Friday, November 11, 2011

Today is Poland's Independence Day (and American Veteran's Day)

Originally I wanted to end the week by writing about the people from all over the world who have been reaching out to our small organization looking for help for their children with Cerebral Palsy, but this will have to wait till Monday. Today is what happens to be one of the most important, if not the most important Polish national holidays. It signifies the difficult journey towards peace, stability and prosperity. I'm proud to be a Pole, even though I left my country seven years ago. I'm proud of our history and our culture and nothing will ever change that. I don't think you can know where you're going till you know where you have been. I also miss my family very much and often, like so many first generation immigrants I'm torn, feeling I don't really belong here or there. I'm in America because my disability in this country matters less, or should I say, limits me less. It's as simple as that. Cerebral Palsy will always be impacting me in one way or another, but it doesn't need to be that difficult. It took me 25 years to realize that. And as soon as I  was able to do things for myself more, to express myself more, I felt free.

 For me me independence is key. My own, that allows me not to rely on other people for rides, for their kindness to help me up a step or into a bus. It has nothing to do with overblown state level celebration. I chart out my independence everyday and I celebrate with a cup of coffee. For now I'm here, because I want to help other people and I've learnt you need to help yourself first. To feel unstuck. And I have great fears for Poland, because I see how little experience with minorities, how little respect and consideration, the authorities and members of the Parliament have. I just saw an openly gay politician laughed out in the lower house, thinking, wow, we have ways to go, before Poland re-orientates itself to focus on the individual and to allow people reach their own potential. If we're there, other groups to stand a chance. But then, I knew this already. Not much has changed for people in wheelchairs in the last 15 years. I wanted to have a life, I wanted to be useful, I needed to be independent and use my skills and I got tired of waiting. So I left.

I think what hurts Poland right now is its pride. It's how it's caught up in its own historical greatness. Yes, a 1000 years is nothing to sneeze at, but from the outside it makes us look petty. And we have real problems. Real people with real problems and yet all I hear and see is national symbols and statements and mournings and extraordinary sense of self importance. And the cross. The Cross is everywhere. History and religion have taken over the debate. Yet nobody talks about what to do to give people, like me but also different from me, the same kind of empowerment, the same feeling of Independence America gives me. And that's why I'm here.

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