Saturday, June 17, 2017

Berlin and Italian scientists abroad

It is written. At least once a year, I must go to Berlin. Doesn't matter where I am, Vienna or Brussels, Berlin waits for me. The reason of the journey might be different: a conference, a cooperation, some instrumental analyses, a job interview, a class, etc. Sometimes the final destination was Potsdam, not Berlin, once it was Dresden, but I flew anyway to Tegel. This year I went to Berlin for giving a talk at the Natural History Museum. It was the fourth time in such an event. As the day after my talk was a holiday in Austria (Corpus Domini), but not in the Lutheran part of Germany, I decided to stay one day longer in Berlin, just to enjoy the city.

500 yrs after the Reformation
I do like Berlin. There are many features that make this city unique. Such as the smell of railway in the underground stations, the kindness of the local people, the feeling of continuous activity in a place that seems never to sleep, the quietness of the house blocks, the abundant gardens, the signs of the recent history, etc. Nevertheless, for the first time I felt happy to go back to Vienna after this short visit, saying to myself "finally at home". Berlin has been my dream place for years, but now I'm happy where I am. I don't wish to change. It means that I love to go to Berlin, but I don't blame the destiny for not having gotten a job there. It was not written, probably. I felt "Austrian" during my stay because people had fun of me due to my accent (thanks Vienna! very likely also the grammar mistakes in German have contributed to this impression) and because during the mass I recognised some Austrian church songs. By the way, even though the songs where austrian and 100% catholic, the speech sounded quite lutheran. It's Berlin. Like the well developed public transit network: mostly trams in the former eastern part of the city and mostly underground in the former western part.

Berlin wall memorial.
Italians everywhere! Also in our institute, in Vienna, the Italian community of post-docs is growing. In this case, people from Padova everywhere, or better, in Berlin. Some years ago, I met here a schoolmate of the time of the university, a paleontologist, who was forced to leave Italy with his wife to stay in science. Now he works in Switzerland. But his presence has been "replaced" by an astrophysicist from Padova, a girl who did her PhD in cooperation with a professor of mine and who also was used to play the organ in the church. I was happy to meet her in Berlin, to spend some time with a friend, to talk again about the typical parish life in Padova, and to meet also her mother. On the other hand, I was sad realising that she had to leave Italy, too. She's brilliant, she won a Marie Curie grant.  Italy doesn't change. Italy spends a lot of money to train good scientists and then lets them leaving, bringing European money to other nations, increasing the publication rate of foreigner institutes, being exploited for what they can offer. This is the point. We cannot go back, but we have a few chances to stay where we are. When a permanent position is available, a local is preferentially hired, perhaps someone who has spent years abroad, for a better training. Hiring someone with another nationality is too demanding in terms of bureaucracy, language, and mentality. We are trapped. Like behind an ideal wall, we cannot stay, we cannot go back. We can just live the instant.

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