Friday, September 05, 2008

Finding my place in the world, as an immigrant.

As an immigrant in America I have spent most of my life stuck in between two cultures.

The harder I tried to conform to American culture the more I lost touch with my Polish roots. The same goes for the flip side. And so, I have been playing tug of war for most of my life never truly finding solitude in where I fit in.

As a little girl on many summer vacations, at my grandmother's house in Poland, children would flock to me and ask, "Is the grass green in America? Is it? Is it? Is the sky blue?" I was different and therefore sometimes excluded. I was the girl that spoke in broken Polish and did not understand many references.

Upon arriving back to America after my vacations, friends would approach me on the first day and ask, "Poland? You went to Poland? Why did you go there...." I was different and again sometimes excluded. I was the girl that ate liver pate for lunch and had parents that spoke broken English with a heavy accent.

It did not take much for me to become a bit confused as to where I fit in and I started to question my heritage as a self conscious adolescent. There even came a time when I started to deny it, in desperate attempts to fit in.

In grade school, I would hide under my desk on Saturday mornings in Polish school as the American children playing soccer outside would come inside for a bathroom break. I did not want to be recognized. Even up until college, filled with pure bread Irish Catholics, I continued to deny where I was born. It allowed me fit in temporarily but I also felt a huge part of myself gone.

My parents had the brilliant foresight to push me through the Polish Scouting Association in Chicago. Yes. I was a "girl scout" even in college. I would secretly slip on my uniform and spend the weekend with people just like me. Polish-Americans who identified with their people, loved the food, respected the culture, and admired Poland. The best days of my adolescent life were those in high school when I guided my pack of a dozen girls through Polish song and dance on camping trips.

Because during those times, I was completely true with myself. I was me.

And this is what I want for my children.

I want my legacies to be true to themselves. I want them to be at peace with themselves and their heritage. They too are Polish-American children. And they have much to be proud of. I want them to realize on their own, that Poland is a beautiful place with an incredible history. I want them to be proud.

This was easy to do this summer, as they are quite young and unexposed to the world outside of our immediate family. Naturally they feel accepted and in return they accept their heritage.

"This is JUST LIKE Paris!" Lola squealed when we strolled through the streets of Gdansk. I looked up at the iron balcony overflowing with beautiful flowers and said, "Yes. Yes it is!"

"Mama... this ice cream taste so much better than the ones in Cleveland." Jay admitted after having our 35th cone in three days. "Yes. You are right, it is much better!" I agreed.

And. Through the eyes of my children I saw my country again. I sat in the same sand box I used to play in as a five year old girl and watched my children play amongst Polish children. I chatted with mothers in my native tongue about potty training, picky eaters, and child development while sitting in front of the apartment complex that my parents brought my sister home from the hospital to.

"You lived here?" Jay asked me over and over again. "YOU played right here?"



Jay and Lola in front of our apartment in Gdansk.



The entrance into old town Gdansk which they skipped through screaming "Wow!"



The square in Gdansk's, before breakfast. The streets were alive with pigeons.



Lola could not stop twirling around in her fantasy world. "This place is gorgeous."



The kids stood next to many of Gdansk's doors and imagined who resided behind them.



Fifi was always five energetic steps ahead of us and acted as our guide. She went. We followed.



My kids in my hometown, Gdansk.



Ice Cream & Piwo pit stop at a cafe in Gdansk. Everyone was happy.


This was not a once in a lifetime trip.

That apartment in Gdansk according to Jay is "our second home." Our names are stenciled on the front door. "We can come back anytime. Right Mama? This is our second home."

"Yes. Poland is our second home." And through the eyes of my children I finally realized that I fit perfectly in both worlds. "We will be back." I proudly confirmed.

I thank my children for helping me find my place in this world and I dream that their acceptance is ongoing and that it will grow into immense pride for our "second home."

83classy comments:

Krystyn said...

Your kids couldn't have said it more perfectly! I'm so glad you all had a great time. And, I think it's so cool that you have such a unique story to tell, and so do they.

And, as usual, your pictures are breath-taking! That Fifi is a doll and Lola and Jay look so grown up! Who knew they could teach you so much?

Buttermouth said...

How nice! I'm sooo glad that the kiddos can have a "relation" with Poland too.

So when are you gonna sign them up for Polish School or Polish Scouts?

Kathryn said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post. And could your children possibly be any more gorgeous??? MAN!
Indeed, a trip of a lifetime. Luckily you'll get to do it again. :)


Thanks for the aside at the bottom. I did get that email, but when I went to their site and looked up your name you weren't there. I figured it was a scam, but I'm glad you told us. :)

Jill said...

What an unbelievably heartfelt post. Your kids are going to have such a wonderful appreciation for their culture and heritage... and a heck of a lot of amazing stamps in their passport.

Beautifully said. Rock on!

C and C Mommy said...

Beautiful pictures as usual!!

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

It is so wonderful for your children to have a "Second Home"...they are so fortunate that you have exposed them to a new culture....your culture!

Your trip was amazing on so many different levels...thanks for sharing what your life was like growing up....I am sure it wasn't easy to carry around that kind of conflict!

I love the photo of Fifi in her pink dress...I just want to squeeze those little cheeks!!!

Lisa

Texan Mama @ WhoPutMeInCharge said...

okay, a little off-topic but how in the world do you afford to go back to Poland every couple of years? Esp with 5 people I would think that would be very expensive!! Just curious.

3 Peanuts said...

It is great to hear how you found your way to be comfortable in your own skin. It is wonderful that your children appreciate both cultures. You have such a such heritage and I thank you for sharing it with us.

Miss said...

Those pictures are just breathtaking girl. You make me want daughters. Like so badly. HAHA.

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

I am so glad the children are capable of loving both worlds. I have seen many children of immigrants struggle like you did. It's really sad. But how wonderful that the kids can enjoy all of it.

Eve Grey said...

You know what I think is so awesome about you? You have realized much earlier than most people who you want to be. This takes wisdom and realizing we are both our past and the way we are forming our future. I love that you are providing experiences for your children as a gift. You are very wise and you mark your moments.

Flea said...

I love this post. I love the pictures of your kids! And thank you for the note on the phishing thing - they contacted me too. I checked them out and opted not to play.

So I'm sure I've asked you this before, but do you make Bigos in the winter? It's our favorite at Christmas!

Ashley said...

Absolutely beautiful. All of it. Beautiful. You too.

Tiffany said...

What an amazing post - You are a beautiful writer and photographer. I love seeing the world through the eyes of children! Isn't it neat.

I love that you are so "cultured" and are exposing your children to their heritage - What a beautiful gift!

ww said...

Beautiful post and beautiful photos. I had many similar duo culture experiences and feelings as you growing up - glad you had the girl scouts. My 4 year old is starting to ask many cultural questions and this age where they are so inquisitive and exited is a great time to instill pride and appreciation - thanks for this post and I look forward to reading your great ideas on how to continue doing this for our kids. Wendy

lattemommy said...

You seem so comfortable in your skin that it is hard to imagine you as a child, torn between two cultures, trying to fit in. I'm glad you've gotten past that phase. I remain in awe of your trip and all the gifts you've given your children.

Mishelle Lane said...

Perfect Post! I understand it on many levels.

carrie said...

Beautiful! It is so important for our kids to understand their roots, whatever they may be! I am so glad you have started to give them what will be a lifetime of happy memories of their heritage.

And are you kidding? Ice cream and beer? I'd be in heaven.

**********
Thanks for the tip about the Experience Project - now I can just put that email in the trash bin! :)

JCK said...

I am SO glad that you are blogging about Poland and how special it is to you..and now to your children! Very, very lovely post. And your children are more than exquisite - gorgeous!

Our Complete Family said...

I just skipped over to your blog from another and am not even sure which I came from! But, I'm glad I found yours! I really loved this post. I grew up overseas and married an AF man. We just came back a few years ago from a tour in Germany and we made several trips to Poland as we found it just beautiful and breathtaking there. My son enjoyed our trips. I am so glad your kids got this trip and many more ahead. Fun times! ~ Leslie

Rachel said...

I love reading these stories from your trip. It sounds like it was exactly what you and your children needed to udnerstand where you've been, where you are, and where you're going.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful pictures. I love those pink dresses!

LaskiGal said...

One day you will realize even more so what an amazing gift you have given your children and given yourself.

The photos are beautiful. Legacy photos . . . what an amazing account of such a meaningful trip!

maggie said...

Another gorgeously beautiful post. And Poland? Is beautiful. The "wow" comment through the arch is what I thought just seeing the picture, and in person I'd have been blown away. Your children are picture perfect gorgeous in these shots, and I am thrilled that they are helping you to come to terms with such a complex issue. It really is pretty common for immigrants and for good reason - as you said, wanting to belong where you are without giving up where you've been, and it's not as simple as that sounds. Still, you being more at ease will in turn help your children.

Beautiful. The whole post. The children. Poland. You. All of it.

DYSFUNCTIONAL MOM said...

What a beautiful post and a beautiful place. I think you'll do a great job of making your children feel as if they belong in both cultures.

Kash said...

Seriously, could you have picked better outfits for them? I want that dress to twirl in! Magical.

Kash said...

Oh and thanks about the warning....I did get that email and was very suspicious.

THopgood said...

What a fantastic experience for your kids. Truly amazing!

LceeL said...

Wow. Gdansk is lovely - the less so because it is missing you, but lovely nonetheless. And isn't it amazing - the profound things kids can say in their complete innocence? Well done you. And well said. And pretty pictures of Gdansk and your lovely children.

Irene said...

Again - very beautiful photos and stories! You definitely are reminding me that I need to make sure my kids know and appreciate their Russian heritage. We get so caught up in daily life as Americans, we often forget where we can from. And that is SO important!

Smart A$$ Mom said...

Glad you said something about the Blog Project or whathaveyou. I was all 'what the hay?!' The pictures of the kids in their perfectly coordinated pinks are too sweet...now where was the one when they took a picture of you and your hubs?

taawd said...

i know others have said the same thing, but the pictures are great. i'm sure your children will love them as adults. i have a bunch of my parents pictures they took of my sister and me (even polaroids) which i absolutely bring back the memories.

Meg said...

Beautiful post. What an opportunity for your kids. And it does look like Paris!!

My goal is to take the kids to Ireland some day. Although I'm not Irish (their father is 7/8), it's the English mom bringing them their culture--I do step dancing and drag them to Irish music festivals.

Your thoughts in this post will also serve as a nice gift to pass down to your children.

moooooog35 said...

Those are photos of Poland?

I figured all the people would be standing around trying to figure out how to screw in light bulbs.

Go figure.

Just kidding.

Kel said...

Wow, what a story. I think you've done a wonderful thing for your children, by exposing them to both cultures and showing them their history and their roots. Have a wonderful day!
~K

Crystal D said...

The kids look adorable in their pink matching outfits. Lola spinning around and Fifi running ahead, I can just see it.
And then I got to the last picture and that is when I realized I am officially "done" being pregnant. The drinks look better then the cones. :)

Courtney said...

You have an amazing story and I'm so glad you share it here. Thank you for enlightening us all. Your kids are beautiful and will grow up with such knowledge of who they are thanks to there wonderful mother.

Lisa said...

Beautiful post, my dear. Refreshing to see the world through the eyes of our children, isn't it!

PS - Thanks for the warning about that site.

PPS - WHERE did those dresses that Lola & Fifi are wearing come from??!? I am LOVING them!!!

Stephanie said...

Poland looks like a beautiful place. You are so blessed to be able to travel there. I have Phillippine cousins that immigrated here and they have only been back twice in 25 years. Sad, huh? Enjoy each trip! I love to hear about them!

Dionna said...

I'm sure your heart is torn at times but what a blessing to be able to show your children two different cultures and worlds. Their lives will be richer for it.

Nap Warden said...

First, great pics of the kiddos!
Second, I totally have that pink dress for Miss Peach:)
Third, thanks for the heads up, I got an email from those folks using your name:P

Burgh Baby said...

Y'all are very fortunate to be able to go back to your roots, and I love that you obviously appreciate it greatly. Fantastic photos!

renatamic said...

it's nice to know that you belong somewhere in this huge world! great that your children share your appreciation of the culture and "second home!" i LOVE it!!

drtomlin15 said...

Thank you so much for sharing your Polish background. The pictures are awesome!!! While I'm not actually from Russia/Lithuania, my family is and still are. we celebrate diferent holidays being Russian Orthodox. It really made me feel different from most of the other kids in school; even embarrassed. All I had were my cousins and best friend that celebrated the same holidays. Actually coming back to school after taking a holiday off was kind of cool because my cousins, best friend and I, were always in the attendance together for the same reason. Growing up I always thought certain countries were "cooler" than others. Now that I am an adult I appreciate many far away places that I never had an interest in growing up. Remember with age comes wisdom. By the way I have been told that all the rich Russians go to Poland for the most beautiful vacation hot spot!

krissy said...

I love your attention to detail while writing. I love your childrens eyes while seeing the world. It is so sweet.

Your trip to Poland has been such a neat adventure and I love that you are sharing it with us.

Tiaras & Tantrums said...

Lovely!!
I love the girls frocks!
Beautiful!
Isn't a child's perception amazing?
One of my best buds was born in Poland and moved here where she was nine (to Skokie), she ahs the same stories as you. I feel for her! I love her and her parents and her mom's cooking!!! Stand Proud Sister!

Kim said...

The posts about your trip have been my favorite yet.. I love how you tell them.. and the photos that you pair along with them.. perfection.. love it.

JoggingInCircles

Domestic Extraordinaire said...

what lovely photos and a truly touching story.

Thanks for getting back to me about that site, after I emailed them and told them what for they were all like "But she has submitted. I wasn't contacting you under false pretenses."

Amy said...

I can't wait to take my girls back to Greece so that they may have the memories I had of going there as a child. I'm so jealous of your trip and it is really making me want to take mine a lot sooner! But damn the airfare!

Huckdoll said...

Oh, wow. Such beautiful writing accompanied by equally beautiful photos. I love the one of Lola twirling...you have SO much talent, my darlin' :)

Thank you for sharing.

xo

Rhea said...

This was such an amazingly touching post. I loved it. And am in awe you have your children in matching clothes in Poland.

I often wished I knew more of my heritage, was in closer contact with it, like you are. I'm jealous.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I have to admit I am bit envious of your roots. My family has been in America since the Revolutionary War (we were Hessians) and hubby's has been since Jamestown (and in Texas for over 8 generations). When my older girls talk about 'where they are from', the most exotic thing they can really say is 'mommy grew up in Ohio' LOL
I'd love to be able to go another country and say 'grandma or even great-great grandma' grew up here.....I guess we'll always have to Alamo ;)

molsmonkey said...

not related to your post, but Molly has that ballerina dress and it is the only thing she will wear...besides PJ's!

Don Mills Diva said...

What a beautiful post! And a gorgeous place - I am envious.

Those people have been emailing me too...

Allison Says said...

What a beautiful post! I hope you can return many times with your children--enjoy your second home.

I love that they all match in the pictures! So adorable!

(And yes, I received an e-mail about that...very irritating. Thank you for letting us know. I was going to e-mail you asking if you knew anything about it. How frustrating!)

Ellyn said...

You and your children have a special heritage. It's great that you appreciate your uniqueness. I have really enjoyed the stories of your vacation. You have beautiful children.

The Daily Stroll said...

What a great post! I think it's so important to expose our children to their heritage. It's what keeps us in touch with our family history. It's so great that you were able to take them to where you grew up and have them walk and play in the same places you did! And the pictures are priceless!

Kirsten said...

Gdansk looks like a beautiful place! Thanks for the pictures. Now I want to go!!

Jenni said...

Beautifully written. And so incredibly true.

Rachel said...

*sigh*

Beautiful darling. It's absolutely amazing how much our kids teach us.
The pictures are gorgeous, but the twirling... that's my favorite!!

Nan Patience said...

Your parents were smart to get you involved with other Polish immigrants. And it's good that you're coming to terms with the ways in which you're different and savoring your heritage. It can be challenging, this big old "melting pot!"

Grey Street said...

Those pink dresses are so cute!! That one pic of Fifi alone is adorable! :)

Great post too.

Sam said...

Beautiful children..... you are truly blessed!! Both my parents are of Polish descent but unfortunately, I was never fortunate enough to visit Poland... maybe one of these years I will. I never learned the Polish language but grew up hearing my Mother speaking to my Babci in Polish so I wouldn't know what they were talking about!! lol
God Bless you and your beautiful family.

Sabrina said...

(New to your blog--came over from Nap Warden) What a beautiful post! I have a secret love affair with Poland, albeit a distant one. We almost moved to Gliwice for my hubby's work and I immersed myself in all things Polish (took lessons from a local woman who is from Gdansk as well). I have not visited yet but I fell in love with the history and beauty of the country from afar. SO amazing your children will experience both cultures so fully!!!

MommyTime said...

This is a beautiful post, and I'm so glad that going back to your childhood home with your children has helped you find your way to feeling at home in two places. You deserve such peace.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

We call beer "piwo" too!! Well, when we're at my parents house, anyway.

Elaine A. said...

I love reading these posts because I can relate, somewhat.

Although I have never been there (big frown) I feel a strong connection to my Czech roots and my parents still speak the language and cook the food and uphold some of the traditions. I fear that will end with my kids' generation because I only know a few words, etc.

I do want to take them there someday. I do hope it happens...

This post is beautiful - words, pictures, memories and looking to the next trip you take there.

Thank you SO much for sharing.

Blessings From Above said...

Your children have an amazing legacy and I am so glad to hear they are embracing it with such gusto.

P.S. The girls' dresses are perfect!

P.S.S Thanks for the heads up about that email. I had assumed you passed my information along because they knew not only my blog name, but also my first name.

Minxy Mimi said...

Thats awesome you were able to go to your homeland with your children. I cannot wait to take my children to Italy to meet our relatives there. You have beautiful kids too.

GoteeMan said...

Awe-inspiring pictures... what an incredible experience...

In a world of conformity, I enjoy and celebrate our differences, for I believe it is what makes us interesting....

J/

mommynotes said...

Great post! I loved the pictures and your authenticity of what it was like growing up between two worlds.

Both of my girls have the same dresses Lola and Fifi do. It makes them feel like princesses twirling around.

April said...

I think we all end up feeling like outsiders for one reason or another, and struggle with it more consistently than anything else in our lives. We, as a whole, need to better at embracing our uniqueness, and those in others, while still finding those common relations. More to balance!
Okay, sorry. I'll get off my soapbox now.

just jamie said...

LOVE those pictures. Love how you dress your kids in coordinating colors and patterns for extra-purdy photos. Love that your children stepped in your homeland tracks.

(Yup, got that Experience email. Thanks for the heads up.)

crunchiemummy said...

What a great post and such beautiful pictures! I too want for my children to know and love their British roots and to feel like they belong on either side of the pond.

EatPlayLove said...

Thank you for sharing, I am always amazed by others story on their journey through life.

John said...

It's obvious that you are very proud of your Polish heritage, and want to pass that on to your kids. How about your "whipped husband"? What is his heritage, and are they aware of it too?

Great pics of the kids, BTW!

Karen MEG said...

I love how you're sharing and having your children embrace their heritage as well. They will appreciate this so much when they're older. What an amazing trip, of a lifetime, really. I suspect it is only the first of many.

And yes, I got that weird email too. Which I totally suspected you didn't endorse... so thanks for the note!

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I thought I had commented on here, but then realized I didn't. Wanted you to know that I love how you try to embrace both of your heritages. I had a few friends in Canada which seems to have more first and second generation European immigrants than the US does anymore and they spoke of how difficult it can be and how they just wanted to fit in in their youth, but now they try to get their kids to embrace it, too.

KEEP BELIEVING

Dziadek said...

Check out todays travel article in the times. Gdansk is highlighted at the bottom for things we always knew it was great for but no one esle knew...great beaches, great nightlife, gorgeous old town.


http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/05/lesons-from-the-frugal-grand-tour/?em

this was his original blog on gdansk.
http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/shipyards-to-sheratons-in-gdansk/

Clare said...

OhMommy, I love this post. we all want our kids to know our history and accept that this a part of them. i loved how sincere and excited they were to be seeing your 'home.' what a wonderful post and a tribute to your childhood.

Marmarbug said...

It IS neat that the children have TWO homes! I love it!
And I am so glad that you are sharing your culture with them. Your photos are beautiful and your kids are absolutely gorgeous as always!

* TONYA * said...

What gorgeous photographs. The girls look just precious in those beautiful dresses.

As a transplant from another country (with 1 child from that country and 2 born in the US) I understand this. Sometimes I forget I'm different and that I sound different and that I grew up differently until somebody reminds me.

balancedmeltingpot.com said...

Oh my goodness - your story is MY story! You can replace Polish/Poland with Haitian/Haiti and you have described my childhood. Your description of ensuring your children receive both cultures equally is the inspiration for starting my blog. I am often worried that they will become too "American" and in the process reject my cultural heritage. It's nice to see that you are able to balance the two.

Your pictures (and children) are beautiful!

Marinka said...

This is so moving. I can relate so well to the where-do-I-fit-in-between the two worlds feeling. But it's so lovely that your children loved being in Poland and that you got to see it through each other's eyes.

 

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