Everyone has a story right?

My favorite posts on blogs are about people and their personal stories and experiences. I’m not a vegetarian, vegan or alergic to gluten. I’ve never ran marathons, had an eating disorder, or lost an extreme amount of weight. I luckily, haven’t gone through any traumatic experiences of losing a loved one or being hurt or sick myself. But I still have a story.

Whenever I’d be somewhere where there was an ice breaker involved and I’d have to say “something interesting” about myself, I always had a quick default.

I was born in Poland.

Now as time goes by, this seems like it’s getting old, does it matter? Should I say I drive a Prius instead?

It is still a huge and unique part of my life that many coworkers (at said ice breakers) would not know because it’s not something that I bring up on a daily basis.

Sure, it’s obvious because I have a hard to pronounce name, but so do a lot of other people with no personal ties to Poland.

And when I mention being an immigrant, people think I’m joking because I don’t really have an accent (except occassionally… according to some). I can’t pronounce “tartar” sauce right, and practicing saying “jewlery” took a good 20 years.

I came to the U.S. when I was 3 (and a half). Poland was a communist country, and my parents wanted a better life.  My dad left Poland not too long after I was born to Germany where he worked for a year to make some money in order to be able to immigrate to Canada. His plans changed when he was unable to get a Visa to Canada and it was easier to come to Rochester, NY where his uncle (who had immigrated after World War 2), was living and could sponsor him. My father came over to the U.S. first, and after a year of working and living with his uncle he had lived in the U.S. and worked long enough to sponsor me and my mom to come live with him.

I obviously don’t remember this part of my life too well. My mom said I would call random men with dark hair and a mustache “dad” on the trains and buses during the time my dad was gone. It must have been a very hard time, and I was clearly a very confused child. I have random memories of actually leaving Poland and waving from the plane to my entire family, not really knowing what was going on. And I know I had a pink elephant backpack with my “most valuable” items.

I am so thankful to my parents because I had a wonderful childhood. I never knew how much they were struggling at the beginning, but they never really showed it. Sure, I couldn’t have all the same toys or cable channels my friends in elementary school had, but I have very fond memories of marathon garage sale shopping with my mom. She most definitely introduced me to bargain shopping and thrifting.

We didn’t have a lot but my parents worked so hard to make sure I could always go to Catholic schools, and receive a good education. Even when my dad was laid off and started his own business, they somehow managed to keep me at my school. To this day, I still have no idea how they did that.

My parents continued to make sure me and my siblings learned Polish and all the equivalent Polish school subjects, just in case we would go back. We never went back for good, but thanks to all of their work (and putting up with me trying to avoid it) I am still fluent in Polish, and can read and write in my native lanugage.

Growing up all of my friends (outside of school) were Polish. I went to Saturday Polish school, a Polish Church, was part of  Polish folk dance group, and a part of the Polish Scouting Organization. Taking part in all of these activities throughout my week gave me an opportunity to really learn and live the Polish culture.

via. I wish I could post a picture of my group. hilarious. But I’d have to raid my parents albums and scan them. Sometime…

In 1996, when I was 12 was my first time back to Poland, to get “reintroduced” to my family. We spent an entire summer there being showed around my our cousins. That summer quickly made me fall in love with Poland. Especially the food, but also the love and huge family envirionment that I never really experienced until that point.

From that summer on, I started going to Poland every other summer. A week here and there, with my dad on business, or a summer camp with my scouting group, and eventually a semester abroad in Krakow, which was the undeniably the best summer of my life (that could be a separate post). Because of this, and now thank goodness for the internet, I have been able to keep in touch with my family, and really get to know my cousins. Some of them have even visited us in the States.

My story is mostly my parents’ story. They have proved that the American Dream is a reality. They have taught me courage, and the result of dreams and a lot of hard work. It has molded my life. My success, is their success.

undergrad '06

A life which I hope to sustain by their example. By always maintaining a positive attitude, and working as hard as they have, no matter what life throws at me. All while still remembering where I come from, and carrying on the Polish traditions and language that they have taught me.

So, to my parents: Dziekuje. Kocham was.