Where I Come From

[In the picture above: “Pamiętaj z kad pochodzisz” means “Remember where you come from” – “pamiętaj” being conspicuously misspelled by the kid with the spray paint]

I’m back from my visit to Poland and am having an identity crisis.

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I mean, I do that a lot, right? I’ve lived in Poland and then in the US, via Germany, and now I’m in Denmark, where I intend to stay. I take a little something from each place and the longer I’m away from Poland, the more foreign it seems to me.

I left Poland at the age of 13 against my will. At the age of 16, I tried running away from home by staying in Poland. I went there on vacation and attempted not to go back to the United States. Everyone thought I was crazy and they forced me to return to Florida.

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I went back and lived up and down the East Coast – from Florida to Maine and places in between. Then I went to Seattle and felt most at home there. But I think I’m hardwired for Europe. Life here seems more intuitive to me. I miss some things about the US, but not my everyday routine. (Over there that routine involved a whole lot of driving, which I loathed.)

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But as much as I missed Poland – and will continue to miss Poland – I just can’t imagine myself living there again. Yes, this is where I was born and where I lived my most formative years. My point of reference will always be Poland. I can visit a small town in Vietnam or Cuba or here in Denmark and somehow I will be reminded of Poland. But if I hadn’t left when I did, with my parents, I’m pretty convinced I would’ve left as an adult. I wouldn’t have gone to the US, but I would have headed West or North, to a place where I’d feel more at home.

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I’m not denying Poland. I love Poland! I love my friends and my family. But I’m not sure if (friends and family aside) Poland would ever accept me for me. This is hard for me to explain, but I don’t think I belong there and I never really had. Ever since I was little I shunned tradition, religion, and patriarchy. Poland lives and breathes all three.

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I’m convinced I wouldn’t have been a good Polish woman. I would’ve been a lousy cook in a country where women are still mostly judged by their cooking skills. I keep my house pretty clean, but not by Polish standards clean (seriously, mopping your floors every day is pretty much the norm). I have tattoos. I mostly wear black. I don’t like it when men open doors for me. I don’t want my hand kissed when I meet someone new. I don’t like to be “complimented” on my looks by strange men or hear comments on my outfit as I’m walking down the street. I only go to church when I’m sightseeing. I think there should be more love and less hate and I do support marriage between two consenting adults, regardless of their gender. Also, immigrants don’t scare me. After this visit, I realized, more than ever, that my values and Polish values don’t always overlap.

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But do love Poland. I love the fact that people there are generous and family oriented. I love that they take pride in their surroundings. I love Polish food, the poetry of the Polish language, and the Polish resilience.

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I admire Poland a lot, but I don’t think I would ever feel like I belong there. Can I belong in Denmark though? In a country completely foreign to me until less than five months ago? I’d like to think that yes. I mean… I hope so.

If this doesn’t work out I may have to remain a nomad for life.

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