Meet Our Members: Sangita Wilk-Sanatani

Journey to my roots by Sangita Wilk-Sanatani

Sangitas Photo in India-min.jpg

October 2016: I sat on my bed in my ancestral home in Bengal looking out the window and vividly remembering images from previous journeys. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I reviewed my past experiences and then asked myself: What is THIS journey about? Neither child nor mother, just myself here… in search of my roots, my heritage... my Bengali heart!

 I arrived in the comfortable home of my cousins in Kolkata before moving on to our village home where one of my main ambitions was to learn Bengali, of which I only knew a few phrases. I easily got in touch with villagers, and during evening walks sang with children and practiced simple conversation. Sitting on the train to Santiniketan, in the process of typing a message: “On my way to the home town of Rabindranath Thakur (our national poet)..”, when I was filled with emotion. Where did this sentiment come from? Who within me sent and who received this sudden wave of love and devotion

 I originally planned returning home for Christmas, but as the time approached, my heart cried so badly that I needed to seriously think about extending my stay for another 2 months. I struggled against feelings of guilt and the opinions of both my Austrian and Indian family! Finally, I surrendered to the Greater Heart and, looking back, it was actually in these last two months that the transformation really happened!

 Frequent reflection of my family history – between Kolkata and Santiniketan -I journeyed through waves of enthusiasm, disillusionment, and finally a sense of integration.

„Me in Bengal“ and „Bengal in me“ had become One.

 On the morning of 25th February 2017 my suitcases were packed, and I knew I was taking a flight back to Europe. Still, it didn’t FEEL as though I was leaving. I felt as though I had always been there and would remain there. After nearly 5 months, I had mastered the language to a confident level … a beautiful experience of self-guided learning.

 I still had time for a last day trip and I set off for the botanical garden in Kolkata. The great banyon tree was calling me! It is awe inspiring to look at something that resembles a forest and imagine this is one tree… so many stems growing out of one central root: Doesn’t this say something about us as humans? I finally understood that I had roots in Vienna and in Bengal and it was possible to be two and more at the same time.

The anecdote of this final outing: Different tickets were sold – whether you are a foreigner or a local. The chap behind the counter examined me and asked “Where do you come from?“ I replied in Bengali, giving my (Kolkata) home address... He handed me the ‘local’ ticket, and with a feeling of deep gratitude I realized I had been accepted!

Meet Our Members: Monika Sautner

Everyone who visits the AWA office comes face to face with a beautiful work of art: a bright tapestry of swooping green and orange curves, fashioned from intricate geometrical patchwork. Yet few know that this design was fashioned by one of our very own members! Monika Sautner tells us a little bit about herself and her creative craftwork.

My parents were from Vienna, but I was born in 1940 in Nuremberg, Germany, where my parents had moved to look for work. I was only a small child during the war, but I remember fleeing our burning house when I was only 5 years old. I can still hear my mother telling me to jump over a pile of glowing embers.

We moved back to Vienna after the war. Things were difficult at first. At school, we sat in the classrooms wearing winter coats and gloves as there was no heat in the building! – and we had no supplies to speak of. My mother made me my first notebook by hand, she did this by sewing together sheets of baking paper! Nowadays kids have so many books, notebooks, computers… but it seems like they’re not learning anything.

I trained to be a social worker, helping families in difficult situations. I had a super boss: a woman who always gave us little handcrafted gifts on special occasions. I loved her creations and thought “I could do that too!”. That’s how I got started with crafting, really. After my second daughter was born I stopped working outside the home. My crafts made being a housewife more interesting as my hobby really brought joy to my life. You should see my flat now – it’s so full of crafts it’s like a bazaar! I only need to ensure I manage to clear a space on my bed for sleeping!

I also used to volunteer at the Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes, in southern France. I’d go for several weeks at a time, often meeting the same group of fellow volunteers there, year after year. Because I can speak five languages – German, English, French, Italian and Spanish – they could always use my help in the office, giving information to the pilgrims, and helping with the lost-and-found.

The AWA is a great place for me to keep up my languages – speaking English to everyone, going to the Italian class – and I also teach the beginners’ German class on Tuesday mornings. I love helping out with the crafts – I donated some lovely wreaths for the Easter Affayre event – and if anyone is interested in buying a patchwork quilt, please get in touch!

Meet Our Members: Tova Marr

My name is Tova Marr and I am a Canadian. I have lived in Vienna for over 16 years: the first
stint was for 4 years living with my parents here in the 90s.

I wasn’t a fan of the city then so that meant, of course, that I would end up meeting an Austrian a few years later and moving back in 2004 after our elopement in Niagara Falls in January, in Canada, with snow. Years later, I am now smitten with the city and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Meet Our Members: Tammie Perdue

Hi ladies, I'm Tammie! I am from the southern United States and was born in West Virginia. I met my husband, Darren, in high school. After dating for six years, we were married while attending Marshall University (famous for the Matthew McConaughey movie, 'We Are Marshall').  After graduation, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. We will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary next year! I have also lived abroad in Madrid, Spain, London, UK and currently, Vienna, Austria!  



Across the European alpine regions in summer, cattle and other farm animals feed on alpine pastures high up in the mountains to fatten up on the rich alpine grasses before the colder months.  When the cattle are herded back down to the valley at the end of summer, locals (and holidaymakers alike) celebrate the herd's safe homecoming by dressing the animals up in ornate headdresses, garlands of flowers and ribbons, and with bells attached to heavy leather collars.

Meet our Members: Erin Silangil

I first came to Vienna in the winter of 2010, to experience waltzing in one of its many balls, and in the process, met my Austrian husband, Tobias. We had a five year long distance relationship, which culminated in our marriage last September. During my many visits, I fell in love with Vienna (and Schnitzel!) and knew that I wanted to move here if I had the chance. I moved to Vienna at the end of January this year from San Francisco, California, where I was born and raised. I’m overwhelmed with the beauty of this place, the history, the art, the culture - even the guy on the S-bahn who whistles to get everyone on board is exciting to me!

Meet our Members: Rose Marie Gatscha

Every now and again, my Viennese born and bred husband asks me if I could ever have imagined that I’d be living in Vienna as a retiree. It’s at that very moment that I instantly recall my roots and unequivocally say, “No!” Notwithstanding the fact that Peter and I met in Vienna while I was on a business trip, we lived most of our 36 years of marriage in the Northeast, specifically New York City and Morristown, NJ, and never in Austria.