few days later, Micha says Dörrwalde is just the beginning and tonight the Döner kebab stand is due. Maik did not hesitate very long. “After 20 minutes the thing was on fire, it was party time!”

The party is over and Maik now has plenty of time to think. He got three years for arson, assault and sedition. But Micha doesn’t abandon him. “You’re one of us”, he writes, while Maik sees the first crocuses breaking through the snow looking from behind the cell bars. The snow thaws, spring comes and goes, the letters stop coming in. “Micha needs guys who have something to offer, not losers like you!”, he learns the hard way.

You see, you can’t rely on anyone in this world!

“You see, you can’t rely on anyone in this world!”, Maik’s mother hits the table in the visitors’ room. “Look at me! They kicked me out; now there’s a Fiji bitch sitting at the cash register.”  She smells like booze again. She only visits him twice the entire time. No one else. In a few months, Maik will be released – and with him his hatred and his conviction of who is to blame for everything. Germany. The filthy system. The foreigners. Islam. The refugees.

The mindset with which Maik is released back into society in six months depends on whether someone deals with him and his deed in prison. Someone he remembers next time he holds a lighter in his hand.