Ms. Tone Korssund-Eichinger receiving ‘The Federal Cross of Merit’ by the head of protocol of the Federal Foreign Office, Konrad Arz von Straussenburg, on behalf of the German Federal President.
By Alexandra Paucescu.
I remember our first meeting, which, by a beautiful coincidence, was the first time I had the honor of meeting Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.
Tone Korssund-Eichinger was then the president of ‘Willkommen in Berlin’ diplomatic club. Someone introduced me to her and that’s how I met this remarkable woman, whom I came to admire enormously and try to follow her example.
Born in Norway, she studied German and History of Arts and travelled to Germany and UK for work. But it was back in Oslo where she met her future husband, a young German diplomat, who swept her away and took her around the world in the most exciting life adventure. Sierra Leone, Poland, Belgium and Kyrgyzstan were all places that she called home for a while and which left great memories, dear to her heart.
‘I loved the diplomatic life from the beginning. I had the chance to meet and connect to interesting and special people and get to know other cultures. But the most difficult part was that, as a diplomatic spouse, I couldn’t work during our postings abroad’, she says to me. She then adds ‘At first, I was afraid to lose my independence. You need to take time to think about what it really means to be a dedicated spouse, in particular how your ideas about a professional career are compatible with the life of a diplomat. Different jobs are affected in different ways. Be ready to look for satisfying alternatives for your professional work. Don’t see yourself just as “the spouse of…” Take care not to lose your own identity. Continue to be yourself.’
She tells me that her life was like a snowball, everything fell into place and from a small idea the right things developed effortlessly. She was a teacher, a guide to Scandinavia, worked for the Norwegian Embassy and campaigned for educational opportunities abroad.
‘I always found work back in Germany, but on the postings abroad my life was filled with volunteer work. I took advantage of my privileged position to support people in need and also make life easier for other spouses. My proudest moments in my professional life are in fact related to volunteer work. I am proud that I could make people happy through my efforts.’
Ever since she first came from her native Norway to Bonn, 38 years ago, volunteering became an important part of her life. She was on the board of the German-Norwegian Society and campaigned for German-Norwegian relations, especially for a German-Norwegian social agreement.
Tone Korssund-Eichinger always loved culture and she is still strongly committed to different causes concerning disabled children, disadvantaged women and poor artists. While abroad, she has often opened the German Residence to young artists’ works, by this validating and promoting them.
Her heart project is the “Ümut-Nadjeschda” center for handicapped children in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which she supports to this day, also with the help of Inner Wheel Club Berlin-Mitte, whose president she was between 2018 and 2019.
After moving to Berlin, she became a member on the advisory board of “Familie und Partnerorganisation” in the German Foreign Office and chaired the Committee for foreign partners. It was particularly important to her to support newly arrived foreign partners in the early stages, by providing useful information and necessary contacts.
Through her work for the diplomatic club, she always tried to present a positive image of Berlin and Germany to the foreign diplomats and their spouses, through seminars, lectures, trips around the country and personal contacts. She is convinced that these actions also have positive effects on other areas of relations between Germany and its partners. Ever since we first met, I have seen her as an extremely energetic person, always ready for action but in the meantime, she is a very warm and empathic person, highly respected and admired for her generosity, wit and special elegance.
She now helps different kindergartens in Berlin and also organizes cultural events at her home.
All these rare and high qualities have been officially recognized last year (on June 5, 2020), when she was awarded ‘The Federal Cross of Merit’ by the head of protocol of the Federal Foreign Office, Konrad Arz von Straussenburg, on behalf of the German Federal President. He said then ‘this award is also an important incentive for further volunteer work, for projects at home and abroad.’
Tone tells me ‘when I was first told that I would get this medal, I was honestly surprised. To me, voluntary work was always a natural thing to do. At first, I thought that maybe I didn’t fully deserve it, but then I looked back and listed all the things that I’ve done throughout the years and I realized that this is an important recognition for all my life’s work. I am proud very of it now!’
She should be proud, indeed! I am proud to have met this inspiring woman, who never stops. She is today as busy as ever, being involved with the ‘Inner Wheel Club’, leader of the ‘History and Politics’ group at the diplomatic club, and also studying at the Technical University Berlin about city planning and sustainable urbanistic development. This woman simply amazes everyone with her endless energy!
She says that it’s important to ‘make the most of every situation, to enjoy every day as it was your last, without regrets for missed chances’. She lives her life with passion and has lots of plans for the future, always finding time and energy to share wisdom with others and to help whenever needed, as only great characters can do.
‘Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.’ (Judy Garland)
She has certainly achieved that, as she is unique!
About the author:
Alexandra Paucescu- Author of “Just a Diplomatic Spouse” Romanian, management graduate with a Master in business, cultural diplomacy and international relations studies.
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.