The Coronavirus Chronicle

 

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is ending in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, where governments are trying to figure out how best to restart public life and work. So how are people managing this “new normal”?

In our daily segment “The Coronavirus Chronicle,” we hear from Berliners about how their lives have been affected here in the capital.

We are currently not producing new episodes of “The Coronavirus Chronicle,” but you can listen to past editions below:

Broadcast May 22, 2020: READY FOR ACTION

Photo (c) Nikodem Chabior

As we enter this next phase in the pandemic, this will be the last episode in the “The Coronavirus Chronicle” series for now. We hear from Joanna Satanowska who lives in Warsaw. The 31-year-old film director started to shoot her debut feature when the pandemic shut down public life in Poland. Find out what happened next.

“I think a lot of people will have to rewrite stuff and I am really curious how movies will look in a year or two,” says Satanowska.

Broadcast May 21, 2020: MOVING AT A DIFFERENT PACE

Sam Robinson, 34, lives in London and has been here through the coronavirus crisis, which has hit the UK especially hard. The audio producer talks about how moving to a new home during the “new normal” illustrates how different his life is nowadays. Find out more below.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but you do recognize what are the…valuable things, the essential things to you,” says Robinson. 

 

Broadcast May 20, 2020: HOPE AND CHANGES

Photo (c) Bojan Velikonja

Anja Medved lives in a small town in Slovenia on the Italian border. The 50-year-old documentary filmmaker knows a lot about a good glass of wine, as her partner has a small vineyard where they sell bottles of red and white. The pandemic hasn’t affected Anja as much as some, and she feels positive changes are on the horizon. Find out why below:

 

“I hope that not everything is going back to the complete old normality,” says Medved.

 

Broadcast May 19, 2020: GAZING DOWN AT A CHANGING CITY

After being stuck at home for seven weeks, Anthony Martin and his family now have a little freedom to move around in their Barcelona neighborhood. While grateful for his family’s safety, the 55-year-old American real estate agent has already noticed changes in the rental market in his city now that tourists aren’t visiting. Find out more below.

“For the moment, life goes on. We’ll just see what happens,” says Martin.

Broadcast May 18, 2020: LONELY IN A MOUNTAIN PARADISE

Michaela Tomberger lives in the scenic Austrian alpine town of Kitzbühel. The 47-year-old Austrian loves skiing, which ended early this year due to the pandemic. But a far more important part of her life is missing at the moment.

“What helps me most to live through this time is my cat and the garden,” says Tomberger.

Broadcast May 15, 2020: ‘TO TRAVEL OR NOT’

Ida Sandberg lives in Leiden, Netherlands. Her company offers roadside assistance and help to travelers in need. With some European countries planning to ease border restrictions next month, the 51-year-old is finding her work tougher than usual, because little is known about the proposed changes. How is this lack of information affecting her life? Find out below.

“I think on one hand I feel everyone is very aware of it … (and) at the same time because they’re easing up on the lockdown, people are becoming more careless,” says Sandberg.

Broadcast May 14, 2020: ‘A BREATH OF FRESH AIR’

Guillermo Donato lives in Manerbio, a small town in the northern Lombardy region of Italy, which was the hardest hit by the coronavirus in the country. For months, it kept him from doing little other than enjoying his outdoor garden. But with some Italian restrictions now being lifted, the 48-year-old floral designer is slowly getting back to work. How does he think Italy will bear up after the first wave of the pandemic? Listen below to find out.

“This is one of the first times that Italians are following the rules,” says Donato.

Broadcast May 13, 2020: IN THE ZONE IN FRANCE

For Joanna Bridges, 59, and her husband, who live in a picturesque market town in the Pyrenees foothills, one challenge is the clampdown on being outdoors.

Bridges’ new job as a caregiver for a British woman suffering from dementia has become a balancing act.

“A barbecue feels like a big treat at the moment,” says Bridges.

Find out more below:

Broadcast May 12, 2020: LAUNCHING ‘PLAN B’

Manfred Kirschner runs Crystal Ball, a small gallery in Kreuzberg. The 53-year-old just had his first art opening since the coronavirus outbreak shut down galleries and museums. The exhibition by artist Gabriele Regiert — a mix of canvases, drawings and objects — is called: “Plan B.” What does a gallery opening look like in the age of COVID-19? Find out below.

To see the exhibition, “Plan B,” check out Crystal Ball’s website.

“I think three or four people showed up. That was it.”

 

Broadcast May 11, 2020: THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT

Photo by Elizabeth Waller.

We checked back in with 34-year-old high school teacher Adrianne Oldham, whom we first spoke to at the end of March when schools were closed and she was navigating how to support her students, both academically and emotionally, online. How are she and the young people she teaches feeling about Berlin schools reopening with strict hygiene measures? Find out below.

“I do trust in the decisions that are being made. I have a lot of faith in the German government and the Berlin government. I feel like things have been really transparent.”

 

Broadcast April 30, 2020: A FORT OF ONE’S OWN

Building a pillow fort in the basement with her daughter for a school assignment inspired Janel Rogers Schermerhorn to do something she’s always wanted to do: Podcast. “Mom’s Secret Fort” was the result – An often humorous exploration of her family life during the pandemic.

We caught up with the past president of the American Women’s Club of Berlin to discuss her reflection on life in lockdown. Listen below.

“We spent some time building a fort down in the basement with blankets and pillows…I thought: ‘Man, I could use that right now, just a little space where I could crawl into and have a few minutes to myself,’” says Schermerhorn.

 

Broadcast April 29, 2020: WASTE NOT…

Tainá Guedes is an artist, cook, and food activist with a focus on sustainable living. The 42-year-old’s most recent project centers around cooking with leftovers.

Normally, she would be visiting schools and giving lectures, but during this health crisis, she has moved her kitchen online. Does she think that the current pandemic will change our attitude toward food and waste? Find out below.

“Some of us are experiencing cooking more at home and cooking delicious nutritious food with their kids, but there’s also a group of people that’s not able to eat healthy and nutritious food,” says Guedes.

Broadcast April 28, 2020: GOOD NEIGHBORS

Ersin Gül spends his days helping others who struggle in the isolation brought on by the pandemic. Since the coronavirus crisis began, the Canadian immigrant has seen a huge uptick in people looking to help with the neighborhood group he belongs to in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.

Find out more below.

“We have quite a few volunteers, in fact we have way more volunteers than we have people looking for help,” says Gül.

 

Broadcast April 27, 2020: THE STAND-UP STANDS DOWN

40-year-old Caroline Clifford teaches improv and stand-up comedy. Before the mandatory closure of clubs she was performing at least once a week.
But unlike many performers sidelined by the coronavirus crisis, the Neukölln resident is enjoying her hiatus. Find out why below:

“ I think it’s just a really good time for people to reset a little bit,” says Clifford.

 

Broadcast April 24, 2020: SWIMMING HIGH AND DRY

Ten-year-old Claire Schermerhorn. is a competitive swimmer, but how do you practice swimming during a pandemic when you are more or less stuck at home? Find out below.

She’s also picked up a new skill: “I can now unicycle the whole length of my yard, plus a little bit.”

 

Broadcast April 23, 2020: AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Yousef Abuzeed always dreamed of becoming a doctor, which means doing well on his “Abitur” exams is crucial for the 18-year-old. But what are the challenges of studying while in lockdown, when the times ahead are so uncertain?

“I have friends from many different socioeconomic backgrounds that may not have the possibility to easily prepare for exams,” says Yousef.

 

Broadcast April 22, 2020: PLAY ON

Student Laila Lehming, 17, has not been to school in five weeks. But lockdown with her family has proven less daunting than expected with the help of an age-old remedy. Find out more below.

“It is working out, of course we have struggles and we fight, but I think it is normal at times like these,” says Laila.

Broadcast April 21, 2020: ALONE TIME

While Julian Moraglio says he is very bored staying indoors with “an annoying brother” to entertain him, the 12-year-old has been finding unusual hobbies, like following American politics.

“First thing I want to do when I’m back out is try and meet up with as many friends as possible,” he says. 

But how does the seventh grader feel about some Berlin schools heading back as early as next week?  Find out more below:

Broadcast April 20, 2020: TESTING TIMES

Leon Hofmann is among the Abitur test takers back in school this week since the pandemic closed them a month ago. The 18-year-old wrote an open letter to the Berlin Senate asking it to postpone the exams for safety and fairness reasons. But both Berlin’s mayor and education senator declined. They say Berlin students wanting to go to university need the exams so they have the same chance at getting in as other students across Germany.

“We didn’t feel like our situation was taken serious(ly) or being heard by those making these decisions,” says Hofmann.

 

Broadcast April 10, 2020: RINGING OUT HOPE

Pastor Erko Sturm is in the middle of Easter preparations. For him, like all Christians, this year’s celebration will be radically different with churches closed to group worship and services being held online. But the 55-year-old has come up with a novel way to connect with his community without the help of technology.

“We invite everyone to put a candle in the window for everyone who is afraid, who is insecure, for the lonely, for the sick and for those who need help.”

Find out more below.

Broadcast April 9, 2020: 15,000 KILOMETERS FROM HOME

Unlike a lot of people who are able to work from home during this crisis, Victoria Houriet doesn’t have that luxury. She’s on her bike most days of the week, delivering food. The young woman says she feels her job puts her in serious danger and that her employer, Lieferando, isn’t doing much to help.

“I am actually a little bit worried and scared, because if I get sick now, imagine I am from Argentina, my family is 15,000 kilometers away.”

Broadcast April 8, 2020: SOME ADJUSTMENT REQUIRED

The coronavirus has forced Berliners to readjust their day-to-day lives and activities over the past weeks. Rico Todzi, on the other hand, has had to do so since birth, as he is in a wheelchair in a city that isn’t the friendliest to people who use them.

That’s helped the 38-year-old adjust quicker than most to the confining life of a city dweller in the time of the pandemic. Listen below to find out more:

“Sometimes they say people, older people or people with special needs…should stay at home, but I have no problems with my lungs.”

Broadcast April 7, 2020: ‘PAIN’ THROUGH A WINDOW

Normally stepping into Matthias Liber’s cafe feels like being transported to a little corner of France, with its baguette sandwiches, soaps, wines and other French goods. But these days the door to Le Midi is shuttered and 43-year-old Liber serves customers through the window.

How has his Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood supported him and what may happen to his restaurant in the future? Listen below.

“I try everything to stay here and to survive…to be here again when people are back,” Liber says.

 

Broadcast April 6, 2020: LESS WORK, MORE CUDDLE TIME

Anastasia Schöck-Bocheński, 31, and her husband own a bar in Schöneberg, which like other non-essential businesses, is closed. But their private life is in high gear after recently welcoming their first born.

“Giving birth when a virus…is going around is definitely a challenge.”

Find out how they are coping below:

Broadcast April 3, 2020: HITTING THE BOOKS

Anne-Katrin Grimm is the co-owner of “Buchhandlung Montag” in Prenzlauer Berg. Unlike most small businesses, her book store is deemed essential and is still open during the health crisis. Not to mention business is booming. But how has the pandemic affected people’s taste in literature? Listen below to find out.

“The big online delivery companies don’t deliver books at the moment,” Grimm says. “It’s our job now.”

 

Broadcast April 2, 2020: ROW, ROW, (DON’T) ROW YOUR BOAT

Photo by Silke Wolff

 

Moritz Wolff, 20, is a professional rower for the Berliner Ruder-Club. Wolff dreams of one day qualifying to row for the German national team at the Olympics. But such aspirations have been put on hold for many German athletes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Listen below to find out how Moritz is keeping up with his training and his beef with Berliners who don’t follow the rules:

“My first reaction was that this was the best decision that they could make,” says Wolff, of the decision to postpone the Summer Olympics. “We all want fair competition.”

Broadcast April 1, 2020: ‘WE DON’T NEED APPLAUSE – WE NEED MORE SUPPORT’

“Sophie,” 24, is an intensive care nurse in a large Berlin hospital. She is using her middle name because she doesn’t want to draw attention to her hospital or her colleagues, who worry about being overrun by COVID-19. Sophie also has a serious message for her generation, which you can listen to below:

“We don’t need applause, we … need more support, especially protective equipment,” Sophie says. If “we as nurses and doctors are getting ill because of the virus, then we can’t help anyone anymore.”

 

Broadcast March 31, 2020: A VIRTUAL REINVENTION

Being a polyglot tour guide in Berlin is tough enough, but it’s impossible in the time of the pandemic when no one is traveling. Even Jan Katzmarczyk, who is no stranger to danger after working for years in Afghanistan, is finding the new COVID-19 environment challenging.

But he’s trying to look on the bright side: “There’s no rocket attacks, there’s no bombs falling. So that’s the big advantage already.”

The 48-year-old from Friedrichshain is also hoping to reinvent himself — online — with a helping hand from a government trying to protect jobs and businesses from collapse in the age of the coronavirus.

Listen below to learn how he’s doing it:

Broadcast March 30, 2020: THE HARDEST LESSONS

Adrianne Oldham is a 33-year-old teacher of 7th, 11th and “Abitur” level students at the Nelson Mandela School. Her subjects are English and political science.

When the pandemic shut down the schools, she scrambled to find new ways for her students to learn, and more importantly, cope. And she’s using video calls to do it. Listen below to find out how:

Oldham adds: “When we come back, the most important thing is going to be rebuilding the health of our community.”

 

Broadcast March 27, 2020: “FROM THE WRECKAGE…”

“The House of Red Doors” at the Friedrichshain club “Wilde Renate” promised to be the kind of event that makes Berlin’s nightlife a magnet for residents and tourists alike. But tickets had sold out online before the event when the pandemic struck, torching the city’s nightlife in its wake.

In today’s edition of The Coronavirus Chronicle, we hear from Alex Eccleston, a 33-year-old Brit and promoter whose once thriving business, like so many others, is now on the brink of bankruptcy.

“It’s certainly not just our party, it’s every single party and theater, and cafes, bars, everything else. I mean, this is a huge part of Berlin and what makes Berlin a functioning city. So we’re going to have to have each other’s back and there’s no other way around it,” says Eccleston.

Amid the wreckage of cancellations, he sees a silver lining, which you can discover by listening below:

 

 

Broadcast March 26, 2020: “A STRANGE FEELING”

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Bird

For over a week now, Kathleen Bird has been under quarantine at home. The 64-year old conductor tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily, Kathleen has been feeling better over the past days and is no stranger to the isolation of quarantine. Listen below to find out more.

“I HAD A STRANGE FEELING IN MY BODY, THAT …SOMETHING IS PASSING THROUGH HERE,” SAYS BIRD, DESCRIBING HER ILLNESS.

 

Broadcast March 25, 2020: LUCK OF THE IRISH

Like most artists in Berlin, DJ Brendan Gregoriy, 38, is watching his income shrink as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down the economy. Even so, he considers himself one of the lucky ones and wrote about it on Facebook. Instead of lamenting his lost gigs, the Irish Berliner writes about others who are also dependent on a gig economy that has all but collapsed.

 

“I can’t say it’s … the easiest thing being in close captivity even with your loved ones for this long…But we’ll get through it. It’ll be fine,” says Gregoriy

Listen to why he feels lucky below:

 

Broadcast March 24, 2020: PATIENT WAITING

Sophie Reddington received a call in early March that her physical therapist had tested positive for the coronavirus. Even more alarming to the 48-year-old paintings conservator was that she had been volunteering at her children’s school on a musical production, putting her in close proximity to some 70 children and their parents.

Reddington said waiting for her own test results was the scariest thing she’s ever been through, a burden she adds was eased by friends and the primary school principal at the Berlin International School.

She said the principal “tried to reassure me that there was no weight on my shoulders, that this is the current situation we’re living in. The world’s going crazy and this could have happened to anyone.”  

Click below to hear what happened to Reddington and her test.

Broadcast March 23, 2020: FEEDING THE HUNGRY, ONE DAY AT A TIME

Sabine Worth, photographed by Sylvia Cunningham

The nonprofit food bank Berliner Tafel provides the essentials to hundreds of thousands of Berliners in need. But how does a charity survive the pandemic and its double blow of growing unemployment and panicked hoarding?

Sabine Werth, chairwoman of Berliner Tafel, describes how they are struggling to make it work, one day at a time.

“Now we have this situation,” explains Werth. “People with money have the possibility to buy everything, and they collect it, and the poor people have no chance.”

Visit Berliner Tafel’s website to find out how to donate or volunteer. 

 

Broadcast March 20, 2020: THE NOMAD’S QUANDARY

Jimbino Vegan, 40, is a “musician, artist, and European dude.” He has spent half his life traveling the continent playing music and arrived in Berlin shortly before we met him, busking outside a Kreuzberg cafe.

“I don’t have much status, I’m a musician who plays in small bars,” Vegan said. “You could see me on the street playing and you wouldn’t think about giving me any cash because I’m just some dude sitting on the bench playing music.”

His greatest fear? Find out more below.

 

Broadcast March 19, 2020: ‘A LEAF ON THE WIND’


This episode is about American tourist Brian Morton, 58 from Baltimore. He had planned his trip to Berlin long before he ever heard of the coronavirus. Now he feels he’s becoming “a one-man tragedy squad,” as he describes below:

 

Broadcast March 18, 2020: SEPARATE, BUT TOGETHER

 

“For a long time actually I was only laughing about it (the coronavirus) and then I felt like, ‘okay, maybe we should take it more seriously.”

 

Brighid Möller, 35, of Neukölln and her 3-year-old daughter are struggling to adjust to life in a city that is shutting down. She also has a rather unique problem involving her living arrangements. Listen to the interview to find out more.