“More than anything else, I’m a gypsy,” says Deborah Harrison-Rössner. And she is, because Deborah, a jazz performer, has been around the world many times over. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio. She began her performing career in Europe, singing classical and jazz music from Berlin and Vienna to Dubai. She then fulfilled her desire to be a business woman, working in Russia, Germany and Poland as a marketing executive.

“I’ve always been attracted to adventure, ever since I was a little girl,” she says. “As a child growing up in Cleveland, I used to be fascinated with different cultures – a lot of Germans, Poles and Hungarians lived in our neighbourhood and they used to organise a lot of festivals.”

When she was 26, Deborah made it to Europe, which attracted her because of its antiquity. “When I finished my classical music studies in Chicago, I decided to go to Vienna to read for a doctorate,” Deborah, who is also a business graduate, says.

This fascination with other places is also inspired by Deborah’s ancestry – her forefathers sailed from England to America, while another ancestor, Henry Clay, ran for American president. Her great-great-great-grandmother on her mother’s side was a Cherokee Indian. Eventually, Deborah met her German husband, Reinhold, in Dubai. She was attracted to his adventurous spirit – an engineer, he travelled around the world and was in love with sailing.

While in Malta on holiday 10 years ago, Reinhold bought a boat and decided to keep it here – this meant that the couple visited Malta frequently to sail.

“When I retired,” says Reinhold, “I wanted to settle down in a safe, warm country where I could sail to my heart’s content. And so we chose Malta.”

Deborah and Reinhold have now been in Malta for seven years – for Deborah, it’s the eighth country she’s lived in. “I have integrated well,” she says. “A lot of it has to do with my ability to adapt. I’ve been in Europe for so many years that I now feel more European than American.

“Malta is also a very tolerant country – I am very pleased with the reception I’ve had.”

Deborah gives back to the country that welcomed her.

“When I settled down in Malta, I was very keen to get back to singing and performing. I did my first performance at St James Cavalier and eventually found a room at St Patrick’s Church in Sliema, where I could practise. I also started teaching music. In exchange of letting me use the room, I decided to do a classical Christmas concert at St Patrick’s. I’ve also organised a charity concert for The Rotary Foundation – I was a Rotary scholar and have always wanted to give something back. And recently, I’ve organised another concert for Centru Tbexbix – it’s my way of helping people and thanking Malta.”

 

RECIPE

Banana walnut muffins with cranberries – A healthy muffin using genuine ingredients.

Ingredients: 2 eggs; 3 ripe bananas, pureed; Quarter cup oil; Quarter cup buttermilk (yoghurt); 1 tsp vanilla; 1.5 cup spelt flour • Half cup millet flakes • Three-quarters cup unrefined brown sugar; 1 tbs baking powder; Half tsp baking soda; Half tsp salt; Half tsp cinnamon; Quarter tsp nutmeg.

 Method: Mix with the other ingredients just en­ough to blend until moist. Stir in half a cup of cranberries and half a cup of chopped walnuts. Place a quarter cup of batter into each paper-lined muffin tin. Bake at 160°C for 30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins. 

This interview was included in the publication InterAct – A Portrait of Third-Country Nationals in Malta, published as part of the Media InterAct project (IF 2010 02) and distributed with The Times. They are based on the TV programme Minn Lenti Interkulturali, produced/presented by Maria Muscat (PBS), and directed/edited by Godfrey Smith (PBS) and  broadcast on Education22/TVM2 and TVM between January and March, 2012 and on TVM between April and June, 2012. The project is co-financed through the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals. The project is led by SOS Malta, in partnership with the Public Broadcasting Services and the Institute of Maltese Journalists.

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