Annie Barker’s Bereavement and Yoga Bär Studio Fund

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Christian Smith, scholar, teacher, psychotherapist, bodyworker and bodywork instructor, anatomist, radical humanist, communist, Tai Chi and Qigong teacher, father, life partner, collaborator, force of nature and the love of my life for 21 years, passed away in his sleep on the morning of August 6, 2022. His death was sudden and completely unexpected for a healthy 59-year-old man who trained daily, practiced yoga, tai chi and qi gong and has been studying and teaching health of body and mind for over 40 years.

His death left me not only without my life partner, but also without my business and construction partner to share in the management, organization, planning and construction of our new yoga and tai chi studio, Yoga Bar Studio. His death came just 9 days before the studio’s scheduled opening date. The dream of the two of us teaching and running the studio together was shattered by Christian’s sudden death nightmare.

Christian was very excited and hopeful about Yoga Bär Studio; However, he was also concerned that the opening would be delayed by various structural issues in the building, including a toilet that had leaked for 2 years before we rented the studio, and other construction issues and limitations. He worked tirelessly day and night to get the studio ready because, as he would say, “this is our last chance to do something that we will truly love and could set us up for the rest of our lives.” He worked (until death?) to secure the rest of our future together as we don’t have a significant retirement plan or life insurance. And now he’s gone. But I feel that I owe it to him, to the project of “us” and to this massive effort to keep the studio alive and to give our adopted community here in Schöneweide, Berlin, that special studio that we have dreamed of and put our sweat, our tears and hearts in.

I’ve set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help me through this incredibly difficult time – to help pay for my living expenses while I can’t work, studio rent while we pursue renovations and preparations as well as floating the studio during its first months of growth, cremation and other bills surrounding his death, the debt we accrued from investing in the studio, and income taxes from previous years. This fund will help me survive through my grief so that I can have the energy, time, emotional strength and financial support to complete the renovations and open the studio.

I never imagined when we fell asleep on Friday night that I would wake up to a completely different world on Saturday morning. His sudden passing would envelop me in a nightmare of insecurity and uncertainty. Not only was my lover gone, but I had gone from a household of two paid freelancers (I do bodybuilding and yoga classes, Christian has seen therapy and bodywork clients, and we share our corporate clients together), to have all of the responsibility for our living expenses, debt, and investment in the new studio on my shoulders.

Opening our new business was naturally an expensive risk, but it was manageable since we were both winning and working together. Alone, I am totally unable to handle all the financial tasks and responsibilities. I need to reach out to the community for help with this campaign.

Christian and I moved to Berlin in 2016, following his 8-year journey of earning an MA and PhD at the University of Warwick, teaching at a high school, and then taking up a teaching position at Warwick English. At the end of his scholarship Christian and I were given 2 weeks notice to leave the UK following the department’s decision not to renew his teaching contract. This decision was made despite the fact that he was a hugely popular and influential teacher, had brought innovative digital technologies to the department (before the Covid-era e-learning modules) and was a a huge resource for other professors in the department.

As sorry as we must have had to leave this beloved ‘scepter island’, our move to Berlin was in hopes of a new life where Christian could continue his research and write and publish his monograph, I could continue my career as singer, songwriter and musician. (and busking)…and we could both establish our healing and bodywork business. Following the massive global changes caused by covid, we realized we needed to reorient our business given how easily bodywork could be excluded from public access. We found that a yoga/tai chi studio would be a great and potentially successful step in developing our healing careers. And with that, we hoped to be able to earn enough to keep our visas, which depend on income, and to allow us to continue our life in Berlin.

With this Gofundme campaign, I hope to have enough resources to continue living and working here and to finalize the construction of our dream studio that Christian and I have started. I owe it to his memory, to our lives together, and to the world that he was so passionately dedicated to healing and change to continue his legacy. I hope to continue, as Christian and I used to call it, “The Christian and Annie Show”.

Thank you for your support during this very difficult time.

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