This post is also available in: polski (Polish)
Don’t think, man, what your life might be, otherwise, it wouldn’t be yours.Czesław Miłosz, The Issa Valley.
Where are you from? – I have heard this question a thousand times in my life. And I always wondered what should I respond: where I come from or where I am currently live? When I lived in Poland, the answer seemed simple, because I was born in this country. Although I landed in the world in Warsaw and after years I moved to Wrocław.
When I arrived in Ireland, I was always from Poland. Meanwhile, I have been living on the island for ten years and I started to feel natural that I am from Galway, which I love the same as Wrocław. So when I visit Dublin or Cadiz, even online, I reply that I came from Galway. Although at the beginning as an emigrant I thought that I was a guest here but is impossible to be a visitor for so many years.
All over again
In my new country, I had to learn everything. Learn to buy rolls in a local shop, tickets on the bus, to learn and also to dare to speak and write in a different language. Even to express the feelings in words or create metaphors. Because only when you get to know a foreign language better, you realize that some things cannot be copied from your native language. You have to think in another language and be open to different customs. It took me several years to master this skill and it still continues. But I quickly got used to the fact that on the street people greet each other or exchange smiles, although you do not have to always reply to each one: Hello. Also, there is kind to say or hear sorry – a very popular word in Ireland.
I have adapted to the fact that there is hot water in the separate tap, and cold in the other one, that the radiators are turned on or off in one click because they are usually electric. And there is left-hand traffic. I learned about new traditions and started weaving a rush cross on Imbolc. The dreamed ocean has become my everyday life and it continues to amaze me as graphite rocks that I can climb today or tomorrow.
Days smell like forget-me-not flower
Step by step the new country has become very close to me, but I am not sure yet if it is my country? I remember everything from my previous country, although after five or ten years some things have become strange to me. Not because I do not love Poland anymore, but because I live in different daily conditions, and they have become naturally closer to me. And also that I look at the country of my origin from a different and wide perspective. Sometimes I am accused by compatriots that now when I live in Ireland, I do not like Poland, or some even believe that I have abandoned my homeland. I explain that it is not that simple at all. Famous Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, who lived on emigration for years, wrote that if you live in another country for at least five years, you will be torn between these two countries forever. I feel it exactly. In the beginning, I missed many things from Poland. I still yearningly the most beautiful forests I knew. But now I seem to be more from Galway. Because here I breathe in commonality like the smell of forget-me-not flower.
I just wonder what it will be when I will move to another country. Perhaps to Spain. I will have to start all over again, learn Spanish, and all diverse customs. Will I then consist of three countries? Or maybe I will just experience another, different everyday life and for the rest of my life, I will goggle with surprises. Although it is exactly the same as when I was a child. Because I have always loved to observe the smallest details of life and be on the way. Even as I stood in the middle of my grannie’s field fulls of pink daisies, I imagined myself wandering somewhere. Although I am naturally afraid of changes, or maybe I don’t like them, the curiosity of the places, people, colours, words, trees, birds, poems remains stronger. This is my journey.
What do you think? Maybe you also live on emigration? Or do you feel you belong to a completely different place than the one you currently live in? Please share your thoughts in the comments if you like it. I am curious.
P.S. I was inspired to write this text by a photo my husband took of me. I was standing at a crossroads and the signpost was pointing to Galway. It was a simple thing, but it has let me think.