Remembering the Past with Poland and Pondering the Future in Detroit

Last Saturday, my heart hurt. The morning started sunny and with a strong prospect of exercise, reading and writing. I sat around, looking through the news and found my native nation of Poland lost a giant segment of its leadership in a plane crash in Russia (see Death of Poland’s President). A thousand questions have swirled in my head. That evening I sat down and looked into more coverage. The New York Times had a photo gallery and this picture was striking to me.

The tragedy occurred as I have been writing a memoir on my experience as a Polish immigrant in the United States. Recently, I reconnected with Dr. Ronald Stockton, a political science professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, that influenced my learning in a great way. He invited me to join an immigrant memoir group he started. The group met last week on the Friday before the plane crashed. We shared great conversations and the wealth of perspective was enlightening.

After hearing the news about the Polish president's plane crash, I thought about the memoir group's discussions for days. Duality came up time and time again at the meeting. Strangely enough, I feel I understood the duality conversation better the morning of the crash than I did when people were discussing it the night before.

I thought of people's stories of returning home. I haven't returned home because I can't really afford it and also because I am afraid of what I would see. It all got me thinking about whether the pull to return home was stronger or weaker. It got me thinking about how others didn't want to return to work or live in their native countries, for various reasons. Would I? I wasn't sure at the meeting and I'm still a little wishy-washy. Moving overseas doesn't seem like a move that would really fit into my lifestyle, but I am hesitant to say I never would.

My thoughts moved back home, to Detroit. Why did I start to love Detroit again? I was living in the suburbs for two years and yet I longed for where I was from. My old neighborhood, Warrendale, is getting a little rough, but I still think about that place. I love Midtown and I think that Comerica Park is where I'd like to be all summer long. But Detroit, and Michigan, are in trouble. I think the tragedy in Poland has sort of made me understand my strange interest in trouble.

Yet, I think what makes me so interested in suffering and struggle is the possibility of evading all that stuff. It starts with a pinch of hope, combined with work, mixed with lots of passion and dedication. Is all that in Detroit? I think so. In Poland right now? I can't answer that question. My goal is to be able to at least begin to answer that question. The memoir group has really made me do a double take when I think of my past. That's the whole point, I know, but it's just been a great experience thus far.

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