Mia Raben – Journalist and author

Mia Raben, 2022
Mia Raben, 2022

Mia Raben’s family history is complex: Her father was from Hamburg, studied medicine and was interested in the Eastern bloc countries. Impressed by Willy Brandt taking the knee, in 1972 he and a friend decided to do their clinical traineeship, which at the time was a four-month internship, in Poland. So he arrived in Łódź, where he met a Polish girl at a party, who was a talented linguist and interested in art. She spoke fluent German and was training to be a sound engineer. This was a specific course in Poland which trained people to direct the music in film and theatre. It also included the right for the musically trained person to co-determine the content; a right which did not really exist in Germany in this form. In short, the future sound engineer and the future doctor fell in love. So it was not ideal that he had to go back to Hamburg. Now the couple could only meet when he got a 24-hour visitor visa for East Berlin. This was an obstacle and did not allow them to share a life together. So Danuta and Ralph married and established a family in Hamburg. Mia Raben was born in 1977, her brother had arrived a year earlier. Relationships became somewhat complex when her parents separated and married again. So Mia Raben has a younger half-brother on her mother’s side, a significantly younger half-brother on her father’s side, and four stepbrothers and sisters from the previous marriages of her parents’ new partners.

“When my brother and I were little, my parents only spoke German at home”, recalls Mia Raben. Her mother was new to Hamburg and wanted to make her children’s start in kindergarten easier. “But she did things differently with our younger half-brother, who she had ten years later, because she knew that you lose the language otherwise.” Suddenly, Polish was spoken at home, which Mia Raben reflects on saying: “But I was already ten years old then and I tried to soak up as much as possible because for me it was also a way to get closer to my mother. For a time, I was quite melancholy when I saw that my little brother had simply been handed the Polish language in his cot“.

Mia Raben tried her best to learn the Polish language. When she was growing up, she was particularly motivated by the frequent visits to her relations in Łódź or to the Baltic Sea near Puck. She looks back fondly at the large, loud, cheerful get-togethers with family and friends. In the mid-1990s after completing her secondary education, she went to Kraków, did a language course and began “to learn Polish properly”.

Mia Raben has always seen her Polish heritage as a treasure that she somehow has to find. The better she could understand and speak Polish, the more important it became for her work. After the language course in Kraków, she did a traineeship at  Pinneberger Tageblatt, a local newspaper on the outskirts of Hamburg. She got the tip from one of her father’s friends, whom she remembers as a great journalist: “Write about the volunteer fire brigade, that’s where you’ll learn your craft.” She also said: “Don't study journalism. Study a subject. So that you know something.”