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Immigrant Chronicle

Peter Skrzynecki

Feliks Skrzynecki
This poem is a tribute to the dignity and stoicism in the face of loss and hardship to the poets father Feliks whose
journey from Europe to Australia, from one culture to another, echoes through the poem and it s clear that the
impact of the journey is as strong for the son as for the father. This poem highlights that the hardest thing about
physical migration is whether to keep or let go of the memories as migration allows the person to destabilise both
physically and mentally. The poet deals with the emotional consequences of the physical journey.
Title: Feliks
My gentle father

Kept pace only

with the
Joneses/Of his own
minds making
Of his own minds
Loved his garden
like an only child

Tells us that this poem is about how a person can affect your sense of belonging
Possessive noun my
Gentle sets the tone of the poem and reveals the poets perspective of his father as one
of love and admiration
Peter respects and honours Feliks with this kind salutation
Suggests that Feliks is his own man and only wants to do ordinary things well
This allusion to a famous clich sees Feliks reject the ambitions for bigger, better things
as others see the mark of success and belonging Feliks has all he needs, his contentment
is replete and he has achieved a sense of belonging. This sense of gratitude and only
desiring the simple pleasures of life is reflected in the second reference.
Alliteration to show how the poets father was his own man, not driven by pressures
enforced by others
Uses imagery to emphasise the place of belonging for Feliks
Similie like an only child shows the extent of love and devotion to the garden

cement, fingers
with cracks

Like the sods he

broke From the
soil he turned
Ten times around
the world

cement, fingers
with cracks
Why his arms
didnt fall off
His Polish
shook hands too
violently Horses
they bred
I never got used
Always shook
hands too

Twin use of hyperbole in Spent years walking its perimeter and He swept its paths/Ten
times around the world expresses Feliks devotion to his garden, to a place where he
Narrows the focus from the man in his garden to the darkened cracked hands
Powerful images of hard, physical labour

Skrzynecki paints a picture of a man who is not afraid to work and who has come to a
place, his own place, where he is content (He respects his father because through all the
hardships, he still belongs)
Hyperbole creates a sense of belonging in this setting, as he chooses to stay within its
Gives the readers a sense of the fathers dedication to his self-imposed task
Hard labour (but it is a labour of love contrasted with forced labour in Germany he is
working hard in this setting because he has a sense of belonging with it
Manual images help individualise him

From Peters (a kid) perspective, he has superhuman strength

Feliks friends are seen as further sources of acceptance & belonging for Feliks. They share
memories reminiscing about fertile farms and animals in their native Poland. The positive
connotations of the verbs suggest the immigrants shared nostalgia springing from their
common experiences

Peter finds their speech and actions alienating

Negative connotations heighten the sense of Peters discomfort in this situation

Did not dull the
softness of his
blue eyes

I never once

Happy as I have
never been

Hadrians Wall

His father is a survivor whose resilience to suffering has enabled his softness not to be
hardened or dulled by experience.
This imagery juxtaposes the fathers resilience and inner strength with his gentle
Courage and endurance are key traits in his fathers personality. These lines emphasise his
Sense of awe and envy for the man whom he never once hear/Him complain and for
whom nothing, not Five years of forced labour in Germany nor When twice/They dug
cancer out of his foot could dull the softness of his blue eyes.
They are both affected by this curse of racial prejudice and discrimination
A tone of regret the poet cannot share his fathers contentment with the world he has
created for himself. With painful recognition, the poet sees that his father is happy as I
have never been
Reinforces the idea of separation

St Patricks College
This is a reflective appraisal, informed by the benefit of hindsight and subsequent experience. The overall tone is
condemnatory, hinting at institutional alienation rather than any imbuing of school spirit or inclusivity. St Pats is
not presented as a place that effective promoted learning or positive growth. (This poem is about parental
expectations and school)
Skrzynecki attended St Pats for 8 years but it had little impact on him and taught him so little that it left him with
a continued belief that he did not belong.
Mother wants Skrzynecki to belong to new land and right social milieu

Spiritual enlightenment is absent. Education gives meaning to life.

When one doesnt have physical or spiritual belonging, life is meaningless.
- Uniforms: conformity, belonging, unity
Stanza 1 sets the context (poets educational future and experience has been dictated by largely
ill-informed reasons)
Impressed by the
- Starting with adjective foregrounds her emotion and her desire for her son to attain the
status of her employers sons.
- Mothers reason for enrolling him there & mother is reliant on other peoples opinions
- Mother wants to do what Joneses are doing [FS]
St Pats
- Sense of familiarity
With never a
To fees and
wanting only
What was best
Stanza 2
Of the secondary
school block
Our Lady
watched Her

Tone implies she made a hasty decision swayed by outward appearances

Enjambment makes the direct speech of mother more imperative

Caesura: dramatic pause

Dialogue, clich
Migrant mother wants her son to be educated in a way that is best; that will help him
belong in a new country


Personification & religious imagery

Watching but cant see

overshadowed by

With outstretched
Mother crossed

I stuck pine

I thought was a
brand of soap
Stanza 3
For eight years

I walked

Our Lady still watching - repetition

Mother figure meant to nurture but doesnt
Our Lady = universal motherhood
Biblical allusion: Virgin Mary for intercedes humanity
Religion meant to shine light on you but overshadowed by darkness
Play on dark and light
Mother entrusts sons future to symbolic mother (however, in the last stanza, with closed
eyes portrays that no one was watching him for 8 years)
Imagery conveys protection, love, nurture

Sees religion as ritual

Mother detached and formal
Mother is religious (Christian school) belonging to a religion hope son has same
values as her
Act of rebellion and a sign of emotional anxiety
Humour contrast between Mother saying a prayer for her son & his success at the school
while the son is sticking pine needles in the school motto contrasts between the
mothers world and the childs is humourously evoked in the lines
[Ironic undertone goes to school to be enlightened]
He doesnt feel spiritually nourished
Sarcastic contextual reference highlights how alone the young boy feels

Repetition emphasizes how long Skrzynecki didnt belong in a school community

Suggests the boring, repetitive quality of his school experiences
Tone of resentment
Gives time/location
Locational reference allows readers to get their geographical bearings

Strathfields paths
and streets
Like a foreign
Uncertain of my
Stanza 4
I carried the blue,
black and gold
Id been
privileged to wear

Singular pronoun he is alone, not we

Invisible moving through, cant share feelings and thoughts

Doesnt know where to go
Never felt comfortable or confident
Suggest a sense of alienation and confusion not knowing where he really belonged

Like a burden

Ironic told to feel this way

Paradox just conforming, not learning anything.
Wearing uniform = privilege, never felt proud
Extended metaphor Reinforces light/dark in paradoxical nature

Was never too

bright at science
Stanza 5 impressions, monotone, just about physical environment, no sense this place touched his
Unchanged by
- Represents Peter unchanged after 8 years
eight years
- Emphasises security, stability and sense of belonging given by their Catholic faith
With closed eyes
- Cannot see into soul
- How can she see? Lacking sight and insight
- Skrzyneckis mother has been duked by symbolic mother eyes closed havent been
Voices at bus
- Voices, not friends
That the darkness
- Extended metaphor religious dark/light imagery
around me
- Symbolic use of darkness darkness surrounding him
Before I let my
- Ends poem with powerful expression of poets detachment

light shine


Left place can finally live his own life now

I he will determine his future not like his Mum whose choices are influenced by
uniforms of employers sons
Strong religious faith is a powerful form of belonging that acts as a guiding beacon through

elegy: a poem of mourning for the dead

This poem is based on a dream. It is highly rhetorical and reflective. It is structured around 5 rhetorical
questions about the personas ancestors which query our relationship with those who have preceded us.
Philosophical reflection developed in 2nd person moves poem beyond the very personal to encompass how
we all feel about our ancestors.
Skrzynecki has ambivalent feelings of his cultural past.
Tone: speculative, as Skrzynecki reflects on human identity and the chain of life that links us all to our
ancestors. Any understanding of who we are involves a consideration of our connection to others.
His ancestors are known of and referred to but are not individualized, signifying an ancestral chain but
remaining netherworld figures; enigmatic and only half-formed.
His ancestors are not a part of him for he has not embraced his heritage; he does not belong to it. His
ancestors visit him in a dream and they try to point out a path but he is unable to interpret their message to
make connections.
His heritage is calling out to him in this poem. He is drawn to his past Polish inheritance but doesnt
understand it or its role in his Australian life.
Rhetorical Questions
o He wants answers for a sense of purpose and belonging to make his presence more meaningful by
understanding his past but this eludes him.

o Questions clearly speak of disconnectedness, a sense of not belong to something that may be
important. It is clear that Skrzynecki is not sure how important his past is or should be but his at least
willing to ask.
Stanza 1 sound device: sibilance conveys quiet/whisper/secrets/eerie
Who are these
- Metaphor indistinct but haunts his sense of self
- Figures have a nightmarish quality which is developed though simple but evocative visual
- Negative connotations of adjectives shadows and hang create a feeling of the personas
fear and uncertainty about these men
That hang over
- Verb implies threat
you in a dream
- You listener/reader drawn into this world this is a masterful strategy to highlight the
personas isolation; the responder empathetically engages with it
- First rhetorical question introduces persona s relationship with his ancestors rhetorical
shoulder to
question further highlights the personas isolation and state of confusion
- Makes them threatening in numbers and intimidating in their stance. Also, they belong
shoulder to shoulder whereas Skrzynecki is alone
- Contrast between the solitary persona & the group highlights the personas lack of
connection or belonging to this group
- The sibilance within the last line augments the tenor of disquiet created by the poets
reference to these nameless and faceless men
The bearded,
- Elusive imagery
faceless men
- Simply but evocative visual imagery
- Nightmarish quality
- Faceless = anonymity
- Their faces are obscured by the dark
Stanza 2
What secrets/Do
- Highlights personas lack of knowledge in contrast to the ancestors understanding

they whisper

Sibilance of s onomatopoeic whisper emphasizes secrets that he cannot access but

he cant ignore because hes curious tone of mystery
His sleep is broken by whispered secrets nothing is distinct or clear, developing an
atmosphere of uneasiness
Literal and metaphorical contradicts the seeing eyes

Rhetorical question
Haunting, death mask, timeless
They have secrets that he will never know unless he crosses the mountains etc.
The ever-open eyes of these figures we wonder what they are looking at or for

To where?
Directions are unclear, mirroring the indistinct quality of dreams also raises the level of
uncertainty and apprehension felt by the dreamer

Whisper into the

Why do their
Stanza 3
Where do they
point to
Do their
footprints lead?
From the circle
around you -

Key word symbol of perfection, unity

The ring they form around the poet is both encircling and yet directional
Ring suggests poet is being entrapped by the figures
Dramatic caesura break up his questions further suggests the breaking of his thoughts
as he considers new uncertainties
To what star
- Biblical allusion
- Symbol of destiny
- Beyond sight
- Part of the physical world
Stanza 4 creates an image of natural world vast plains that continue without an impact from
- Far away landscape
moonlit plain
- Simple, sensory imagery describes the sound of a river and a moonlit plain giving some
semblance of place but not enough to get any real bearings or location (contrast with St

Moonlit plain dreamlike landscape, creates a feeling of peace yet poet does not
participate in this world, but only sees it from a distance, behind them
- Out of reach
- Answers are there but he cannot reach them he will never know
Stanza 5 3 line stanza for dramatic emphasis
Why do
- Emphasis on never suggests the personas frustration with the recurrence of their images
they/Never speak
without allowing him insight
how long
- Urgency is created by the use of the hyphen creates a pregnant pause in the middle of
the question being asked involves reader in the questioning process challenging us to
respond from a personal perspective
how long/is their
- Continues paradox of pointing but where?
wait to be?
- He wants answers
- There is something external that keeps the ancestors from speaking. It is ambiguous what
this is, but it could be the personas fears of belonging in the world of his family and cultural
heritage. He wants their secrets without connecting with them or committing himself to
their cultural world. His attitude to their world is a barrier to his belonging.
Stanza 6 last two stanzas show personas insight into the consequences of his decision not to
Why do you
- Irony of dreams wake before answers
wake/As their
- The nightmare quality is not relieved by wakefulness which brings limited relief
faces become
- Disquiet remains, for consciousness ironically makes their faces disappear just as they
become clearer. They remain metaphorically out of reach
Your tongue
- As metaphor
dry/As caked
- Visual intensity of metaphor emphasizes the negative impact of this ancestral visitation
which neither soothes nor appeases the dreamer
- Metaphor heightens responders awareness of his discomfort and anxiety about the world
that his ghostly ancestors represent
- Fear/anxiety

Stanza 7
From across the

Mud = soil/natural images = link between dreams and reality

Preposition across metaphor to convey the metaphysical world

The final images contrasts with the image behind the ancestors during the dream. It is
ambiguous where across the plain is located, but it is in the personas waking, emotional
Cant change life cemented, stuck
The sand and grasses never stir in his emotional world, symbolizing his inability to be
emotionally moved enough to make a concrete decision to belong to his ancestors world.
Yet his is aware that this has terrible consequences
Blood = Him and his ancestors share the same blood he feels connected to them but he
cant get to them never stir (consequence)
Wind movement, life paradoxically does not stir anything but the blood ties/life/spirit
Never stir Wind tastes of blood Contradiction

Where sand and

grasses never

The wind tastes

of blood

10 Mary Street
The poem encapsulates the story of a family life through reminiscing about the past. The house, the garden, the
activities and daily routine.
Free verse effect of a sudden flashback of memories that come unbidden from the past conveys palpable
sense of belonging
Stanza 1
For nineteen


Poet depicts their domestic routine, unity of existence stressed by the use of the inclusive
term we generates a collaborative, inclusive image of routine family life
Repetition of nineteen years reinforces the tedium of routine & length of time spend in
family home highlights that the length of time spent in one place doesnt mean we will

Like a well-oiled

Hid the key

Over that still

too-narrow bridge

feel that we belong

Plural pronoun we he was not alone creates sense of unity and family
Well-oiled cared for
Similie evokes a comforting image of trouble free familiarity, without hindrance or strife
life moves on though its natural daily rhythms
A sense of comfort of routine is established
Lock disciplined, unchanging
This lock and key imagery reinforces the overall sense of family security that was achieved
at this address, in the family home
Metaphor for narrow mindedness
Bridge protects them from outside world
Image connotes discomfort and suggest the narrowness of opinion with which the
immigrant family was regarded across the bridge
Childs hyperbole
Allusion to surrounding environment and hints at threats/danger/hostice

Factory/That was
always burning
Stanza 2 conversational through enjambed lines
Washing clothes
- Metonymic device to convey parents working world
laying sewerage
My parents
- Juxtaposition of working lives with garden imagery evolving a sense of nurturing through
verbs and emphasised by caesura
grew potatoes
- Garden imagery to depict the positive quality of his home life
Tended roses and
- Their tenderness is particularly conveyed in the simile Skrzynecki is comparatively
thoughtless in his treatment of the garden where he belongs
adopted children
- Tendering garden is his parents routine he is excluded from this activity (similar to FS)
Like a hungry
- Similie reinforces the parenting duty of feeding and nurturing offspring, giving them a good
start in life before they fly the nest
- Desire to be nourished

BIRDS symbols of freedom, flight & beauty, symbol of the soul. Poet is seeking a different
world to his parents he wants to fly the nest.
Stanza 3 - shift in focus from past to present, sad tone as house is rezoned for industry
The house
- Personification highlights the connection the persona feels towards the house (the ties
stands/In its
forged with this house)
china-blue coat
- Imagery such detail gives house a personality individualizes house
With paint
- Irony loss of that sense of permanency change is inevitable
- Mundane comment
another ten years
Stanza 4 inside the home
For nineteen
- Family life was harmonious and secure
years/We lived
- The home is a place of belonging, of togetherness; the persona includes himself in the
first person plural
- Familys sense of attachment to each other and the house
- Emphasis reinforces his sense of belonging to family and community
- Inclusive pronoun is repeated to convey their connection
- Juxtaposition of 2 cultures
- 2 worlds coalesce shaping the personas outlook and perception of self inner and outer
- Idiomatic expression alluding to Australia
- Parents strong cultural connection to food and drinks and pre-war
Stanza 5 bridges the gap between then and now and looks to the future
Naturalized more
- Now naturalized with Australia literally and figuratively
Inheritors of a key
- Key to country and house symbolized cultural identity, in tearing it down and naturalizing
the family there is a loss of cultural identity
- Linking past with future literal key in S1 and the metaphorical key in this stanza
- Key to a different world their next step in life
- Key = key to contentment in life connection with people, the land and a strong
understanding of your cultural history

Thatll open no
house/When this
one is pulled down

No sense of continuity loss of identity, no spiritual roots, they are transient

Confronts Skrzynecki family with its fragility and transience their symbolic key will open
no house
House has symbolized their cultural identity in the act of tearing it down, there is an
anxiety communicated in the persona about the loss of their cultural identity
The negative connotations of pulled down end the poem with a tone of regret and
anxiety the past is gone and the future is uncertain

Post Card Reconciliation

A postcard is a particular kind of correspondence that denotes temporary residence and holiday rather than
Being the final poem in the anthology, it symbolically represents the ambivalence that Skrzynecki feels about
belonging to his cultural heritage.
First person allows Skrzynecki to resonate
Section 1, Stanza 1 poet receives a postcard and describes it
A postcard sent
- The enjambment of the first line of the poem causes emphasis to fall heavily on the
by a friend
word haunts
- The negative connotations of this verb highlight the lingering impact of the image on
the persona
- It symbolizes that the postcard and its subject are significant to poet because they
represent the ghost of his heritage
Haunts me
- The poet challenges readers expectations by giving the postcard haunting qualities.
These are not the sort of things that are typically ascribed to a quickly scribbled missive
whilst on holiday. It is not the postcard itself so much as what it signifies in terms of
connection to homeland and a prior experience and sense of belonging

Ironically the image evokes a groundswell of feeling further irony is that its not for him
the friend recognizes he has no ties with Warsaw
He requests I
- Ironically the postcard would mean totally different things to his parents. He is
show it/To my
requested to show it to his parents and he knows their response will be personal and
- The persona is positioned as beyond a connection to this place through his friends
request to show it to my parents
- The persona is presumed to lack interest, whereas the parents are assumed to be
interested because of their emotional connection to the city
Stanza 2 This section is deceptively simple for Skrzynecki has set up a clever puzzle by
juxtaposing a factual description of a post card in two stanzas with an emotional conundrum that
comes in two words Haunts me
Red buses on a
- There is nothing extraordinary on the postcard
- By highlighting features of the scene, the poet is stressing the commonplace aspect of
something/Like a
the card as well as using visual imagery that enables the reader to clearly picture the
park borders/The
scene emphasizes that the image has both literal and figurative connotations
Something/Like a
- The enjambment tells us that not all the detail is clear though The skys the brightest
- Indefinite words suggest the personas indifference to the scene
Section 2, Stanza 3
Warsaw, Old
- Apostrophe (directly addressing the old city of Warsaw as if it was living
Town,/I never
- This image leads to the persona addressing Warsaw in the 2nd person
knew you
- This personification attempts to bridge a divide between the city and the persona; the
city he had previously known only in the third person
- Personification allows him to debate within himself his relationship to this place
- Skrzynecki is speaking directly to the idea of Warsaw, referring to it in ode form
- Old Town something he can never know for it is gone
That bombs
- The destruction of the city and its inhabitants is listed in a series of verbs with negative

In the minds/Of a
dying generation
Half a world
away./They shelter

Under the White

Eagles flag

Stanza 4
I repeat, I never
knew you

Let me be.

My father/will be
proud/Of your

connotations, destroyed, massacred, exiled. Yet the city is addressed in an

apostrophe: You survived/In the minds/Of a dying generation/Half a world away
Describes passionately through emotive verbs eg. destroyed
The old Warsaw is gone, it was bombed out of existence, it survives only in memory
and tragically soon enough it will cease to exist altogether
Describing his parents and their friends as a dying generation carries an implication
of his scorn for their continuing attachment to the city
They, the migrants now settled in Australia have become the spiritual custodians of
Old Warsaw, shielding it from change
They retain connection with their city, their spiritual homeland, shown by remaining
vicariously concerned for its welfare
Political references are made to the White Eagles flag, the nationalistic standard that
denotes their ethnicity
Despite living in a new city, these older migrants find a sense of collective belonging in
reminiscing about their Old Town and enacting its old customs and practices. The
persona clearly distances himself from this, separated through the distinction made
between the pronouns I and They
Repetition introduces a stronger more argumentative tone
The phrase, I never knew you is repeated with the added imperative, Let me be.
The repetition and imperative highlight the way that the image confronts the personas
sense of identity
He feels that the city calls to him and he asks it to Let me be. This phrase stresses
the undeniable pull of his cultural heritage, which affects him in ways he cannot fully
Adamant denial of a connection builds in 2nd section defiantly proclaims let me be
He predicts the effects the postcard will have on his parents his father will be proud
while his mother will be nostalgic. She will speak of her nostalgic Ukraine reinforcing

domes and
mother/will speak
of her/Beloved
Whats my
choice/To be?

mankinds inherent love of home

He rhetorically asks about his choice of home he in uncertain and frustrated

He has no similar affinity for any one place which increases his fascination for its impact
on them and those like them he can recognize the pull but does not fully
comprehend it
- He realizes that there are ties of belonging which forces him to ask Whats my
choice/To be?
- His attitude contrasts to his parents: his father will be proud of the buildings; his
mother will speak of her/Beloved Ukraine. Yet he confronts the real issue in the
rhetorical question
- The persona is aware of his lack of belonging to this place on the postcard, but is also
aware that he has chosen to distance himself from it during his upbringing.
- He is uncertain of what future choices he can make to reconcile his lack of connection
to the city
- He acknowledges that he has given the city only the superficial recognition/Of eyesight
and praise. Yet a tone of desperation creeps in as he asks, What more/Do you
want/Besides/The gift of despair? This rhetorical question, spaced over 4 lines, reveals
the true impact of the visual on his sense of self. He senses that the image demands
more than his surface admiration, but does not want to be claimed by this city
Stanza 5 short stanza separates 10 words into 4 lines represents the emotional weight of the
question and the tension Skrzynecki feels in the dilemma of recognizing a sense of belonging to
something that no longer exists
I can give you/The
- He concludes that he can mirror his parents praise but rhetorical asks what else he
can give.
eyesight and
- A metaphorical battle is taking place in him


The city of his birth has a magnetic quality and demands an acknowledgement that he
is loath to give. There is an inkling fear of commitment, a hesitation to acknowledge
this vague but undeniable allegiance to our birthplace
The city is personified and given a force that demands the recognition and reverence

What more/Do
you want
Section 3, Stanza 6 The persona finally acknowledges the impact of his Polish heritage on his
identity but he has made up his mind to reject the tie of belonging to his past
I stare/At the
- I stare highlights how drawn he is to this place. It is almost as if there is a contest of
wills, he is refusing to answer/The voices calling to him. The bond is undeniable,
haunting and mesmerizing
- It is a photograph of a world he is not really part of and yet is strongly affected by it
And refuse to
- The city is alive with history and culture that the poet has little knowledge of
- He comprehends the voices that whisper to people such as his parents but
reservations make him want to refuse to answer them
And a cloudless
- The brightness of the Warsaw skies in S1 is mirrored by its cloudless skies in this
stanza. There is a crispness and clarity in the image that enhances its positive ability to
draw the viewer
Stanza 7 The prophetic last 4 lines signifies that although Skrzynecki denies empathetically the
call of his birthplace and his cultural heritage, he will always be connected to Europe;
communicating his reconciliation with his Polish heritage and culture and his legacy
A lone
- The poet has highlighted the significance and impact of cultural identity regardless of
context. The city retains the power to whisper to him across the years and the miles. It
signifies a cultural element in his identity that cannot and should not be ignored
- The scene transfixes him, asserting a hold over him that he finds difficult to dismiss
- The city is given the qualities of a siren, tempting and alluring
- He is one of her own and she will not let him escape the spell she casts over all her
people, close or far
- lone tree inevitable
- Ambiguous can be a positive or a negative thing

We will meet

Before you die.

The word we personalizes the image of the city calling to him and making an
assignation before death
He might deny belonging to this past he cannot understand being a child of two worlds
and having only lived in one, but his blood and kin(family) connect him to the other and
this is something he will have to face at some time
The city has uttered a challenge that she will receive his homage as much as he may
resist her demands
The power of his cultural heritage is reinforced by the use of direct speech We will
meet/Before you die The high modality and imperious tone makes it seem preordained that he will return, albeit against his will
The final words come not from the persona, but from A lone tree on the rivers
bank. An ambiguous relationship is initiated by the tree, whispering, We will
meet/Before you die It is uncertain whether the meeting will be positive or negative,
but it is inevitable. The citys pull on the persona is inescapable, despite his resistance
and attempts to avoid connection. He belongs to his Polish heritage and must
eventually confront it