the art of the story
„Quiet life with mushroom“
the story of
It is July 20th, and Hamburg sets a new heat record with 40.1 degrees Celsius. In the shade of a tree in Eppendorf’s Hayns Park, Hinz&Kunzt salesman Andreas dies. Alone. Seven weeks later, about 30 people gather at St. Peter’s church in Groß Borstel: They want to mourn Andreas and look back on his life.
“Although I experienced many lows, setbacks and illnesses with Andreas, the bright moments stay in my memory more strongly,” says Inge Dahnke. The 83-year-old has been involved with the homeless in Hamburg for around 30 years and knew Andreas for just as long. She also helped organize the funeral service.
Andreas was always friendly – and faithful, she said in a speech during the service. This was reflected, for example, in his regular visits to the cemetery. There he laid flowers on the grave of his wife, who had died at an early age and whom Andreas had met at the beginning of his time in Hamburg. But he also laid flowers on the grave of Ingrid Dahnke’s late husband. But it was not always just flowers. Inge Dahnke especially remembers the first Christmas after his death: To her astonishment, Andreas had hung the grave with an abundance of red, green, and gold garlands. “Everything was full of them,” she said with a smile.
“Andreas knew how to approach people with charm,” says Wolfgang Jäger, another volunteer who accompanied Andreas for years. For example, when the Hinz&Kunzt salesman sold in Eppendorf restaurants. “He wished a nice evening and a bon appétit.” The 75-year-old is certain: “If things had gone better for Andreas, he could have become the ideal car salesman in the upper segment.” Wolfgang Jäger certainly means it appreciatively.
However, things did not go well for him. Instead, Andreas’ life went off the rails early on. Born in Poland, he fought in the Soviet war in Afghanistan as a young man. That’s what Andreas told some friends and acquaintances. But he didn’t talk much about his experiences in the war, merely this: He deserted and eventually ended up in Hamburg. Dahnke and Jäger suspect that his fears and panic attacks, for which he often received psychological treatment, originated there.
Sven agrees. The ex-homeless man talks about his time with Andreas in the drizzle outside the church after the funeral service. “He was there for me. And I was there for him.” Andreas was more than an acquaintance of convenience, as is often the case on the street. He was a friend, he said. Even after Sven had managed to get away from alcohol, and found an apartment and a job, he stayed in touch with Andreas.
Andreas lived in Hamburg, homeless, for almost 30 years. Mostly in his tent in the Eppendorfer Moor or in the Hayns Park. Most recently, however, he managed to get into the Jakob-Junker-Haus: a Salvation Army men’s hostel in Groß Borstel, where he moved into a room and lived for the last five years.
Andreas is fondly remembered at Hinz&Kunzt. “I just know him as a lovely and friendly person. Just a nice guy. You couldn’t dislike him,” says sales manager Christian Hagen: “When I heard that Andreas had died, I was very upset.” Andreas had been with the street magazine since 2002, selling mostly in Eppendorf and Groß Borstel restaurants. Even if he didn’t always appear there in an “appropriate manner” because of his alcoholism, as Christian Hagen recounts: “He never gambled away the sympathy of the gastronomes.”
“He was a bon vivant, a survivor,” says Inge Dahnke. He always found the biggest porcini mushrooms in Hamburg, for example. Where he would not reveal. “When I asked him not to bring me the mushrooms stewed, he replied: ‘I know: you mean maggots and worms. But if it’s fried, you don’t notice anything.'”
Andreas was popular, especially with the volunteers from Eppendorf and Groß Borstel, as his funeral service showed. For weeks, the volunteers had made efforts with offices and had taken care of a gravesite, an urn, flower arrangements, and the organization of the ceremony. In particular, volunteers of the parish of St. Peter, in whose winter emergency program Andreas was accommodated several times, as well as employees and volunteers of the Jakob Junker House and the affiliated food bank were involved.
“If he had died while still sleeping on the street, we might never have found him,” says Wolfgang Jäger. He also says amid all the sadness, Andreas’ death is fitting: leaning against a tree in Hayns Park, his favorite park. “It’s a golden exit.” Andreas found his final resting place at Ohlsdorf Cemetery. In a tree grave.
More about Andreas:
Text: Lukas Gilbert
Foto: Mauricio Bustamante