#5 - Home is where the
Jody Finver - 10 December,
Hi! At long last, a journal from Jody.
I wrote this awhile back when I was in Poland. The trip got
frantic, my disk got lost, I got kidnapped by aliens and then
the dog ate my homework. For those of you who have been emailing
asking where I went, here you go and aw shucks, thanks :)
This is for Mom and Dad. And Uncle Irwin.
OK, and Carol.
4:17pm Poland. The weather and the landscape
scream Trick or Treat. The country roads are lined with trees
and apple orchards. The leaves, golden yellow and oxblood, blow
about like fairy dust. It feels like a luxury car commercial.
The homes are fairly large, two stories. Oatmeal colored, with
red tile roofs. Beautifully maintained lawns and flower beds
brimming with marigolds and rose gardens. I never expected it
to be so enchanting. Poland is making me homesick.
I don’t mean I want to get on a plane and
head back. Homesick is a term I use rather loosely since I have
no clearly defined sense of where home is any more. See, if
you ask me where I am from or where home is, I usually stumble
out an answer and it’s rarely the same answer. If it’s where
my furniture is stored, well then it’s San Francisco. If it’s
where my mom and dad live and where I go on holidays, then it’s
Miami. If it’s where I spent my childhood, it’s New Jersey.
And New York. If it’s where I have my fondest memories, it’s
Chicago. I’ve lived in so many places, my name is encrusted
in White Out in my parents’ address book. I would love to answer
with “I am not an Athenian, I am a citizen of the world.” Was
that Plato? Or Socrates? Maybe Aristotle? Anyway, I’m not Greek
so it doesn’t work. I really should just point to the truck
because as Gulin says, “right now I live in a green truck called
Max.” Home is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I’m a
native New Yorker, Jersey girl, from Miami with a storage space
in San Francisco who lives in a green truck called Max. My life
reads like a witness protection program, yet here I am in Poland
and I feel homesick. Good grief.
4:45pm Decided it isn’t homesickness as much as it’s that Poland
feels like home and makes me nostalgic for my childhood. Dinner
at Café Ariel in Kazmirez, Krakow was like Friday night dinner
at my Grandma and Aunt Rose’s (though Rose and Grandma were much
better cooks). Physically, this place looks like New Jersey. And
I don’t mean the Turnpike. I mean the countryside where there
were cornfields and pumpkin patches and you rode your bike after
school through the woods and your mom would drive you to the apple
orchard for cider and donuts.
5:03pm Hmmm, thinking about it a bit more
and my only other option is that I am experiencing some metaphysical
“Sixth Sense’’/”Crossing Over with John Edwards” Sci-Fi Channel
phenomena and my ancestors are channeling to me. I can hear
them calling me now, ‘Jodeeeeeee....Jodeeeeeeee…welcome home…such
a punim… close the door sweetie, we’re not heating the whole
I really don’t know much of my family history.
Outside of one grandmother born in Warsaw and immigrating when
she was in diapers, the rest of my family history was always
veiled in a cloud of mystery. I had no idea what towns my ancestors
really came from. I only found out last year. As a child, I
was told we were from Galicia and that we were Austrian - that’s
all. No one waxed nostalgic about the ‘old country’ in my family.
I’m third generation American. The old country for us, is Brooklyn.
But I remember being around 14 and searching on maps of Austria
for Galicia. Just to get a minute sense or clue as to where
we came from. What a futile task. It wasn’t on any map I ever
looked at. Of course that might be because it’s not in Austria!
Sure the immigration papers say we’re Austrian, but that’s sorta
by technicality. Or occupation.
My family lived in the towns of Przemsyl
and Toporov during the Austro-Hungary Empire. In actuality,
Premzsyl is in south-eastern Poland about an hours drive from
Krakow. And Toporov? That would be the Ukraine, Bob - land of
them there painted eggs. But as my mother points out, when her
grandmother sailed over, the Hapsburgs were driving the bus
so ‘we’re of Austrian decent’. I kinda have this feeling that
when my family lived there, they didn’t call themselves Austrian
Occupied Ukranian, nor did they start selling t-shirts that
said, ” Kiss Me, I’m Austrian Controlled Polish.” Hell, they
probably didn’t even know who was ruling what and as soon as
they arrived at Ellis Island they got their new names and poof,
they were American. Still… I feel some kind of connection here.
5:12pm Finding it near impossible to articulate
what Aushwitz and Birkenau were like for me. I don’t even want
to write about it. But that said…
The bunks at Aushwitz were labeled signifying
which nationalities were kept where. In the one labeled Poland,
there was a giant map with red lights that blinked as the Nazis
took over. All three areas, which were then considered Poland,
blinked. Warsaw. Przemsyl. Toporov. Then they stayed lit. Obliterated.
I stood there for about ten minutes. I just kept hitting the
button, watching them blink and then freeze. I couldn’t stop
until Janet called me to go and watch some war film.
At both camps I walked around by myself. Didn’t speak to anyone.
If you want to see photos, look at Jeff’s journal. I couldn’t
bring myself to take out my camera. It just didn’t seem right.
I certainly don’t need photos to remember what happened there.
I made a point of walking the rail line at Birkenau from the last
wood plank all the way to the entrance of the camp. It was a pilgrimage
of sorts and I was obsessive about this. I just kept thinking
of all the people that took the train in one way. I had to walk
it the way out. It might sound stupid, but it was just something
I had to do. It was a thoroughly depressing day. A day that will
stay with me throughout my life. But I am glad and grateful I
We never went to Przemsyl or Toporov and
I am not bothered in the least. Not like I had an address to
look up. But I was in the Malopolska region, I was in the ‘hood’
and that was enough. I laughed. I cried. It was better than
5:35pm Am no longer thinking my ancestors
are calling to me. Logic has taken over and the feeling of feeling
home is just a side affect of the Autumn weather. I realized
this at the border. Crossing into Lithuania the roads look quite
similar and I experienced the same feeling. We’re not Lithuanian.