She’s hesitant to share her story; there’s nothing really special about her as far as she’s concerned. Barbara Wirkus works in wheel carrier assembly at the Braunschweig plant, and she is very special indeed: She’s been working with Volkswagen for 19 years, and she’s been in Hall 30 for 14 of them. Two years ago, an illness threw her completely off her feet overnight. “You know that things like that can happen, but I never thought it would be me.”
It took eight months before she was ready to slowly get back to work. But her first attempt didn’t work out, and the second one didn’t either. The plant doctors had started to consider finding a new occupation for her. But Barbara Wirkus didn’t want that under any circumstances.
Impatiently, but with unbridled enthusiasm and a fighting spirit, she practiced her assembly moves. “I was determined to get my old life back. And as quickly as possible.” Her indefatigable will to return was noticed by her foremen, the works councilors and her responsible HR officer. They supported Barbara Wirkus in her efforts, as did her colleagues. “In the beginning I wasn’t as strong and fast as now, and I had a colleague press a button for me a time or two,” she says. Keep up, keep going, fight through.
It wasn’t easy, and Barbara Wirkus put a lot of pressure on herself. And then there was the awful production technique with the mounting saddle. Before the illness it was no problem, but afterwards it was a bit of a struggle. Here she was helped by Vanessa Pogorzalek from AutoVision, which Volkswagen hired to give ergonomics tips in Hall 30. In many cases, it’s the almost automatic motions that one has always done a certain way, where an alternative is surprisingly simple.
The thing that helped the most was the confidence that her foremen, HR and her colleagues had in her: “That gave me courage. And I’d like to thank them for that.” Barbara Wirkus is happy to be back in her old job and is back in business with her feet firmly on the ground – humble, but with a huge heart.