KARIN VAN MOURIK’S ‘THE RUSSIAN TRANSLATION’
We met Karin van Mourik at the International Women’s Forum in Ufa more than a year ago. That is when we understood EWC and Karin have much in common. She is a lifetime philanthropist. She supplies seriously ill children with medical equipment and develops the new type of cochlear implants. Karin is striving to make our world a better place. Russia is her passion. After the Forum Karin started to write The Russian Translation autobiographic book that comprised all her stories about Germany and Russia.
Karin van Mourik, a board member of Association of German Women Entrepreneurs on her literary work, main idea of the book and things she likes in Russian and German people.
- How long have you been writing the book?
- So, we started in December 2016 and finished in December 2017. A year, it must be.
- How did you feel about writing it?
- You know, it was an interesting period of time. At first, I proceeded easily, as all the stories I could remember were humorous. My colleagues heard them many times from me. After that, the story became autobiographic, but not chronological. We chose the brightest memories: my early years in Russia, my first marriage that took place in Soviet Union, and my business travel stories. I had to feel all that once again. Nevertheless, the stories were different, as some of them touched me while the other ones were tough.
However, joy was the dominant emotion concerning writing the book. Natalia, my colleague, and I laughed a lot. We wrote literally everywhere, even in Spain, when we got there. We spent the whole day in Majorca, went to the beach, saw nature. The stories appeared spontaneously, by themselves. Creative process cannot be automatic. Maybe I just do not know how to do it. In those moments, I discovered something new in myself, in environment and in my past life. It often happened because of Natalia’s leading questions.
- Which ones, for instance?
- Apart from the things I remembered, she asked about most actual things. For example, what music was playing, what I wore, what was the weather like. At first, I considered all these minor. However, as I answered trying to remember everything, I understood that stories are multifaceted, people often behave irrationally, but there is regularity in all that.
- What did you redefine? What conclusions did you draw?
- Many different factors affect our life. I am not a clerk who understands what is going on now, what will happen in a year and who will retire sooner. My life is completely different, I do not know what will come. However, I have always had the feeling that my life is not for nothing… It is full and exciting. There is something, that guides me through my life. My business approach is perfectly honest. I am always sincere. It often harms me, but I cannot behave in a different way. I never give up. Never. If I have a project or idea I want to actualise, I will not stop.
- I read an extract from your book, the one about your working trip to Petrozavodsk. You were lodged in a terrible hotel and given only a towel and toilet paper. The conditions in your room were disgusting: cockroaches all around, no proper lighting, and, the cherry on top, socket under the bed. That was your tipping point. You thought: “Why am I here? What do I do here? Nothing can be achieved here”. How did you manage the situation? Was there someone to save you or did you do it yourself?
- I can say that it happens till the present day. I still ask myself: “What do I do here? Why would I do that?”. During the 90es, being in Rome I thought: “My office at Nikoloyamskaya street is worth the same, as a multistoried palazzo here. I could have sit in the sun and drink cappuccino…”. But I do not. While writing the book, I understood the reason of it. It is just my life. Russia is my second motherland; it is the part of my life. I can always get my calm life in Germany. However, exciting life and crazy heist are made in Russia. I cannot live without it.
- Do you want to focus on the excitement of life or maybe regulate it somehow? Will you create order from chaos?
- I am now regulating it. Firstly, I delegated most of authority. Thus, most part of the work is now performed in Russia. My CEO works out all the everyday issues while I just manage things. Secondly, publishing a book is also structuring, structuring of the past. Thus, I just turn the page and understand that it was dealt with. Thirdly, I am planning to do what I am interested in, which is social life and philanthropy. Fourthly, I want to share experience with other entrepreneurs and public figures. I want to help those who need it, to support and to teach. I did not have a teacher who would support or advise me anything. Surely, I want to develop women’s entrepreneurship. Aside from being a board member of Association of German Women Entrepreneurs, I am now also a Secretary General of FCEM, which acts for 65 years already. I took that position at the end of November 2017, but it is already taking all of my time. We will hold the first large-scale event in April in New York. Then the arrangement of a congress will come. The congress will be held in October 2018 in Moscow.
- Managing such a huge community with, as I know, 120 member states, what goal do you establish as a woman, as an entrepreneur, and as a leader?
- I am sure, that freedom is playing a key role in developing an enterprise, even the smallest one. It will not do to regulate things too strictly. For an entrepreneur, freedom of action is the basis of successful and boundless trade. Our Association works to give such freedom to women entrepreneurs.
We are also planning to develop a large-scale chain of enterprises. More than half a million all over the world head them. To manage that, we will use modern technologies. Our women entrepreneurs will communicate via social media. Thus, business relations will develop. We also want to revive our Association’s name in international organisations, just like in the 60es and 70es.
Women entrepreneurs make huge change, huge energy and impetus. Such communities show us, that we are all walking the same way. No matter where all those women come from. They all have a common aim, which is to be good entrepreneurs, promote their ideas, and let them develop. Presidents of all national associations strive for it. We, in turn, want to comprise it all and act together.
- Let’s return to your book. Why did you choose the name The Russian Translation?
- That name is the most precise. We had other variants, like Woman from Germany to Russia or Forty Years in Love, but they sounded naive, romantic or even cold – strange, in a word. The Russian Translation name is not about automatic translation of words and phrases. It is about interpreting one mentality into another one. The important thing is, that the book’s name is not Translating from Russian, because that would be too plain.
- What is the main idea of your book?
- Many arguments, disagreements, etc. come from misunderstanding one another. We all have our own inner lines, which we follow. That is where conflicts appear. However, there is always mutual respect; there is always a point where we understand that we are different. There is a very interesting psychological statement: “Successful contact is a border contact”. I think, it can be applied here as well. I do not want to be Russian; I will never be, because I am German. Nevertheless, I see many interesting things in Russian people and I want to share it. If we give up on stereotypes about one another, we will be able to communicate without prejudice, feeling free and comfortable.
- What do you like most in Russia and in Germany?
- I like Russian cheerfulness very much. It may sound a bit strange, but what I mean is Russian kindheartedness and frankness. In metro, in the street, in their cabinet, in hotel the Russian person will seem strict, cold and will not smile without reason. However, when they unfold, they will accept the other person warmly. Russians are very sociable. Their emotionality and kindness have always attracted me.
I also like German self-control. I perfectly understand that that is the direct opposite quality to what I told you just now, but it is as it is. Germans smile more, but they can talk formally with their colleagues or neighbours for a long time. German smile is often just a smile. Russian smile, in turn, demonstrates their favour. I like both.
- What are Germany and Russia for you?
- Germany is a head and Russia is a heart.
Agata Korovina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Nikolay Boykov