What if spiders crawl all over my face and I can't even move? I woke up in the morning once
and I couldn't see my girlfriend anymore. I even had a therapist, we played the trombone together. I'd say assistance-based model is totally changing
the balance of powers in care Loyalty is a two-way street. And then your seven assistants are just
sitting in front of you and saying: Christian, you know,
whatever you are doing is just shitty. To keep it simple, we sometimes have
new life situations. They are so new
that nobody has really thought about them. No matter how hard it is now,
you'll feel better in 14 days. The limits are in your head. The rest is
about endurance and organization. Hi, good afternoon. I am Yanina Urusova. Welcome to our video podcast
"Two Moons in Your Moccasins" where people with disabilities share
their strategies of coping with crises and in this way, they help us to overcome
the corona-related hardships. Our first guest today is Christian Tiffert.
Glad to see you Christian! Christian was a navy officer, engineer,
senior lecturer and a PhD fellow.
And now he studies management
at the University of Rostock. Christian has founded his NGO. Besides,
he is passionate about adventures and tourism. He takes part in long trips,
and there is a social mission to his trips, when he travels across Russia,
but we'll get to that a bit later. Christian, welcome again. First of all, many thanks for the invitation
and greetings to you and to the audience. I'll start with my questions then.
We'll have ten in total, and here is the first one: Please, tell us about your life before the accident: your social, professional and personal life. What happened afterwards and how was everything going shortly after the accident? Well, about 8 years ago I had a bicycle accident. Before that accident I was a navy officer, indeed.
That means I was responsible for all the technology
on the military ship, the entire scope of equipment, except for weapon and radar systems. And at that point I had a new job, my second one. Besides, I was planning to write my PHD
thesis at the University of Bunderwehr. I have a background in machine engineering,
and I was planning my thesis around process technology and environmental protection, to then work at the chemical plants
and manage relevant projects. As for my private life,
I was in a relationship back then, but the truth is this relationship was somewhat declining. As for my hobby, sailing was my greatest passion. I had a sailing boat of my own, it wasn't that big, but we would always sail far. Then I had a bicycle accident.
To be more specific, I was riding down a pathway and someone had stretched
a barbed wire across the path and I drove over that wire and flipped over. I was unconscious for a moment, and then I waited about two hours lying on that road
for someone to drive by. It all happened on the weekend eve, or on Friday night.
And, of course, I didn't know what to anticipate I also thought I might lie there for a day or two until someone would find me, as the road was
in a forest far from the residential area. And yes, I realized fairly quickly what it was all about. I knew I would probably never move again, and, of course, I was very scared. My fear had two faces:
the first one was: what will happen to me in the future? And the second, more specific one was: what will happen now, seconds later? I was lying there, on the pathway, you have to imagine, and suddenly I thought:
what if, out of the blue there come spiders and they crawl all over my face
and I can't even move? It may seem amusing,
but these thoughts are really scary. Or: what if there come animals
and you can't move? I had my mobile phone in a backpack, some 20 centimetres away. And I kept thinking: how can I get it? But I couldn't move at all, not even my arm.
You don't know if you are able to hold on.
What would you do after two days, when you get thirsty, you get hungry?
Are you resilient enough to get through this? Back then, I knew that my most important task was not to panic. Training in the navy helped me a lot, because we were trained to shut down from a certain situation and sober up from all the emotions. to stay cool and get through things almost mechanically without being driven by strong emotions. Back then, it gave me the courage to endure, I simply put aside all my fears and concerns. And then you found yourself in the hospital.
What did you feel? Because you had to learn how to control your body again, and, at the same time prepare your lectures and deliver them. How was it? At first, it was harsh, and yet quite vibrant. As I told you, there was a cell phone in my backpack, a credit card and
20 Euros in cash – that was it. Then they asked me how they could get in touch
with my parents and my brother. I told them, then they googled my brother,
and there he was, standing at my bed.
And, yes, at a certain point I realized:
"Okay, this is all real". And I'll stay paralyzed forever". And, of course, that is a really bitter pill to swallow. In the beginning, I first of all had to get used
to the lung ventilation, to tube feeding through a nasogastric tube
and to everything around. It was of course extremely unpleasant, and I couldn't simply disregard it, so when they'd come
and tell me something like: "You know, it is a minor problem.
You've always been doing intellectual work. And you can continue
using your brain. Of course, everything will be slightly different,
but you were lucky to not be a delivery guy". On one hand, it is a motivation, a you realize
that life still goes on. On the other hand, it is absolutely surreal. When you're connected to the ALV machine, there is a tube in your nose and your brother comes and tells you: "Christian, buddy, we'll have pizza one day, sure thing". Then I simply thought:
"I wonder how a pizza can get through the tube." At that point everything is so harsh, indeed.
But I have also noticed that people would come to me with their fears
and walk back empowered. They gained the courage to endure in this situation.
Thus, my brother once came and he was so down, and then we watched the photos of our sailing trips
that will never happen again. Well, it's such a story, isn't it… I quickly realized that I won't be able to work.
I was lucky to have met my university professor. We knew each other for a decade
and we've always had some connection. In the first week after the accident he told my parents: "No matter what has happened,
Christian can always work with me". It was a great support.
As for concerns about losing my job, losing all the social ties,
– I had none. Thus, I gained the confidence
in the continuity of my work. It was of great importance to me. What kind of gadgets,
devices help you in your daily routine? Largely speaking, these are the things
we have been familiar with long ago. For example, something we are using right now: Zoom.
There is Skype for some other purposes, too.
And all these things appeared some 12 years ago. The problem is not so much about finding out
about them, but also adjusting them to my needs. And that's kind of an amusement to me:
Siri is great for SMS-texting, calling and responding.
The only thing I can't do is hang up the phone. Well, yes. Your hands are somewhere down,
and Siri cannot see you.
Exactly. And then you hear "the subscriber cannot be reached", then you talk to the voicemail and the call silently goes on for five more minutes. It is quite a challenge: I need to figure out
the functionality of each gadget and see how to combine some of them. I think it's the most significant challenge, indeed.
And there is some new info every now and then. I have this device – TubusOne.
It's a mouthpiece. It resembles the gecko tongue.
I blow in it and a mini-pointer pops up, and I can use it to control my tablet for example.
I used to love taking pictures.
And so, I started looking for the models of tablets that enable a camera control, and I wanted to see what functions
a camera can deliver. In fact, this is it: all the time it's
about seeing what a device can do and how it can be combined with something else
and how I can use it. I have a feeling that we've just discovered a new job, that people like you are more and more
capable of doing. I mean, right after trauma or shortly after, you could help people to figure out what technical devices they can possibly use. I understand, though, that there are many services that help in getting insurance coverage, care etc. But a wholistic technical set-up like this, designed for
a sooner return to the work, to the existence, a tailor-made set-up of this kind –
could be a core competence in my opinion.
I mean here people, who, for whatever reason lost
their job in an IT company or some geeks who are interested in similar challenges. It'd be a great thing to do
and what matters here the most is putting oneself in the user's shoes. I once had counselling like this that I will never forget. I was fully prepared for it, I told what I would like to do, I've compiled a technical rider, in the way we usually did in the navy for our projects. And so I met this person and here it went. I told him I need this and that, and this is
what I want to do. He listened to me in a way. And the he told me: "You know, we can provide
a computer and this and that and that. Fullstop." I glanced at him and said:
"Thank you very much for your time". And then I told Monica about it –
she's the very ergotherapist, and we said: "All right, let's meet another consultant." This one wasn't much helpful.
But I've observed it many times
and many people are facing this situation, when people, who should supposedly counsel you,
may come and say: "You know, I've been doing this for 20 years, and you are no different than others.
You should have this. Fullstop." It is a big challenge for many disabled people – neither their wishes, nor their needs are taken seriously. I think that many people, who used to work
in a conventional way and are now doing their job remotely, aren't coping very well, either, with all these technologies that they have to use now. Myself, when I had to master Zoom
for the series of our interviews – all these microphones, video cameras,
recording functions – it wasn't easy at all. One software, another one –
it was more than I could take.
I think that we've eventually learned something.
By saying "we" I mean the non-disabled people. We realized how important personal customization is. This is something many companies are doing,
by offering B2C products, and by developing them for specific needs
and target audiences. This kind of service-based approach is relevant. Let me go back, though, and ask you
the following question… Let's go back to the times when
you were in hospital. You've told us, how bitter it was to admit, that you will never go sailing again,
you will never work on a ship again, etc. How did you manage to accept it? I think it's like the beginning of any change – giving up the old and accepting the new. But it all takes time.
And it's a certain process. How was yours? Okay, I want to begin with a beautiful story. Shortly after the operation I met someone. It was my female physiotherapist at the University Hospital of Hamburg-Eppendorf and she told me once: "Christian, you'll have lots of dark days and many misfortunes.
But there is something I can always tell you
again and again: you'll be better in 14 days. No matter how hard it is now, it'll be better in 14 days. Unfortunately, I can't say "how much better”, but I can promise “it'll be better".
And, yes, these words have supported me strongly. Because when you find yourself in a situation like this when the misfortunes are chasing you and you keep thinking why that is so, why is the world around you collapsing –
it isn't helpful at all. Just keep looking ahead. And remember these words that I kept
repeating to so many people, because they've helped me, indeed. And there is this other thing
about "accepting and letting it go": I think that we are actually trying to say the following:
even if now, at this particular moment when you are desperate, and you know
you'll never be sailing again, you'll never be doing this and that, and some people stopped communicating with you… at that moment, all you should hear is:
"And yet, there is future." – and step into it.
And still, I think I'm quite pragmatic in many ways. I never get stuck in the past for a long time. I can make a decision and that will be it, no further elaborations. It happens very quickly and I'm rather a kind of person who keeps looking into the future
and is trying to build something new, without clinging to the past. Because the past is in the past,
and it makes no sense at all to have philosophical reflections
on what could and couldn't have happened. It makes much more sense to say:
okay, I was sailing a lot, but what was it actually?
I was travelling. I was on my way. This is how I came to my current hobby, to my mission, as they say today:
I travel across Russia. We cover 7,000 – 8,000 km of roads in 20 days. And some roads are almost completely collapsed. And yes, it is somewhat similar to what I had before.
Hours of journeys, looking at the surface of the water,
or, bettersay, at the steppe, or the trees and so on.
I think it was the constant desire to keep going on, to make it better,
to step into the future – that gave an impetus to my whole life. And it helped me a lot to draw a line when I was in a crisis and stop going deep in it. We'll come back to this in a few minutes. To your present days and to your journeys in Russia. And now I want to ask you about your job. Since it is our work that shapes us as social beings, this is where we are trying to manifest
our skills and talents, this is what we return to the society and this is what
we gain recognition for. For many people
work is the meaning of their life. What about your job? Were you fired
and then you got new job description? How did it happen? And what are the best and the strangest job offers
that you've received? I was in an interesting situation,
as I've mentioned before – it wasn't like I was torn apart
between the two jobs, no, not at all, but one of them was about to finish and it was clear
that I won't be working in the navy anymore, and I won't be sailing across the seas
on the military frigates.
It was obvious even before my trauma. So, I had a prospect: to write my thesis
and work at the University. There are several projects at Bundeswehr
that the contract-based researchers can apply for. But how to raise funds for education?
And one more question: how to earn for living? For a while these two issues for me were resolved.
My job in this sense has two dimensions. On one hand, it is an opportunity to earn
and not be dependent on the state, not be overwhelmed by a thought of being
a parasite for the society, a source of expenses.
A person is more independent, when he's earning money and he can pay his rent. This is one thing. Another thing is the social,
meaning-forming dimension of a job – it's just an opportunity to communicate
with other people. And I was so lucky here,
because due to my research work at the University I've always had some prospects ahead. Of course, it all turned out to be
much more challenging than I thought, because, of course, the people around you have to get used to the work or to the way you do your work.
And here is one of my silliest statements in this relation: once in the morning I was completely frustrated, and I complained to the woman who was taking care of me: "I have a feeling that if everything keeps going like this,
I won’t be able to work for more than two hours a day, maybe three. It's a disaster." And she replied: "So, what's the problem?
Do you want to work more?" And I thought: she's completely out of this world.
I couldn't even admit that I can work for two hours a day only. It was striking for me to realize it,
but it was even more tricking to understand that it'll take a lot of hard work
to create the right working conditions. That was hard, indeed and I had to re-arrange so many things in my life before it came to work per se. Today, the German industry, "The Forum of Companies" and the "Charter of Diversity" as well as many companies globally are saying they need people with disabilities,
including the ones with severe disabilities. But they need skills, too. And there are quite a lot of people like you, as we see, who could return to work quite quickly after a trauma.
In fact, all it takes is to prepare a toolbox for them
as soon as possible, so that they could live their life the way they want. In fact, the state, or the society have invested in you significantly over these years, and you've already returned so much. No objections here – you work as much as others do. I knew very well about all these criteria, my professor once told me in the very beginning: "I've talked to the professors, to the academic staff
and to the university administration, and I told them: remember this –
one day Christian will outmatch you all". Eventually, this is exactly what happened.
And I've outmatched myself in many senses, in order to remain in the working process
no matter at what cost. I disregarded so many things in my life
and had then to pay the price. I developed urosepsis once and was hospitalized. Once I woke up in the morning and realized
that I simply don't see my girlfriend anymore. I had a urinary tract infection, because I thought
there are so many things to catch up with.
I've had enough trouble then, and,
as I learned my lesson, I told myself: okay, let's cut the odds. I finished working on my thesis and moved to Rostock. At the same time my service term was coming to an end and I started building my life anew. I made a step back, found myself assistants
and chose an employer-based model. This means that I'm now managing the occupancy
of my assistants, I'm their employer. And the expenses that I bear under the fare agreement are then compensated to me by the state, because my case was recognized as an occupational hazard.
Of course, it was a step backwards,
but it was necessary for the sake of the new continuity. Since you've mentioned your assistants, could you please tell us more on your daily life
and the way it is structured? Because you used to be independent, and now you need the assistance of several people
to manage your routine. In fact, this is what happened to many of us in isolation: we've found ourselves in a lockdown with our families or roommates. And we had to cope with being so close to them, deliberately or not. How did you organize your day to make it balanced? The most important thing that I had to do
was to organize the work of my assistants. Which means the following:
I have seven assistants in my team at the moment they work with me, they feed me, help me
with care and procedures throughout the day. Since I've tried different models
with companies, care services… And, for a while, it was my girlfriend
to fully take care of me, but, for various reasons, these models weren't good enough and now I'm deploying the so-called employer's model.
This means that I've signed an agreement
with all the people involved in my care and I do take the responsibilities that are normally shouldered by employers. Why? I'd say assistance-based model is totally changing
the balance of powers in care. Usually the care worker or the nurse walks
in the patient's room in the morning and says: "Time to wake up. Shall we?" While at my home now, I may say that I want
to wake up at six tomorrow, or or quarter to six and this is when my assistant
will come to me in the morning. But I may say: "You know, I had a terrible night and I am drained". and I continue: "Look, why don't you come in an hour".
And then she simply comes in an hour.
Something else that I've realized… I can now say: no, it is not the full obedience that I need,
nor that you follow my instructions. As long as you are in charge of machines, this approach may work, though a direct control is needed. But I always kept my concerns and worries discreet, this is how they've trained us- is you are a commander, you're in charge of the result. And why would I say to my employees something like: you know, I have this private problem and it worries me… It was vice versa, and they'd normally
come to me and say: listen, why don't you?
I've managed to change it. I used the help of a psychotherapist,
and I go to therapy regularly, and in a team, we are regularly doing a supervision.
It used to seem ridiculous to me in the past,
I would laugh at someone doing this. But when I came back from Russia
after my first journey, the entire team was depressed, indeed, including myself, because I realized
that each employee is of great value to me. Loyalty is a two-way road. This is my motto. Or my slogan. Of course, I started thinking about it,
as I saw an emotionally drained person, who's helped me a lot
and to whom I owe a lot, and suddenly he gets fed up with everything I do, the way I do it and how often I do it. Then I said: okay, we should do something,
and we started looking for a therapist. The idea was this:
the team is seated in a separate room, a phycologist walks in, closes the door
and I wait to see how it ends. Whether my team will restore the working capacity
or not. Report to me about the result and we'll continue. And suddenly she tells me…
We've talked and I realized: okay, Christian, you are a team member,
just like all the others. And you need to sit together with others.
And then we created a space, where everybody can talk about
the way he feels and what he experiences. And so I was there, sitting in front
of my seven assistants who told me: Christian, you know, whatever
you are doing is just shitty. And I have to take it and find the courage
to share my motives with them. It's so relevant in fact. The way I see it is that families can do the same.
Not necessarily a psychologist should be involved,
but it is important to say: okay, let's be frank and now everyone should say
what he is annoyed about. When we spend all the time together
during the two weeks, many managers, in fact, are lacking the capacity
to show that they are humans, too, to admit their faults. They talk a lot about emotional intelligence now,
but an ego like this is much stronger than any emotional intelligence.
You've actually shown us the model of the future. I talk a lot to my brother,
and he's working in the same area. I keep thinking about leadership,
and there is something that we should probably learn… We are always told that a leader is
someone, who leads others after him or, be it an entrepreneur, or someone else –
in other words, someone, who knows it all. He knows everything and he says:
you should do this and that.
Come on, follow me. There are life situations, however, when no one knows what to do. Something new may happen. So knew that nobody knows anything about it,
a completely new scenario. A good example is the current corona-crisis. No one could ever imagine a total lock-down
of the entire economy. So, everybody is just standing there, being grumpy:
sh*t, what are we going to do? The only good thing about this situation is that people are united around a common cause. There's a collective mind, a collective spirit there, readiness to go for it and do something good
for the sake of a common cause and then they may say: look, maybe you know an IT expert or someone who's really keen on taxes,
because he likes it. In private sector I mean. He can offer
an interesting solution. Then, there are entrepreneurs, bosses, so to say who can reasonably manage a team and resources and develop them to their best. And I think there are a few things
to take away from this crisis: everybody is trying to figure out what to do,
there, in his tiny room – contained with a few friends.
And make a step back to understand
the following: okay, so what's the solution here? What are the most pleasant and the most unpleasant
job offers that you've ever received? It was like this: the nicest opportunity was,
in my opinion, to be able to continue working at the University of Hamburg, where I was supported. That was great. In the beginning I worked from the hospital and later on as well, when I was discharged.
It's a beautiful episode, indeed. Another episode was when I already moved to Rostock, where I met an entrepreneur, who was manufacturing sailing ships.
He came to me and said: Look, Christian, you were sailing yourself, so we thought that you could probably work with us.
We need someone to do the post-sale service handle complaints, defects and warranties. We aren't good at it.
You could do it. You'll have a phone and an office where you'll be working, they'll call you and you'll be able to take the calls. In fact, the job did not require
any special understanding of the yachting business. All I had to do is stay on the phone
and fill in an Excel spreadsheet with the relevant defects on the boats
and things to be done with them.
So, they needed someone to do this job.
And then I told them… all right, but I am not a telephone operator,
no matter how arrogant it may sound. I have an engineering background,
and I used to manage 20 million – worth projects, and they suddenly, someone tells me:
can you stay on the phone? And then I said, and I wanted to sound polite, so I said: thank you, my friend, I'll think about it. And that was it. I didn't opt for this, it simply did not motivate me. This job was simply lacking a vital part
that I was looking for. And when it is someone in a wheelchair, who wakes up every morning in pain and has to go through
physical suffering, it is very important to have a real meaning to the job.
It's an absolutely delightful feeling. I once met in Russia a head of an NGO, that was a vibrant and active organization,
and we were talking about a young man, who was an aspiring lawyer
and we were supporting him a bit, and the German embassy was funding him
every now and then to cover his needs. So the head of the NGO
told me: he is not happy at all, he is a professional lawyer, but he has to do archery, although he could work as a lawyer. Then I asked her: okay, how do you see it? He has significant speech challenges
and it's very hard for him to speak. And it's hard to understand him.
And she says: well, yes… Me: let's be honest, would you trust him
to represent you at court? Who would you hire if it were about
a court case of yours? She: no, of course not.
But he can do
paperwork and so many other things. Me: so how much would you pay to him then?
That is to say, when you hire a phone call operator or someone else
in a commercial company, you cannot pay him as much as you would
to a lawyer, this is obvious. She: okay, so what? He could work
and provide counselling free of charge. Me: well, yes, but you are not working for free, are you?
So, there is money on one hand, but on the other hand, it's about recognition. It sounded so humiliating to me that I said:
how could you even think of asking someone who lives in constant pain to work for free? With no renumeration?
I think it's wrong.
In my case, for example, the trauma was recognized
as an occupational hazard, and I take part in many social projects and
I charge nothing for it. I do not want to be paid for it.
If I make a presentation and I'm paid for it, I transfer the money
to my disabled child foundation in Russia. I usually say: donate the money.
Please, tell me how much you'd pay to me
and donate that amount. But when I work in a private company,
a commercial company I want to be paid decently.
And since we are taking about jobs and earnings,
I want to make an incredibly interesting offer to our audience: you have
a unique opportunity to have an hour of coaching or mentoring with Christian Tiffert.
To make it happen, please write down in the comments where do you think could Christian
possibly work, which company? What would his job be? What would he be in charge of?
We'll look at the answers and, the winner will get the prize –
an hour of coaching with Christian, when you could discuss your fears
and concerns with him. Please, write in the comments, in which company
do you think could Christian be working? Dear Christian, since we've touched upon the topic
of health, I wanted to ask you about exercising, nutrition…
I heard a nice phrase yesterday: our bellies are getting thicker,
while our skin is getting thinner. Those, who don't have a habit
of daily morning exercise or yoga, or those who don't have a dog to walk it in the morning and in the evening – they suffer, too.
And, of course, a lot is being talked about healthy lifestyle, but it is all so complicated. How did you succeed?
You were facing a choice that I wouldn't even call a choice as such,
but you had to do it. It was of vital importance. How do you schedule
your day, how do you do the sports, considering that you can hardly move? And what do you eat
during the day to stay healthy? In the past, before the trauma, I used to jog,
I was very sporty, I was swimming, riding on a bike.
It was triathlon, in other words. But I was doing it all exclusively for myself. And, of course, it is all in the past now.
Physiotherapy is something I do a lot these days. That is to say, I am so lucky to have a doctor
and she does see the need and she is always saying: okay, he used to do a lot of sports
and he needs physiotherapy now. So what I do is this: I even used to have a training camp
for myself for a while. So back then, I said, okay, there are
no lectures at the moment, and I am available, so this week
the therapist can come every day.
And, as I get busier, I'll reduce the intensity. It is something where you need
to overcome the internal laziness all the time. But what I am good at is this: okay,
I'll wake up in the morning, check the mailbox, and, for example,
at 11 o'clock sharply I'll take a ride on a bike. Or, I may do my workout with a special coach. For example, I can easily say to my assistants: look, you don't need to cook for me from tomorrow.
I am going to eat only this and that. Sometimes it can be quite challenging,
and I've already experienced that. Besides, everybody has his own ideas.
I've then restructured my meals: I only have breakfast and dinner,
and I eat a lot of vegetables. It's similar to what I did before to some extent. This is where one cannot give
a definitive advice on what to do. It simply has to be done, that's it. I just thought of something different:
you know, when we are doing sports, then, according to the pictures from the Internet, and the Internet is eventually influencing us, it is supposed that after a number of trainings,
we'll become better-looking, slimmer and stronger, or, some other nice things will happen,
for example, we can then run a marathon.
How was it with you, when, thanks
to physiotherapy you were able to move? It's a giant progress, isn't it? It surely is. Well, I was doing different things. I had a physiotherapist,
we even played the trombone together. There was a special clamp to fix
the trombone to my wheelchair. I was blowing in it, so to say…
That thingie was moving back and forth. Just like that. It was moving the slidelock for me. Well, you're laughing now, but what
if you take a trombone and try… lips are pressed hard and then
you have to exhale under pressure. I won't become a trombonist, of course,
I'm too unmusical for that. But it is much more fun to play the trombone, than to train to keep the three balls in the air by constantly blowing into a special bowl
with those balls. And in order not to trouble my neighbours too much,
I can use a muffler.
In other words, I was doing somewhat different things. It is much more pleasant and fun. It is also a great luck to have therapists
who like trying something new. It took me a while to find them. I've tried so many therapists, centres, etc. Some of them were great, but then something was changing, and we could not work together anymore. With others, I'd say: okay, this is great,
but I need something else.
I'm in a wheelchair, and I have a ceiling lift
that fixes my hands, then I slightly move aside, and I go laterally, like this, and then I keep hanging and then I go back centrally. It is pleasant and inspiring, because… When you do something new,
when you can try something new… I think, even those who do not need
a therapist know this feeling. But a self-motivation is required. And, probably, instead of repeating
the same things, we need the new ideas. You know, it occurred to me that there are
therapists, who can make people disabled. Just like you told us about the three balls
that you need to keep blowing at. And there are others, who bring you back to life. Yes. So, this is my appeal to the therapists: think hard! In fact, it relates to a large number of therapists as well as to artists. Thus, from what you are telling me, I can assume
that musicians, if trained, could work as therapists and offer the kinds of therapy
that are more coherent to human dignity and can really bring people back to life.
Now that we are in the XXI century,
I believe that the future belongs to this approach and not only will it shape the future,
but also our coexistence. It also affects the future of the labour market.
They say a lot that there will be less jobs, etc. But people like you are in constant search, And when a demand is declining somewhere,
it is usually augmented elsewhere. The disabled people are in fact
a huge market today, the needs of it being unmet. And yet they are funded, the government,
the authorities are allocating funds.
These funds are nurtured from other sources as well.
Making someone happy is important. You can always see whether someone
likes his job or not. When he hasn't spread himself too thin and is ready to try something new. He's ready to accept that the patient may,
on one hand have doubts about his expertise, and on the other hand, he can co-create the innovations. And maybe a therapist with an ego like this:
I am the one who knows what to do and I'm going to show it now.
In the beginning,
this kind of approach was so important to me. Because this approach is always setting
the mood for the patient, I know that, and yes, it gives you a feeling
that you can rely on that therapist. He knows what to do and I trust him. But, sooner or later, there comes the time to move on. Sometimes, I have to change the therapist then. And every now and then we would look
each other in the eyes and say: how to put it – we are too long together now,
like a pair of shoes. We've briefly talked about the things
available for the disabled people today, so here is my next question. And this is an area of my professional interest, I've been doing it for 10 years,
the so-called disability business inclusion. I provide support to the companies
in creating cool, inclusive modern products, barrier-free environment to enable shopping
and building the communication with target audiences. So, I wanted to ask you the following:
do you think the outer world is ready for clients
like you? And, to what extent? Largely speaking, it is not. It's all complicated. Governments are doing a lot, but then it is not working.
Here is an example: I've often been asked about Russia – hey, Christian, what about the Russian roads?
How are you overcoming the curbs there? They're so high, how do you manage,
if you can manage at all? Well, there is this thing – I always carry a small ramp
with me. Another thing is when I cannot drive up, then then two or three Russians see that I'm experiencing
difficulties, they come up to me and help me.
I've already overcome three staircases like this,
despite a 200 kg wheelchair and 120 kg of my own weight. Yes, they help me, five persons, perhaps,
and here you go. While in Germany the curbs
are low everywhere. Yes… But then suddenly I can be barred by a huge "Mercedes". I have my own parking lot in front of home. And when my assistants take the car to go shopping, after a while someone would come and take the place. And there is no understanding whatsoever. And yet, there is a lot of funding for barrier-free curbs. But then it may happen
that I can't simply drive in a store. Or the shelves are so closely positioned that there is
no way I can turn around on this bulky chair. And that's hard. Tell me your story about the cafe with a ramp. Yeah, that's cool… I had it twice, or trice… So, the first time was like this: I was in Russia, in Kirov… – In my native city (laughing)
– Yes, in your native city! (laughing) I met there a lot of great people, members
of the Rotary club, who organized a lot of things for me there.
So, we went to a restaurant,
and there were steps at the entrance. Of course, we've unpacked my two ramps, and I drove in using my mobile ramps
and it was all right. We had a diner and it was great.
The restaurant had an amazing cuisine, honestly. Then we left. On the next day I was told that, the owner of the restaurant said that
he was going to build a ramp.
He gave instructions
and the ramp was ready on the same day. And he thought…
Or, bettersay, he never thought, that it can become an obstacle. And that some people won't be able
to get in his restaurant. It's simply great, I believe. And it is wonderful to travel around the world and, without doing much, give an impetus for a change. These changes then let others feel that
they are part of something else. This kind of things happened to me in Germany, too. There was also another venue in Germany,
where the owner said: no, I am not going to do this.
There was a mesh in front of the entrance there.
I told him: why don't you simply remove the mesh, just put it aside so that I could put my mobile ramp. He: no, I am not going to do this,
it's complicated, this and that… and you won't get though in any case.
Okay, I went to another bar. Many bars in Rostock were barrier-free
and one could get there for sure. But there are many things I am thinking
about and I'm trying to convey them to others. Yes. There are other venues, that,
on the contrary, are doing everything for you. Yes-yes. It was great. I told them it's like
my second living room. It was in 2012, a bar round the corner
with 40 varieties of gin tonic. Crazy! (laughing) (both laughing) Yes-yes, they had lots of good stuff
and I am looking forward to their reopening. So, I have been there several times in summer. Then winter came and I couldn't stay outside. So, I haven't been going there
for a long time. And once, after the movies, I said: let's try and climb their stairs.
We took my mobile ramp and went in. I opened the door to use my ramp to drive in – and get totally surprised: what?
Why do they suddenly have a ramp here? They have rebuilt the entire entrance so that I could… No one asked me, no one told me anything,
they just did it. Amazing! I have to admit it is amazing indeed. And now,
when I go there, and I can do it any time, it is simply so nice, because people there
can see things and then they simply act, without any stormy words and discussions,
without asking questions. They simply act.
It's great. It's so pleasant. Let's talk more about a start of a new period in life
and new stages. When one door
is closing and another one opens. You had it in your life, too:
a certain lifestyle is a matter of the past now and something new has begun. Tell me about your trips in Russia.
There are TV programmes when journalists travel in countries like Russia or China, they take different routes, they film several parts, they meet the locals and see the wonderful landscapes. There programmes are more or less
informative, but they make you believe: wow, this man is having a wonderful
journey in a wonderful country. In fact, this is exactly what Christian is doing. He has been travelling across Russia for three years now
and his routes are so unique that you wouldn't even think of following them.
Christian, why Russia? Why these trips with their social component?
How come? Well, it actually happened so. And I have noticed that
some doors are opening, some are closing. And there is always a story behind it.
So, when I said goodbye to Hamburg and stopped working on my thesis, I went to Rostock to reside there. Then, there was a good friend of mine, he used to work in the German embassy
in Moscow back then. So, once, we were drinking beer and I asked him:
tell me Thorsten, how is it in Russia, – could I drive a wheelchair in Moscow?
He said: I don't know but we'll find out. But one thing is for sure: you can't go down in the metro. Okay, I said. I haven't been going in the metro yet.
But I will do it once, sooner or later (laughing). There are metro stations in Moscow,
where you can go down on a lift.
Exactly. But then you never know if you'll make it out
at the next station or not. (laughing) I'll keep thinking about it when underground.
But I'll get out anyway. The limits are in your head.
The rest is about endurance and organization. And it's similar…
Many things are there for you just go through. So, I had an idea: we're going to Moscow. Okay, but what shall we do there? And where can one go from a starting point like Moscow? So then we chose the Caucasus
and with two destinations we hit the road. We thought: we want to go there,
so why don't we go right now. We called touristic companies:
yes-yes, we'll provide you the support, no problem. In fact, they haven't yet called us back
from the Russian tour companies. It was all quite challenging.
But we have organized everything. Or, bettersay, I did –
and we went to the South, the Caucasus. The trip was unforgettable, indeed. One one hand, I was impressed by the landscapes
and the vastness of Russia.
On the other hand, it's about the people
we've met, their hospitality and openness. I was deeply impressed.
During the first trip to Volgograd we were looking at the riverbank of Volga
and the monuments to the WWII, destruction of Stalingrad. And, despite it, people were so friendly
and helpful that we didn't feel any blaming looks or something like that. To commemorate those times,
people wear black & orange ribbons.
We've also fastened one to the antenna on the roof and someone wrote on the windshield: "Germany loves Russia",
in Russian and in English. And so, once I said: let's come here again,
the second time. After all these trips I receive a feedback on how crazy it all is. I say: yes, but we've succeeded.
Five years after the trauma I was in Sochi, where the Paralympic games were taking place.
It was a great goal of mine, it motivated me so much that I said, okay, I'll go further.
Let's keep it simple. Secondly, I had an active discussion with a person from the embassy. He was in charge
of communication, media etc. So, once we were talking about the homes for the disabled people in Russia, about bedridden patients. I didn't want to imply that they help these people
and eventually learn that this is not the case. Then I started doing it in Rostock.
I said: okay, here is a project by the German embassy.
They organize a Christmas bazar, where one can buy goods from Germany
and the revenue is streamed to social projects. I simply tried to obtain something
for this project in Germany, but couldn't even get a tin of jam. I said: I am ready to pick it up.
“Well, great idea”, – they said. I have to confess that I cant' stand
these words "great idea" any more. And then it occurred to me that there was
an orchestra there and it needed support.
It was an inclusive orchestra where children with disabilities were playing together with the non-disabled ones. It's called "The Sunny Notes", you know it,
they are so good. So, then I said: okay, I want to support this project. I was trying to collect instruments and so on. And an idea came to me and I asked
in the Higher Music of School and theatre in Hamburg, if they can organize a charity concert of this orchestra. They told me they can,
but it must be an established project… Me: and how can this project
become an established one? Three days later they sent me back the documents, and then I said: now it's a matter of principle
to make it happen (laughing).
And then I organized a charity concert
of the "Sunny Notes". It was a success, and I got such a positive feedback… It woke up some aspirations of social aid in me
and now I am looking at the life of the disabled people in Russia,
especially children. That's the most important thing. So I look and see that there are many outpatient units and centres in Russia, where they parents can bring their children
on daily basis, like a kindergarten. They have therapists there,
and they spend a day together and are trying to teach the children there.
They have schools and classes there,
and the tutor comes every day. He is teaching them maths. But that's not
the most important thing to learn maths, what matters more is that
the children learn what a school is. Roughly speaking they learn to sit
with their mouths shut. If we compare it with the work they do in Germany…
I've never faced this, surely not before my trauma and nor after it, but I'm really curious to see various methods, technical solutions, ideas. I saw gyms where the disabled
and non-disabled people are exercising together in the same hall, in the same centre. The premises were purchased by the city,
they put an equipment there, there is a common changing room there and so on.
It is so inspiring. It compensates many things.
I think you have some achievements that we could learn from you.
I mean Germany with all the money it has. Local initiatives and a purposeful
use of funds is what we need. Many things can be done on a wider scale,
for example one may say: okay, let's modify all the curbs. But in some areas, I think we have
a lot to learn from them. It's a mission, for example my mission is
to build bridges between people, different nations, between the disabled – and the non-disabled. You know, I'm now talking to the journalists
who are making big programmes.
I think you next trip to Russia should be fully supported by a professional film crew so that a series of at least 3 episodes,
40 minutes each, could be filmed. When you travel all the way to Yakutsk,
or you go from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, and on your way, you visit different institutions
and tell about the methods they deploy. And also about the things we can learn
from each other in this situation. Because there are lots of films
about the wonders of nature, exotic tribes- the so-called ethnography
or exploration of nature. But their time is over. What we should talk
about now are the relevant social policies, since this is about our life
and about our future and it will ensure a more decent life of the future generations
on this planet.
Helping those in need, and never stopping
because of the limits. Here is one more interesting thing – never
stopping before the limits. This is an international project and we are
hosting guests from different countries. For, disability knows no borders or nationalities,
no age or gender. The coronavirus has taught us the same – there are no limits, no borders,
given that the borders are closed today. We don't know whether they will be opened again, and for how long? And will everything be the same again? No limits in the sense of going beyond the borders. (laughing). But I think we are having a very important conversation today in the sense of overcoming
the barriers that the virus has built. This project of ours, or your trips will help…
When you can have a bird's eye view of Russia on the TV it all looks great –
the beautiful landscapes and so on…
But there are two different things.
Here is one that I've realized: for example, the Germans are very fond
of travelling in the Arabic countries, in Turkey, Morocco, when it's quiet there, when there are no wars or terroristic threats. So, when we spend 14 days there,
walking, exploring the bazars, and everything is so beautiful and genuine, then we return to our apartments or, the rented housing, with no electricity cuts – I don't even know when it was the last time
that there were electricity shutdowns in Germany. Sewage system is all functioning well.
When we travel to the authentic regions, we look at them with touristic eyes. Yes, we are tourists,
and then we go back home and say: they was great. That is to say, 14 days were enough.
And it troubles me. I'm troubled by all these differences,
by our deliberate way of looking at it from above, when we look at them as if we are the majors.
But there is another thing as well, something I have in my projects… What matters in my trips is this: you have to treat everyone equally, no arrogance here, and when you tell something, try to refrain
from evaluation. And simply keep watching. It is important to me not to show what a miserable life people with disabilities have in Russia. What matters is to draw public attention
to this problem. It matters much more to show both the good
and the bad things, without giving your opinion. And without finger-pointing, so that
people would see it themselves – what is good and what is bad. And what can be done about it?
This is what matters the most. I also thought – as for some goods,
like toys for example, I do not refer to them as to a humanitarian aid. These are rather the presents
that you'd bring when you visit someone, when you bring something to a host,
or a bunch of flowers.
So, I always take toys or things for children, but with a different attitude in mind.
It is important. The same is with the corona crisis: we close the borders, we detach ourselves and we say: Yes, it's them to bring in the virus.
Or more: they did this, they did that. That doesn't matter at all. It's much more important
to understand what is good and what is bad here, and how can we make it better for everyone? When production resources are depleted,
one needs to set the priorities.
This is one thing. Priorities,
despite anything, including the state border. Because, we are anyway connected,
we are anyway inter-dependent. It is absolutely impossible today
to be fully closed to the outer world and do your own things within one state only.
It doesn't work like that. And when we make such steps,
it gives a message like this: okay, let's see what went wrong and maybe we should revise the organization,
introduce the new rules, make the communication stronger, for example.
In fact, this is a lesson to be learned
and this is what motivated me when you called me at the very onset
of your project and said: tell me, Christian, do you think I should do
this project in German or in Russian? what do you think? And I said: do it trilingual.
We'll do everything in German, in Russian and in English, because I do care to make it international,
since this project relates to the disabled people not only in Germany,
but all over the world. We'll see, and I have no doubt about it, there is a lot in common between the strategies
and the solutions we talked about. Despite the differences of the political systems
and the initial situation. Of course, Germany differs a lot from the US or Russia. But the nature of the challenges in the same. This will be highlighted by the international
nature of this project. It is very important for me that
in this whole story the starting point was my empirical assumption that the borders between "us", people without disabilities, and "them", people with disabilities, is very fluid.
And the knowledge and the support are
coming from both sides. Our nature, our history has shaped
an unconscious view on "them", the disabled people, as the recipients of social, medical, orthopaedic support. But here comes a new model. All the people are equal. They are our employees, partners and our attitude should be shaped
around it. This is the first thing. Secondly, both the lockdown
and the corona-crisis have shown that we all became disabled
and “we” need a support, advice from people like you,
Christian, you learned their lessons 8 years ago, and they went through the crisis
in an attempt to rebuild their lives. So it was important for me personally
to make a step forward to this idea about a suffering disabled person, who finds himself
in the context of the corona-crisis and a risk group, or he doesn't get something. It is important to tell him : look, we are on the same level now, we are benefiting from Christian's support now. Nina's, Markus'es, Evgenia's, Anastasia's support- all these wonderful people we'll host – from Israel, from Russia, from the Anglo-Saxon countries. I have the last question to you: what would you say to the
non-disabled Christian before his trauma? And what would you say to yourself right after the trauma.
I mean, todays Christian to himself in the past, eight years ago?
How would you support yourself? What would you advise? Well, to myself before the trauma… I'd probably say: take better care of yourself. Do not disregard yourself, your dreams etc. You know, I've always been trying hard
to find myself in the new profession, make a career and earn, I mean earn well.
And yes, within a second, it all became irrelevant. This is what I'd say to myself back then. As to myself right after the trauma..
One thing: don't give up, hold on. I promise, it'll be better. Somehow. Some day. It's okay, you'll feel better again. And one more thing: take care and don't try to outmatch yourself.
I've told you already about the sepsis. A lot of people die from it, in Germany, too, despite anything. It's not worth it.
Take care of yourself. Here is another thing I want to ask you
to say to the non-disabled people, who feel powerless now, because they can't build their life
and are caught in an existential fear, are bored by the closeness of their neighbours.
What would you tell them? Try to be realistic. What are the most realistic fears
for your future that will materialize? Think quietly: what is dangerous for me
and what is not? And maybe you should prepare some ideas
and work on some projects. These times are calm in many senses, we keep hearing about the slowdown of the life pace.
Take your time to decide on your current position in life, in work, in your personal life. And then start thinking, where you want to go. What do you really want to do? Why is it important? You'll suddenly notice that you have a family, people in your life, children in need of attention. And on the other hand, there are rules etc. Yes, you need to take your time
to decide on your current position. One more thing. It's a practical advice: discuss your situation and the way
you'll live with your family. Share your fears and concerns to find
a common solution and live together to overcome it. Your burden is much lighter
when someone else is helping you. Thank you, Christian, and I want to remind, that our audience has an opportunity to win an hour of coaching with Christian. We go on air on Wednesdays.
During the next week, until the next interview, you can leave your ideas in the comments – please, write where do you think could Christian work, describe his position and responsibilities.
This is the first thing. The second, somewhat different
assignment is this: look around you.
Look at your family, friends and colleagues. Are there disabled people among them?
If yes, are they working? If yes, is their job up to the level
of their education and knowledge, talents and skills? In case it is not, please write as well,
where do you think could this person work, which position and responsibilities could he take? Just imagine it, describe it share with us. Dear Christian, thank you so much for your time, and for all your stories. I want to share the things that I'm personally taking away from this conversation. It's the following: take care of yourself,
try not to be in a haste, don't force yourself. And no matter how hard it is now,
it will be better in 14 days.
King David used to say: "and this, too, shall pass away". Just don't panic and think about the present day: okay, this, too, shall pass and it will be better in 14 days." Besides, there are new times and new professions. Just think about the size of the market
the disabled people are representing. People like Christian make 15 per cent
of the global population, that's one billion and two hundred million people. The specialists say that his market is
proportional to the Chinese one, and the demand for goods and services is
far more than the supply. Complex IT solutions, orthopaedists and trombones…(laughing), orthopaedists and trombones! Physiotherapists and the trombones are waiting for you! Let's give them a room for imagination
and head for something new. Thank you so much for watching us. My name is Yanina Urusova. The guest of our
"Two Moons in Your Moccasins" today was Christian Tiffert from Rostock. And we'll be looking forward to our talks next week. – Good bye!
– Good bye!.