My grandparents all came from Poland, and my desire to visit my ancestral home has been with me since I was a child. I had asked my mother to take me to Poland as a college graduation gift, and the trip was on—until martial law was declared in Poland my senior year, and the trip was off.

It took me another thirty years to get to Poland. Once there, I realized that Polish people thought I was one of them. Time after time, people in shops and restaurants spoke Polish to me, even after I explained I did not speak Polish. How I looked was more convincing than what I said. I felt I had come home.

The next year, I returned to Poland for an immersion language course, and I stayed with a host family. Again, I had a strong sense of belonging. Everywhere I looked, I saw people who looked like my relatives, and I was continually doing double-takes.

On that second trip, I decided I wanted to go a third time—an extended trip (maybe even a few months) to see more of the country and visit the places my grandparents came from.

Then life intervened, and ten years have passed without a return trip to Poland.

I recently attended a workshop on Empowerment, and the presenter asked us to write down what we hoped to accomplish in 2021 and why. The why part intrigued me.

I remembered something from adult education theory about how adults need a reason to learn something. Unlike children, who can soak up random knowledge just because they are told to, adults need a reason. We need to see that what we are learning will help us in some way, often help us achieve a goal, and the goal must have a purpose.

In adult education, we tried to help people who needed a GED or were learning English to see how their lives would be improved by achieving their goals. Writing down their goals and their reasons for the goals helped keep them on track.

I have been studying Polish off and on for the past ten years because I want to be able to communicate my basic needs when I go back to Poland (mainly things like making sure the doughnut I pick has the filling I want).


During the Empowerment workshop, I shared my desire to go to Poland, and the presenter asked why I had not done it. I had not given much thought to the reason behind my procrastination, but in that moment, I could see it was not just life intervening, but also unconscious messages were stopping me from achieving this goal.

The presenter suggested some possible reasons: I don’t deserve it, or I fear people’s judgment or I am scared of failure. All possible for me.

After ten years of saying I want to return to Poland, my goal for 2021 is to plan the trip and be ready to take off in 2022.


2 thoughts on “Empowered

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks. I actually stopped one man on the streets of Krakow and asked if I could take his picture because I thought he was an uncle! So fun.
      Planning travel is almost as exciting as the actual travel, so I am having fun researching and daydreaming.


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