Finding my place in the world, as an immigrant PDF Print E-mail
Written by OHmommy   
Thursday, 04 September 2008 19:00
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.  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 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 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. They too are Polish-American children. 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. It is!"

"Mama... this ice cream taste so much better than the ones in Cleveland." Jay admitted. "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."
Last Updated on Monday, 27 July 2009 13:46


# Petit Elefant 2010-01-05 21:24
THIS is exactly why, even though we don't have the money, we are spending a month in Warsaw this summer. I have to have my children understand their heritage.
# PolPrairieMama 2011-02-10 14:29
I feel the same way. I still need to write about when I took my older to Wroclaw for the first time. We are planning on going again, and often. I would love to be able to buy a home there. Maybe one day...

Your children look right at home. It's amazing. We as children feel so strange and then, we have kids, and it starts to finally fall into place...
# mollysvote 2012-03-17 15:46
Inspired to write my own story having read yours AND other stories I hear everyday in London. Thank you.
# Ola 2012-12-26 18:14
Paulina wspaniale!!!
I hope you took them to Malbork my hometown :)

Random Posts

Stylish shoe for outdoor events. #CrocStyle
The sun finally came out after what seem...
Landscaping on the cheap: babysteps & lots of bargains.
We moved into "the most wonderful house ...
How to land a playdate, in preschool.
Over heard at preschool pick up: "Come t...
Making Polish cuisine posh, one post at a time: Beans!
We've made half-sour pickles from scratc...
I'm Speaking at BlogHer '12 I'm Speaking at BlogHer '09
I'm speaking


Pauline Karwowski.

Is a self proclaimed globe trotting, minivan driving, SAHM stiletto ho.

Happily married mother to 3 Cleveland natives: Jay the son, Lola the daughter, and Fifi the banshee.

Now in Chicago, IL.

The content on this blog is the opinion of the blogger.


Email Subscription

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

CrocStyle Insider