Tomasz Laczny

ERNA HELENA ANIA

Who are you when you lose your identity, family, and country?

After years I spent abroad I wanted to explore my roots -- Poland. Poland for me is the memories of my childhood, happy days I spent mostly at my grandmother’s place. But it is also her story that blends into traumatic events of WWII and casts its dark shadow until today. It is also part of a legacy that was passed to the next generations.

My grandmother was German living on the border between Poland and Germany before WWII. She fell in love with a Polish guy. It was towards the end of WWII. It was forbidden. Both of them could be killed if that would be discovered. Moreover, she got pregnant and was hiding her pregnancy.

After the war, she was imprisoned in the camp for Germans. She gave birth to my mum but, because of her poor conditions, was not able to raise her and had to give her away. The European borders have been moved after WWII by the decision of a few key political figures and almost all Germans have been expelled (the largest forced migration in history). My grandmother hoping to be reunited with her daughter decided to stay but had to gain Polish nationality. For her as ex-German life in Poland was extremely difficult. She lived in the shadow of guilt and memories of what happened in Poland during WWII. All her family has been expelled. And it took many years for her to be with her daughter together again.

The story of my grandmother is a story about losing identity, family, and country in the face of traumatic historical events. It represents the situation of many people and nations finding themselves struggling with finding their own identity after the war in the shadow of nazism.

Ironically the story of my grandmother unfolds some similarities with my own. Living abroad for many years I experienced disconnection and isolation and struggled with finding my new identity. Also, there is the story of the absence of my daughter which I haven't seen for almost 3 years now.

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