Change Stories


15 February

"Something finally needs to happen here": How David sees Hoyerswerda's young generation

David Sujatta has firm roots in Hoyerswerda. He can't imagine leaving his town. He spent his childhood and teenage years there, his grandparents lived in a neighboring more

"Something finally needs to happen here": How David sees Hoyerswerda's young generation

David Sujatta has firm roots in Hoyerswerda. He can't imagine leaving his town. He spent his childhood and teenage years there, his grandparents lived in a neighboring village. The town's youth clubs – offering plenty of freedom but with clear rules, too – were an integral part of his daily routine. They were where he met friends, chilled out, did sport. Today, he is himself an educator in the "Ossi", the youth club of the Regional Agency for Education, Democracy and Life Perspectives (RAA) Hoyerswerda, and is worried about a generation of young people with few prospects and dwindling social skills.
Photo: David Sujatta
Listening to David, you quickly realize that the issues frequently mentioned in connection with Hoyerswerda - electoral successes of the right-wing AfD (Alternative for Germany) party and racist riots in the early 1990s - are of very little relevance for his own life and that of the young people he meets on a daily basis. David is 23 years old and has been an educator in the "Ossi" youth club since 2020. He is worried about quite different issues with regard to the young people in his town.

Social media instead of social get-togethers

With growing concern, he observes how digital platforms like Tiktok and Snapchat are holding more and more sway over young people's lives, resulting in ever-decreasing direct face-to-face communication. With the wrong ideals embedded in their minds, the adolescents put themselves under pressure and can no longer remember how to deal constructively with conflict and problems. Often their only way of coping with stress – and one which they learn at an early age is: "Time for a smoke".

Alcohol and tobacco consumption, he says, has substantially increased since the days when he was a teenager, a trend exacerbated over the past two years by the Covid-19 pandemic. What's more, many young people see no job prospects for themselves, and many lack a realistic idea of what path their own career might take. "There's nothing here in Hoyerswerda," is what David hears very often. The aging population is one of the reasons why young people see no future for themselves. And the schools, they tell him, pay not nearly enough attention to teaching them life skills.

Politics – not an issue

And yet David has not noticed any alarming political attitudes or a political division among young voters, as suggested by the election results in Saxony which showed a strong group of AfD supporters on the one hand and an equally strong group of Green Party affiliates on the other. Young people here, he says, are not very interested in politics, and they have little awareness of the subject, as was recently revealed in a quiz held in the Ossi.

It is rather how the young people spend their leisure time which divides them or brings them together. This was what he observed when he was a teenager, and that has not changed, he feels: There are those who like to play games and sports, and then there are those who prefer to drink and smoke. The "Foucault Group", which used to meet for this in front of the eponymous high school in Hoyerswerda, still exists today.

Teenager years in the youth club

When he was twelve years old, one of David's friends took him along to the Ossi. David thought it was a great place: You could play football, just chat or play around on the PC. It even organized trips to the outdoor swimming pool. The Ossi was open to everyone and offered a lot of options for personal development (admittedly under supervision, but free).

For most young people it was above all the district they lived in that determined who went to the Ossi and who went elsewhere. David was no exception. Later on, he spent more time in another club, which has long since been closed, like so many other places in Hoyerswerda. Today, the Ossi is the town's only youth club.

His daily routine in those teenager years followed a fixed pattern, and going to the club was an integral part of it. School, going to the club with his friends, then off to the sports ground, and in the evening to the abandoned school garden of the Kopernikus School. The empty ruin of the school was a place of adventure and held a special attraction for the youngsters. Many of David's friendships date back to that time as do fond memories of sharing time with others in social get-togethers.

But: "There were always clear rules," at school and at home. Crossing limits inevitably had its consequences. That is something David feels is missing today, something he would like to pass on as an educator, despite his limited options to influence matters in the Ossi as a voluntary facility. Showing respect, especially for older people, politeness and good manners are important to him.

Indirect route to becoming an educator

When his application to the police (his original career aspiration) was turned down, David had to bridge one year. Family and friends came up with the idea of his trying a social year at kindergarten. He was, after all, good at communicating and had always liked spending time with children. He loved his work there, and the original plan of spending one year in education turned into a five-year training course to become an educator. He was offered a job in the Ossi, where he'd already completed an internship and knew some colleagues, directly after he had passed his exam.

Today, David believes that the happiest moments in his job are when the young people express their personal appreciation and affection for him or when he feels that he makes a difference in a conflict between children and parents, for example. He still has a lot of ambitious plans for his young people: He is currently busy qualifying as a fitness coach. With this under his belt he wants to offer a new service in the Ossi. The guys had told him they would like to have that in the Ossi. Sport brings people together and helps reduce stress.

A future in Hoyerswerda?

What Hoyerswerda needs is more free-of-charge facilities for young people, David is convinced. It's true, he says, that the new trampoline park is good but it is expensive, and the town has rapidly disintegrated over recent decades. The many vacant premises have made it gray and drab. David tells us that some of the young people from the Ossi take part in demonstrations and motorcades against the Covid-19 rules these days – not acting out of conviction but simply because "there's something happening there".

David himself will "definitely" stay in Hoyerswerda. He is a "social animal", he says, and he feels most at ease where his family and friends are. The Ossi, which is soon to become part of a new, cross-generational meeting point and educational center in Hoyerswerda, offers him an interesting professional perspective.

"I don't need a big city," says David. But Hoyerswerda should in fact be offering a bit more than it is now. He understands those who leave town or don't want to move there in the first place. David hopes that current projects like a leisure park and the planned satellite campus of Dresden University won't fizzle out again and will bring new life to the town: "Something finally needs to happen here."

The Freudenberg Foundation was one of the initiators of the RAA Hoyerswerda/East Saxony and has provided both institutional and project-referenced support since it was set up in 1993. The Foundation is also represented on the advisory board for education of Hoyerswerda town council and, together with the municipality, is a founding member of the Weinheim Initiative working group for smoothly successful transitions from school to job. In late 2021, the Foundation, the RAA Hoyerswerda and the RAA Saxony commissioned a survey to investigate how young people in Hoyerswerda experience democracy.