1 / When do I feel Polish
Over the last week, since when I was invited to the studio, I was thinking about it and I couldn’t find a situation like this. Depsite the fact that I have a Polish nationality, I spent 90% of my life here, I cannot say I feel Polish.
One look at me and you can instantly tell. Meanwhile, my mom looks like a typical Slav – light complexion, light hair. My brother too. When I was little, my mom’s friends used to say “what a cute little black girl you have!”, to which I always thought: “why can’t I just be a cute little girl?”
I was heavily bullied at school. I was discriminated by both kids and their parents. Kids can be especially cruel. I’ve heard racist slurs on a daily basis. At the age of 8, I had a phone hung on my neck when I was going out, and I had to report everything to mom afterwards. It wasn’t until later that I found out that she was being called in to my school everyday because of my constant fights.
My brother was experiencing the exact same thing. I saw him getting mugged by classmates more than once. I’m surprised that after all this, he still calls himself Polish. Maybe it’s because he’s older and he better remembers the childhood spent with our grandparents here. I grew up in Greece where we were born. In addition, thanks to his looks, he’s not treated as an outsider right away.
When the terrorist attacks started, I needed to feel reassured by the people around me – that they know I’m not “like them”. Instead, I had to pay even more attention and avoid sensitive topics – like admitting that I’m half Polish, that my parents are separated – because it fueled stereotypical associations in their minds and the need for further explanation (“oh, because he’s Muslim!” No, he’s not).
My brother’s friends didn’t know about my existence or they didn’t know how I looked like. Back then I felt hurt by this. Today however, I think that he could have been protecting himself as well, trying to avoid the uncomfortable questions, the irritating jokes and endless explanations.
2 / When do I not feel Polish
When I have to explain to others why I’m not Polish.
The all-time classic question: “Where are you from?” leads to further questions and I know that I’m up to hours of explanations. “But who are you? Why are you here? Why not there?”
It’s exhausting. Sometimes I’d just like to rest and make it stop. I’ve lived here for 17 years.
When a friend of my friend asks me “How long have you been here?”, after which I get “You speak Polish very well then!”
I visited Palestine only once, and I quickly realized that it’s not my culture.
As a result, I feel neither Polish nor Palestinian.
When I became 18 years old I asked myself exactly that: “Who do I feel I am?”. I realized that I don’t want any labels on me – I don’t want to be called Polish, nor half Palestinian, nor anyone else. I prefer to be just Diana.
3 / What does it mean to me to be of mixed heritage
A constant struggle – with others and with myself.
A search for solutions and answers.