la polonaise-canadienne

I love airports.

I guess it’s like the olympics or the UN in a way. Where everyone regardless of race, nation or social status is invited to take part in the same activity. Here in Frankfurt International our sport is finding our next gate, a piece of luggage. I’ve successfully tracked down a bagel sandwich and coffee and taken up a resting position facing the windows and the action on the runway. I’m watching an Air Canada plane slowly pull out, its maple leaf painted tail moving out of sight. I feel an immense fondness for my other country. Such warm feelings for such a cold climate : )

It’s been a blessed time in the homeland, in Poland. I’m so happy that it’s real to me now…that the concept of a working, playing, living Poland in Polish and by Polish people is a tangible thing to me now. Not a memory from holiday vacations nor that far off country my parents come from…she’s a living and breathing creature.

There are a few seemingly simple yet to me very symbolic events that stay in my memory. Signing my first work contract in Polish, passing or walking along “Puławska” street…a magical phrase I had often heard as a child because my family had a flat at that address during communist times. The heavy energy in the capital on the day of August 1st…where this year we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising. Meetings on “Nowy Świat” street. Driving with friends along crooked and bumpy country roads while singing a Ukrainian folk song. The beautiful, warm and golden Polish autumn. Writing (or rather attempting to write) business emails in Polish. Being referred to as “Pani Katarzyna” in a work context … :-) although these last two elements really make me giggle and smile most of all. It feels like an old-fashioned ritual in politeness and formality while I patiently wait for these cultural niceties to end so that we can simply speak to each other on a first name basis. Human being to human being like.

As I watch that Air Canada plane turn its nose towards the runway I realise happily that this identity, if we must speak of national identity, of being at once Polish and Canadian will be inseparable for me for a long time. Likely, for life. While in Poland I am set apart by others by my Canadian upbringing…while in Canada I am recognized for my Polish heritage. These are outside impressions; inside there is no need for conflict or pointing fingers, only acceptance at what is. I could just as soon choose a favourite country as I could a favourite lung. To choose one over the other makes no sense to me, as they are perfectly complementary. My passport case comfortably fits both the maroon document, and the blue one. Each one has its place and depending on the moment, I can draw upon either to serve my purpose.

Yes, I write primarily in English. I felt I had to make my language-of-writing choice several years ago and I chose the language most practiced, the one most malleable. But my mind would be bereft of a greater depth and appreciation for diversity without my other tongues. The eloquence of French, the earthy tones of Spanish and melodic Creole…my extended family. To never be able to spontaneously joke, or sing, or tell stories in my native Polish…oh, that would be very sad indeed.

Now, I am heading for a small nation in the Caribbean known primarily to others for being one of the poorest countries on Earth; known to me for being rife with dreams, hope and warmth. Once there, I already know that first impressions will label me as yet another “white woman”. That, at best, the locals will have only a faint notion of who I am or where I come from. And that’s fine. It does not bother me. Really.

Because the dialogue, were it to come, is ready. Were anyone to ask where I come from…well then, then we might talk about these fascinating places and people. Of Poland. and of Canada. And of the strength that I draw from both.

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(Castle in Lublin, August 2014)

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