Being form the U.S. I have grown accustomed to immigrants from any and every other country flocking to America. And I would never think to question why they would choose America, despite leaving their home and heritage for a country completely foreign to them. I, like every other American and immigrant to America, have been taught that America is a nation of opportunity, freedom, and equality (sometimes we fall short on these ideals but I think we try). So it just made sense when I met immigrants from India, the UK, Taiwan, Mexico, Haiti, Brazil, France, Cape Verde or, yes, even Poland. Why wouldn’t someone choose to come to America? And why wouldn’t I choose to go to Poland? I thought it worked both ways. Apparently not! From the time I accepted my position here up until today, I have been repeatedly asked, “Why Poland?” As it turns out very few people choose to come to Poland unless they have Polish ancestry (and many of them have learned Polish from their parents). And this makes me the exception, I have no Polish ancestry that I know of. British, Irish, Swiss, French, Danish, etc. but no Polish. But I did choose to come here and that can spark a lot of questions, so here is a quick (not really) overview of the most commonly asked questions I’ve heard since being in Poland.
My usual answer: I could have picked just about any embassy in the world but I knew I wanted to go someplace in Europe, but not the ‘typical Europe’ that everyone thinks of (the UK, Spain, France, Italy). Not that there’s anything wrong with those countries. I want to go to all of them one day! But for my purposes I wanted a ‘unique’ European experience… so Eastern Europe it was. But I wanted to go somewhere safe yet interesting… Poland! Have you seen the news? The Ukraine is in a pretty volatile state and Poland has been very involved in support for the Ukraine and is extremely wary of Russia due to its former status as a satellite state of communist Russia.
Not only is this the site of history in the making but Poland has a rich history of overcoming adversity. Poland was the platform for world-shaping events during World Wars I and II and has rebuilt from the rubble of the to be the country it is today. Poland has come into its own with its admittance to the EU (10 years) and NATO (15 years) and tons of international corporations have opened branches here.
I love the architecture, especially here in Warsaw where the buildings have been entirely rebuilt after having been leveled multiple times. The authentic style of the new buildings gives places like Old Town a Disney-esque feel which I love. I could go on about the reasons I love Poland.
The honest answer: It felt right. Everything else is just a justification of a gut feeling.
Do you speak Polish? No, I’m learning but it’s very difficult.
This impresses Poles because Polish is extremely difficult, especially for native English speakers, while English is the easiest language for Poles to learn and most everyone speaks English very well. So they are very understanding but also appreciate of any effort to learn their language.
Did you know? In Return of the Jedi, when C-3PO asks the droid-eye as he approaches Jabba’s palace, if Jabba is in the palace, he speaks Polish (“Czy zaba mieszka tu?”). This translates to “Does the frog live here?” Replace “zaba” (“frog”) with “Jabba,” and it’s “Does Jabba live here?”
Do you have Polish ancestry? No.
Do you like Warsaw/Poland? Yes, I love it! And I know I will come back someday.
Are you a student? Yes.
Where do you study?
At church: BYU.
Anywhere else: Brigham Young University… it’s in Utah… in the West.
I came to Poland by myself, don’t speak the language, and it’s my first time out of the U.S. I have always wanted to travel the world, every year I add more countries to list of places to visit. I want to have adventures! Blame every book I’ve ever read! One of the biggest obstacles to travel is deciding to go, committing yourself to the idea of leaving home, putting aside the fear of the unknown.
No, you don’t have to serve a mission to ‘see the world’. (Missions are good, I support them, but that’s not the reason you should go. Plus, you should be a missionary wherever you are!)
Here is an article that I think relates pretty well: http://www.mormonwomen.com/2014/02/27/people-like-us-do-things-like-that/
* You can travel (by yourself, if you like) without going inactive/leaving the Church. We are all children of God and the truth of the Gospel fits in our lives no matter where we are.
So, why Poland? Why not! Adventure is out there kids!!