It was a hot summer day of 1986. I found myself crossing a street in the then famous Polish district of Chicago around Milwaukee Avenue and Belmont. Went there driven by curiosity to see where many of the Polish immigrants started their new American life and where many ended their dreams falling to alcoholism, loneliness and depression.
A drunken man passed me by spitting by my feet, uttering the words “Polish s*…t”. I was trying to catch my breath viewing this encounter as an absolute injustice. Who was he to speak about me in this way, I thought to myself appalled and wounded deeply. Only nineteen, dressed in a white collar ironed shirt, polite, innocent and a daughter of two aristocrats I didn’t take this insult lightly. Who was he to judge me in this way without knowing anything about me? I passed him by quickly wowing that I would show him what I was capable of, that I would never be part of this community he was referring to so vulgarly.
I came to America exactly 31 years ago, on August 3 of 1986. It was almost impossible to obtain an American visa at the time due to the fact that whoever got it never came back. I was just going to visit my high school sweetheart who started his studies at Western Michigan University where his father, a Polish political immigrant, was a business school professor. Out of all the people gathered in the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw that day, I was the one not ever planning on immigrating and leaving my home, my castle as I often referred to. I felt safe, loved and happy. I didn’t pass the entry exam to the University but was already lining up other possibilities of studying in Southern France. America was just part of the adventure. I didn’t even speak English. At the time I spoke French fluently, was good at Italian, some Russian, had three years of Latin which I absolutely hated and did everything I could to skip classes, but none of English. I looked like a little girl politely dressed with hair gathered in a ponytail. I had just graduated high school and the Embassy clerk was debating whether I would stay in America or not given I obtained a visa. There was a silence between us. I was afraid to say anything while he was making his calculations. Most of the people around me were well built, suitable for physical work. Many were the descendants of early nineteen century American immigrants, especially from the mountain region. America was where they often got wealthy enough to build beautiful houses for their families back in the mountains and create financial stability for generations to come. I was not like them, I felt foreign in these setting, looking unsure as the clerk was weighing down my future.
Ok, he said with the funny Polish accent, I’ll let you go, I just hope you are not going to be like a blue bird. Blue bird, I thought to myself? What was a blue bird? The man explained someone who stays in America and does nothing. I laughed gently thinking why would I do that?
I did not know it at the time, but that faithful day my future was altered forever…
Joanna Puciata is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Founder of Heal ‘N Glow, Student Mentor at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Certified Gluten Practitioner, Holistic Skin Care Designer and Author of Vague Memories and Stripes. Her mission is to teach and inspire people to take responsibility for their lives and live to their fullest potential by being in charge of their actions, thoughts and choices creating a successful and joyful Life by Design. Joanna has mentored hundreds of women worldwide and is known for her tough yet inspiring and feminine approach.