UN’s Audrey Ewert is Carnival royalty From Australia back to the roots in Bonn
Bonn · She grew up in Australia, but United Nations staff member Audrey Ewert has deep ties to Bonn. Her grandparents met and married in Bad Godesberg. Living in Bonn now, Ewert has had the honor of becoming UNiversa, the Carnival Princess of the UN Funken carnival association.
When Audrey Ewert talks about her grandparents in English, she calls them Oma and Opa. From far away in Australia, both of them are proudly following their granddaughter being named UNiversa this year, the Carnival Princess of the UN Funken. The family has a special connection to Bad Godesberg, because not only did Audrey keep her German last name after her wedding, but she has returned with her husband to the place from which her grandparents emigrated decades ago.
Carnival songs were not sung at home in Australia, but as a child, she can remember wearing a uniform from a Carnival club that a relative had sewn for the children. Her grandma was born in Friesdorf, her grandfather in Kiel. He came to Bad Godesberg after World War II, where they both met and married. Audrey's father was also born in Bad Godesberg, but the family couldn't find a place to live in the postwar period with all the refugees from the East. "When he was about nine years old, they decided to immigrate to Australia," Audrey Ewert reports. Her grandfather found work as a carpenter, her father grew up Australian, speaking German only with his parents, and her mother is from Malta. “My Opa had said to me: you should learn German,” says the 44-year-old. “When I was younger, I said: What for, I’m never gonna live in Germany.”
It wasn't planned either, but then her husband got a job at the UN Climate Change Secretariat. She traveled with him, and their daughter was born in Bonn in 2010. Despite the family ties to Germany, the start of her time here was different than expected. Audrey found contact in various groups such as the English theater troupe Bonn Players - and with the Carnival scene in Bonn.
Her father's cousin took her to her first Carnival party. She also found out that her grandmother had worked at Haribo. "I saw people having so much fun and was super excited," was her first impression. Also memorable was the first Bad Godesberg parade. Ewert saw her grandmother's sister-in-law jumping up to catch “Kamelle” - the treats thrown from the floats. That was captivating.
UNiversa appreciates the community that Carnival provides. And that anyone and everyone can become a “Tollität” - Carnival royalty, no matter what job they do. The UN Funken bring a new aspect to Carnival by championing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The 50 or so members are mostly expats who work at the UN or for international organizations, but also include locals who work in sustainable development and climate change. "We don't necessarily understand everything that’s going on in Carnival, but we want to learn," says the 44-year-old.
On their social media channels on Instagram and Facebook, the UN Funken publish, among other things, explanatory videos to show that Carnival doesn't just mean "Kamelle, Kamelle". They practice "showing by doing," want to encourage others to follow suit, and have already been ensuring a climate-neutral Rose Monday procession in Bonn since 2019. They also only throw things that people are actually happy to eat or use. This year, chamomile tea was included, which relates to an anecdote from Audrey: "When I first heard the word Kamelle, I thought it was chamomile.”
Until her proclamation as UNiversa Audrey I, Ewert had to wait a long time, like other Carnival royalty. The members of the UN Funken consoled themselves with an online parade made up of stories edited together. "It was so creative and it showed that they have still passion for Carnival,” said Ewert. This year Fastelovend (Cologne dialect for Carnival) is something very special, with a lot of energy, she believes. She has known the other Carnival royalty for some time already, because they communicated digitally before they could meet in person.
Audrey likes Rose Monday because it's good to "give, not just take." Since the founding year 2017, she has always been there with the UN Funken. The session kick-off in November with everybody coming together after a long break is also a reason for the UNiversa to celebrate every year.
Asked about life in Bonn, she says, "I miss my family." She has three brothers in Australia. But choosing to call Bad Godesberg home, she adds, "Here in Bonn, I have found my heart." She says Sydney was also very nice, but Bonn is more family-friendly, with the Rhine nearby and all the greenery. While here, she’s also been thinking more about her own footprint on the Earth, which is why she chose UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 for her reign: Take immediate action to combat climate change and its effects. She was also inspired to do so by the German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who reported that from space one cannot see any borders on the blue planet.
SDG goal 13 fits with Ewert's work in the UN Climate Secretariat. Prior to that, the UN Funken adopted session goals such as health or education, depending on what suited the respective UNiversa. The UN Funken’s main event is the Bonn expat celebration at the Old Town Hall, where international Bonn meets up at the invitation of the mayor and the city. “Membership is open to anyone who has a connection with the UN or the Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs,” says Audrey. The association is also good for networking, she says. She didn't know Funken President Heidi Nabel-Meyer before, for example, even though she works within eyeshot at Langer Eugen.
From a distance, grandma and grandpa, both around 90 years old, see what their granddaughter experiences as royalty in the Rhineland Carnival. They don't want to live in Germany again. “We've had such a good life in Australia," they told granddaughter Audrey. She, in turn, knows how foreign everything must have been for the brave immigrants. "I'm very proud of my grandparents.”
(Original text: Bettina Köhl / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)