04 January 2011

A Love Letter to My Home Town, Wroclaw

Stare miasto we Wrocławiu

From poland.gov.pl , Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / www.fotcom.biz

Kochani Wroclaw,

Once again, I saw a picture of you and missed you today.  In fact, I see you everything I turn on my computer, your picture is on my desktop and my Facebook.  Maybe it's to make up for the missing time away from you, I'm not sure.

True, you are not as famous as your European cousins, Paris, London, Rome, Vienna, and the rest of them.  But I've never been much for celebrities. 

I would rather have your charm be true to what you always have been, ancient, colorful, melodic in the same way that a Polonaise or a Mazurka is, that odd beat so dignified and so in tune with the hearts of Poles like no other.

Stare miasto we Wrocławiu

From poland.gov.pl , Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / www.fotcom.biz

I know perhaps you don't feel very special compared to your famous cousins, but you have a bread named after you, Wroclawski Chleb.  And in fact, many Americans enjoy it under another name, light rye bread, not knowing the true name or the city it honors.  You have smoked cheese also honoring you which my husband craves to this day over 7 years later.  I know no higher honor that a person can give than name food after you.

You are where my father was raised, where my family is buried, my ancestral home.  You were the matchmaker, introducing my mother and father, and under your romantic influence, they fell in love, married and had me.

From poland.gov.pl , Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / http://www.fotcom.biz/

The rhythm and sounds of your cobblestone streets rocked me to sleep as a baby in my pram as my mother took me on my daily walks through the winding paths of your riverside parks.

When I think of Poland, I think of you.  When I think of what I lost by being torn away from you because of Communism and oppression of human rights, it pains me because I lost the ability to call you truly mine. 

Photo courtesy of Michal Strzepek at http://enjoywroclaw.wordpress.com/

Instead, when I walk your streets every chance I get, I am a stranger to you.  I am that woman who dresses, moves and sounds American no matter how hard she fights it, yet her eyes are Polish in every possible way.

Every turn, I have to discover and rediscover you.  And you tease me.  What I think I know may or may not be changed when I return.  I understand, you have been busy shaking off the dusty industrial gray coat that Communism laid on your shoulders, and before that, the two World Wars.  And you have emerged beautifully, like a phoenix from the ashes.

My personal photo of my daughter enjoying the Rynek and Fountain

The first time I laid eyes on you when I returned, you were shaking off that coat.  Your Rynek was in the beginnings of it's changes.  Now, you are bright and vibrant, like a maiden in summer.  But, thankfully, Capitalism and it's stifling neon signs, tacky knick-knacks, and generic flavorless unimaginative restaurant chains have not yet cast their spell on you.

You are where I took my husband for our honeymoon.  We could have gone anywhere.  I brought him to you, so that you could each meet one another, and hopefully, get along for my sake.  Did you know he got a tattoo because you inspired him so much?

You are where I ran to with giddy delight, pregnant for the first time and excited to attend my cousin's wedding (and closing my eyes, pretending it was each of my cousins' weddings since I could not attend them all).  You showed me what a real Polish wedding was, and I was envious.

You are where I brought my older daughter when I was again pregnant.  I was happy to see you again, yes, but please don't be upset that I didn't seem to enjoy you.  You know I was there to bury my Dziadek. 

Yet, you were sweet enough to entrance my father again on that trip, knowing it was his first trip back after we left so many years ago and that he was almost afraid to see what had changed.  Did I tell you he might retire there with you?  His ancestral home?

You also wove your spell on my older daughter, who had begun a love affair with American childrens food (macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, fish sticks, pizza, and the occasional broccoli loaded with cheese) and who I was concerned might not enjoy your company. 

Her love affair with Poland began the moment she looked down from that airplane and saw you sprawled around the Odra River, your red roofs, green parks, and white statues creeping outward from your origin, the Via Reggia and the Amber Road and Ostrow Tumski.

My personal photo of my husband at Ostrow Tumski

It deepened when she met her family, ate Zupa Ogurkowa with real Ruskie Pierogi, visited your zoo, and napped from jetlag by the fountains at Hala Ludowa.  She chased a grey and black crow while I rested during a stroll in your Szczytnicki Park. 

Photo courtesy of Michal Strzepek at http://enjoywroclaw.wordpress.com/

She discovered your Krasnolutki and has been searching for them ever since.

Photo courtesy of Michal Strzepek at http://enjoywroclaw.wordpress.com/

Our last night with you, her goodbyes were teary as she ate mixed Pierogi (mushroom and sauerkraut, Ruskie, meat) seated outside in a restaurant, watching fire jugglers perform at your Rynek.  She ended up falling so deeply in love with you and my family, that when the time came and we had to leave you, her "hair wanted to stay" with you.  And conveniently, the rest of her wanted to stay as well. 

I miss you.  I can't wait to see you again this year. 

I know eventually I will be coming to see you for sad business again.  After all, time passes, generations age, and loved ones have to be told farewell, sometimes for the last time. 

But let's not dwell on that.  After all, I have to come back.  You stole my heart the day I was born.  You are in my blood. 

Let's just say Na Razie, not Do Widzenia...

If you would like to look at some beautiful pictures of my beloved Wroclaw, also known as Breslau, please check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/polandmfa/sets/72157624491409362/show/ These pictures, and so much more, can be found on http://en.poland.gov.pl/ as well as at  http://enjoywroclaw.wordpress.com/  which was kind enough to allow me to use some of their pictures and which has kindly allowed me to post this article on their site.  I hope it inspires you to visit Poland, perhaps even my beloved Wroclaw...

I have to give credit where credit is due.  I was inspired to write this after reading Honest Mum's Love Letter to London.  Check out her post here:  http://honestmum.com/?p=342  Enjoy!  And I hope you feel inspired to write a love letter to a particular town that has shaped your life!



Hyde said...

New follower from BM!! :D


Rachel said...


I too live an ocean away from my homeland--I did the opposite thing and migrated from the western US to Europe. You've captured the bittersweetness of geographical separation so perfectly.

How lovely to discover your blog today via Honest Mum's London love note--the siren call of which I likewise followed!: http://mananamama.blogspot.com/2011/01/ode-to-road.html)

Keep up the good work, and I hope it's not too long before your next trip home.

Honest Mum said...

Lovely post, so atmospheric. Loved it. So moving.

Unknown said...

Thank you! Manana Mama, I was going to ask you to please post yours here, I really enjoyed reading it today... :)

Kasia said...

Ale ładne te krasnoludki :) I think many people who were forced out during communist rule feel the same, I am out of Poland since a long time too, I was literally kicked out and nobody cared where I will land or if I will survive :'-( But at least I live still nearby in Europe and can go back quickly and without too high travel expenses. Plus, I spend a big chunk of my life in Poland and so my roots are pretty deep, and you are torn between cultures.

I hope you can find a quite moment and see for yourself what feels the best :) I needed years before I found my own answers, after all my husband is not from Poland (so far I keep him out of my blogs for privacy reasons, so no further descriptions), and his work is centered in his home country. There are many reasons and many possible solutions, I cannot go back to Poland permanently for various reasons, my husband and family being 2 of them. But how should I put it, I suffered so many years after I was out of Poland and was not allowed to go back, and there was for sure no internet or possibility to see the old places or speak to someone, or get Polish recipes or or or.. Nowadays it feels like heaven on earth :) And my husband likes Poland too, so I do not feel like I would be suffering anymore, I can go back online each day, visit amazing Polish blogs, meet Polish people from around the world, Poland is only 1 click away :) I was feeling home sick all the years before the internet revolution started, but now I feel at home online :)

I do not know if you would feel comfortable living in Poland permanently right now, after growing up in the USA. The culture shock might be too overwhelming. But maybe retiring in Poland one day would be something for you :)? It is different for anyone I think... As for me, I just wish to visit the beautiful places in Poland with my husband, like Kraków or Częstochowa or Gdańsk or the Stare Miasto in Warszawa or.. You know how many there are :) As they say "home is where people who love you live", so my home is where my husband and family is. I do not have any relatives left in Poland, everybody was thrown out into the world or died during the 2 World Wars and revolutions, only a few friends from my childhood, and my husband thinks that Poland is a great country with courageous people, so I feel more peaceful now.

I hope things can be peaceful and easier for you too soon :) The American prairie is very far and very different from Poland, so really please find a quiet moment and try to see what is best for you. Maybe living in a place with a large Polish community is another possibility, I mean you know, Polish shops, pierogi festivals, Polish culture etc.

Serdecznie pozdrawiam :)

Unknown said...

Dzienkujem, Kasiu.

Your comment really hit home with me. That's exactly how I feel. Torn, completely in half. Knowing that to move back to Poland would be a difficult adjustment but at the same time, living in the US keeps me "homesick". It's difficult, I love both countries so much.

Perhaps I will write about it, explaining that feeling to others. I know I'm not the only one to feel so, as you elequently described the same feeling.

Warmest Regards,

Anonymous said...

I just shared this post on my facebook wall. It's beautiful. You share so many deep feelings. I totally understand it. I really like Wrocław. I was born in Silesia, and I grew up there. I heart Poznań,too. I'd spent there 5 years in college.
I'm hoping to take my husband to all those places someday. Wrocław, Poznań, Gdynia, Gdańsk, Sopot, Białystok, Zakopane, Zamość... everywhere!

I'm pretty new to US. I came here a few years ago with nothing just two back packs of clothes and personal stuff. Now I've got my family here. My husband, my child, but sometimes I feel like going back. I miss all those places I've been and I've known. Here is totally different. The American Dream doesn't exist anymore. It's not that I'm disappointed, it's that I miss my family and my friends, I miss Polish culture, food... and the feeling of being comfortable wherever I go. Here I always think about my accent, speaking English in general. Those little things will alwasy make me feel like outsider... . I don't know, maybe it's only my problem, and I make it sounds really big when it's not. Maybe I should just relax and take it easy, take it as it is...
I know I won't be living in Poland... but I wish US wasn't that far from my country.

Unknown said...

eveqc, I understand. I came as a child but there is a deep sadness in my heart at missing Poland. And a guilt for it, after all, I do love America just as much! We visit every other year to Poland. I wish it wasn't so expensive or far away also, but who knows where the winds of change will blow you in life? After all, when my parents came to the US, a couple of years before they would never have imagined that they would be leaving Poland to come to the US. I have friends here in the US but my family in Poland, and it's hard to express how you feel... Big hugs to you! And btw, personally, I wish I still had my accent.

The Learning Mama said...

As an American with deep Polish roots, I desperately want to visit Poland. Not only to search for possible family, but to just take in the atmosphere. I worked for a family the emigrated from Poland in the early 80s. My one boss told me that its not like America and I said good. It is my hope to one day take my husband and kids there.

Sonja said...

This is the place of my mom's birth, when it was Breslau, of course. Here she grew up until she had to flee for her life in 1945 and I was happy to take her back home for the first time in 1992. I love it there, too. My mom's ancestral roots are in Upper Silesia, however. You have many of the same pictures in your collection as do I.

Unknown said...

I am so glad and so proud to hear this has touched so many people. :)

Zuza said...

I love your poem about WROCLAW so much! It is so emotional to me that I just coudn't stop crying reading it. Thank YOU!I was born in Wroclaw. I grew up there.I went to school there. I lived there for 24 years before I decided to move to the States. It's my city that I will always love. I was in Wroclaw with my daughter in 2009 and was shocked by changes in a positive way. I love it so much that when we got back to the States I was depressed for a pretty long period of time. I felt I want to go back and live there again. But it is impossibe, my family is in the States.

L said...

THAT is why I love living in London after 12 years in USA and Australia - now I can be home in 2.5 hours! :)