The vice-principal decided that someone like her didn't belong in high school.

So Natalya Nepomnyashcha, daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, did not graduate from high school.

She trained as a translator, saved money and earned a master's degree in politics in England.

Today, the 31-year-old works for a large management consultancy and wants to pave the way for other social climbers with her “network opportunities”.

She is convinced that social shame is still a major hurdle for children of Hartz IV recipients.


At the age of 16 and an average grade of 1.3, you wanted to switch to a grammar school in Augsburg.

The vice-principal laughed at you in the interview.

How did that feel

Natalya Nepomnyashcha:

I was angry, but also full of self-doubt.

The man didn't take me seriously at all, leaned back and said, "You don't belong here." I had bitten through so hard.

At the age of eleven, without understanding a word, I entered the transition class of a Bavarian secondary school, after a year I got the secondary school recommendation and then got better and better grades there.

On the other hand, my parents were Hartz IV recipients and, to this day, hardly speak any German.

My origins also unsettled me.

And the vice-principal of a grammar school was an authority for me.


Many climbers report of "social shame" on the way up.

Do you know the feeling?


Yes, definitely.

Social shame is a big issue.