Where my heart skips a beat the moment I get there”

The German-Sorbian actress Gabriela Maria Schmeide was born in Bautzen and studied at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin. After roles in the Berliner Ensemble and at Bremen Theatre, her career progressed to the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg in 2009. Gabriela Maria Schmeide has been a permanent member of the Thalia ensemble ever since. The charismatic performer has also been appearing in numerous films and TV productions for 20 years. Some of her best-known roles were in: “Die Polizistin” (The Policewoman), “Halbe Treppe” (Halfway Up the Stairs), “Die Friseuse” (The Hairdresser), “Das Weiße Band” (The White Ribbon) and “Frau Müller muss weg!” (Mrs Mueller has to go!).

Gabriela Maria Schmeide

Where do you call home?

Home is where I come from, where my roots lie and where my parents are. Home is the place where my heart skips a beat the moment I get there. At present, I feel very much at home in northern Germany. That said, I was born a Sorb and I can’t and don’t want to escape that fact because that’s where I belong. For us Slavs, this piece of land is the place we’ve called home for more than a thousand years.

You are Sorbian because …?

I am a Sorb because my parents are Sorbs and have always actively lived out this identity. I am a Sorb because I didn’t decide against it later down the line. Sorbian is my native language, and I absolutely love using it. I have German citizenship and Sorbian nationality. I consider myself to be a Slav and wear my traditional Sorbian dress for important occasions. What’s more, I always try to get to Bautzen to celebrate major holidays and occasions whenever possible.

How do the people around you react to your Sorbian background?

Positively and with interest. My friends and colleagues obviously notice that I’m a Sorb, especially once they see my door sign or hear my answerphone message. The further away from Lusatia I get, the greater the interest in all things Sorbian. People are often very fascinated when I tell them about my culture or reveal that the Sorbian language is an official language in Brandenburg and Saxony. The traditions in Bremen and Bautzen are indeed extremely different, but after all, it’s differences that make life exciting.

What is your favourite Sorbian book?

The poems by Jakub Bart-Ćišinski make my heart jump for joy. They are full of such stunning lyrics that perfectly reflect the clarity and purity of the language. The fairy tales and short stories by Jakub Lorenc-Zalěski also play with my emotions every time I read them.

In what language do you dream?

I use German and Sorbian in parallel – when thinking and when dreaming. I write my diary in Sorbian, for example. I often think in Sorbian too, especially when feelings are involved. I also count in my native language. I am familiar with it, and it lives within me. For me, growing up with language in a bilingual home is a gift. I strongly believe that the more languages we speak, the more open we are to all cultural influences. I therefore think it’s wonderful that the Sorbian language and culture are still cultivated in young families in the present day.

When are you happy?

I feel happy when I’m swimming in a secluded lake in the forest – with not a soul to be seen for miles around. You see, in my profession, I’m usually surrounded by many people, which I why I like to enjoy some peace and quiet in my spare time. I’m generally happy when the paradox between a sense of belonging and independence has a healthy balance.

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