Leaving my country and coming to America was not easy. As much as I was thrilled to finally see New York City, I felt like a traitor leaving behind Poland, the country of my birth. Just before I left, The Solidarity Union managed to overthrow the communist regime and Poland was in the difficult
stage of transition into democracy. Despite economic difficulties, Poles were overjoyed with their freedom. Nobody complained about empty shelves in stores, because we all knew that eventually the economy would improve.
Now was the time to show one’s patriotism by enduring the difficulties and helping to restore free Poland. It was definitely not the time to leave. My parents, however, decided otherwise when they received long awaited green cards from American Embassy in Warsaw. We packed our belongings and set on the journey to the United States of America, the land of freedom and opportunity.
Manhattan looked magnificent in its splendor but I hated everything else: the food, the customs, and the seemingly rude forwardness of Americans. I wanted everything to be exactly as it was in Poland, safe and familiar. I distanced myself from all Americans with whom I felt I had nothing in common. Even though I now lived here, I was a Pole at heart and vowed never to forsake my allegiance to my country of birth.
As years went by, little by little, I submerged myself in American culture. The food began to taste better, the customs made sense, and I began to appreciate the sincerity and friendliness of American people. It was no longer “me and them,” now it was “us”. I began to realize that it was hypocritical of me to dissociate myself as a Pole and at the same time live off American land and take advantage of all benefits available to American citizens.
I began to ponder whether I could become an American citizen without relinquishing my Polish citizenship. Many people elected to be citizens of more than one countries but I deeply felt that to be a citizen of two countries meant to be a citizen of no country. What would happen if the two countries, one was a citizen of, were at war? Which country’s side would I take? I was not able to answer those questions so I put aside my plans to become an American citizen.
Then, the unthinkable happened. On September 11, 2001 terrorist attacked my country. It is really difficult to describe the rage I felt when this happened. I was shocked and incredulous to learn that some people actually hated the Americans. I felt deep solidarity with the rest of American people. That day I stopped being a Pole and became an American in my heart.