22 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday: World Refugee Day & My Home in Austria

June 20th was the 10th Annual International World Refugee Day.

I have been wanting to share this photo for a couple of weeks now after I found it.  I thought this week was perfect.

When I was digging through old photos, postcards from my family in Poland when I was young, slides of Wroclaw, and other mementos they had sent us to remember where we had come from, I found this photo and held my breathe. 

Staring at it, I had found something I had been searching for years. 

Where had I stayed as a Citizen of the World, a refugee fleeing the Soviet crackdowns against Poland and her people as they rose in Solidarity against oppression.  Fleeing tanks crouched on the borders, ready to come in and do who-knows-what.

I ran to my husband and showed him.  "Look!  Look!  This is where I stayed in Austria when we fled Poland and while I was waiting to come to the US (in my mind, where maybe I was meant to meet you).  He glanced at it for a second, smiled briefly and said "That's cool."  That's cool.  That was it?  Like I had shown him just another book or something else equally unimportant.

"You will never understand." I say, walking away, choking back tears and words filled with anger at his lack of interest.  Lack of understanding. 

I know he wasn't trying to be unkind, that he just didn't grasp the full idea of what I was talking about.  That he never would.  He was born here in the USA, where his family for who knows how many generations had their freedoms and rights just handed to them with no worries of them being ripped away. 

I show my daughters.  They glance at it, my older daughter asks a couple of simple questions, as though this was just another cool looking town to live in, then they walk away.

I'm left holding a picture that means nothing to anyone other than myself. 

To everyone around me, it's just a postcard.  A photo of some far off place.  But it's something much much bigger to me.

It is where I lived as a political refugee, 2 years old, having left the country I was born in, having left with my parents away from my family, away from my birth language, not knowing where I was going to live for the rest of my life. 

In limbo.  Living on kindness and a prayer.  Eating Potato Soup.

My mother's belly growing with the baby brother who would be my closest friend forever. 

And growing stronger because of all of it...

and then, she {snapped}


A.Rhodes said...

I understand, we left Poland in 1989 after my parents were constantly harassed for supporting Solidarity. They owned a shop and had a sign in the window that said Solidarity, I remember it because I had no idea what it meant. We had our apartment searched many times and my mom told me that my dad had been beat on the street.

Katja said...

Keep your little treasure and maybe you or your children can come back one time and visit. I think you can only understand what that means if you experienced that yourself. You can't be homesick if you never left your country.
Warmest greetings from Germany!
Bis bald!

Bill said...

Wow, very powerful. And you're right, those of us from the states will never understand. My wife tries to explain her exodus from Belarus, and the death threats her family received. To me, it's like she's describing some movie, not real life events.

MaƱana Mama said...

Wonderful post, what a powerful memory.

There are some places that we can only truly revisit in our minds, and remember with our hearts.

Hello! I'm Kate. said...

This post made me sad. :( I know that your daughters will appreciate it when they are older! I hope ou will hold onto it & show it to them!

It took me becoming a mother before I truly understood the faces in the pictures my father would show me of his grandparents were real people who breathed, hoped, dreamed, lived! That they were important to him!

Thank you for sharing the photo & the story with us!!!

I had a babysitter from Poland who came to the US in the 90s. She was absolutely amazing!