IDENTITY, NOT OBVIOUSNESS
In December 2012 I met an unusual man in Moscow. The representative of traditional Russian intelligence, a literary and music critic, the chairman of the Russian Fine Arts Academy, wearing an elegant suit with a bow on his neck. His face was known in the whole Russian-speaking area, because from 1972 he was leading many television programs devoted to culture, music and ballet – first in the Soviet Union, and later in Russia. He knew Anna Achmatowa, Borys Pasternak and Aram Chaczaturian personally.
At one moment he amazed Poles present at the meeting, when he stated in archaic Polish language with Eastern borderlands accent that his grandfather had been a poet and written a famous poem starting with the words: ‘Who are you? A little Pole. What is your emblem? A white eagle’. It turned out that we were talking to a grandson of Władysław Bełza, the author of ‘Catechism of a Polish child’. Not being discouraged by our consternation, he recited us another poem of his grandfather: ‘Who are you? A little Polish girl. What is your emblem? A white lily’.
At the meeting there was also Rustam Ibrahimbekow, a famous film-maker and a scriptwriter, the author of, among the others, such films as, for example, ‘Siberian Barber’ or ‘Burnt by the sun’, honoured with the Oscar reward in the USA. For this writer coming from Azerbaijan, Russia remained a spiritual homeland. He thought that it was just Russian culture, not the provincial Azeri tradition, he had an access to the worldly culture on the highest level. So, he chose Moscow, not Bak – and it was a choice of not only a place of living, but also identity.
That meeting in Moscow helped me realize the fact that patriotism or national identity are not something obvious at all – and not reversible in the perspective of even one generation. It is shown by the experience of the Polish emigration whose sense of its national identity is mostly in the third generation and does not know even Polish language.
A lot proves that this is going to be a fate of a big part of descendants of the last baby boom of post-war Europe. It concerns about 2.5 million Poles, who left the country after the year 2004. Two in three of them declare that they would like to return to their homeland, but put off the moment for later because they do not see any perspectives in this country for themselves. If somebody has been abroad for over five years, it is becoming more probable that he will stay there forever. It is much more probable in the case of people whose children start learning in foreign schools. In practice we see that their grandchildren do not have any Polish identity any longer.