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Describe a topic central to your identity: My Mother and Poland.


Asiak 2 / 2  
Jan 3, 2014   #1
I'm working on the title, don't worry, haha. Anyway I'm wondering if my essay is any good (obviously). I'm really afraid it may be much too casual, or too vague, or not say enough about me? (sorry if I've done something wrong, I'm new here!)

"Hey, what's your mom's accent? Is she French?"
"No, actually, she's Polish."

It's not my own story that I'm telling, but I certainly believe that my Polish heritage has played a part in shaping my identity. While dad comes from a small farming town in rural Alberta - a great place, but nothing really to talk about - my mother was born in Poland during the Communist era. She was lucky: just before martial law sealed the borders, she managed to escape the country with only what little she could fit into her backpack (we still have that ratty old piece of history, somewhere up in our attic). She found herself in Sweden as a refugee with a job as a cleaning lady, and a year later she'd saved up enough to come to Canada. It was the only country she'd applied to for immigrant status that hadn't rejected her on the basis that she wouldn't be an "asset" to them. So there she was: 19 years old and in a foreign country with no money, no knowledge of the language, and no guarantee she would ever see her family again. To me - a North Vancouver kid who's been lucky enough to have a stable life - it's hard to imagine.

Alright, fast forward 30 years and my mom is a neuropsychologist with a PhD and her own business. Every time she tells this story she laughs about how she wishes she'd saved the rejection letters from those other countries - "Look at me now, Australia!" She took ESL classes and lived on welfare, and eventually, she took the University of Alberta's entrance exams. Get this: she failed. But only by a hair. And what she didn't do was take no for an answer: she went to the school and told them her story, and they gave her a second chance. Me, I'm more like my father; more ready to accept what comes, more ready to adapt and make do with what I have. Storm the board of director's office and plead for mercy? I don't think so. But what my mother has given me is a challenge: if she can do something like that, what's stopping me from doing what I want to do? I have to work for what I want, and work hard - but I can't be afraid to ask for help. I've learned about the values that have helped her to succeed in life, and in the process I've found some of my own.

But then - having a foreign background has its downsides. For one thing, family means the world to me, and I think the fact that there are people who are basically required to love and accept you is a wonderful concept. The Atlantic Ocean isn't the only thing that separates me from my Polish relatives: there's a language barrier that exists between us, too. I gave up learning Polish when I was younger, and I regret it now; my excuses were that I was too young and too stubborn and it was too hard. But when my jadek passed away a few years ago, it struck me that I might not have much time left with my babja, so I began to take steps to learn what I could. Still, Polish is a difficult language (it's true - want to see their longest word? It's konstantynopolitaŇĄczykiewicz√≥wna) and I haven't made much headway. I'd love to be able to talk fluently to my grandmother, but I've learnt that communication isn't limited to words. Hey, my mom found her way in a foreign country with little of the language, after all.

So, my Polish heritage, then, and the family that came with it - some of the parts central to what make up who I am. My identity is sure to change as I grow older and learn more, but right now it's a many factioned-thing, an amalgamation of Canadian values and Polish culture and the lessons that my mother and her success story have taught me. One thing's for sure: (oh boy i have to think of something to put here).
Didgeridoo - / 306 191  
Jan 3, 2014   #2
This was a good snapshot of your heritage, but you were right when you said that it isn't enough about you. Identity goes deeper than just your nationality or who your parents are. How have those things shaped what you value, what you want to do as a career, extracurriculars, etc.? You said a lot, but you can say a lot more with the same topic.


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