In my finished manuscript entitled Witness: A Contemporary American Memoir, I write about how living on the periphery of my parents’ potent and chilling history affected me long into adulthood, a history that almost broke me.
I was born, not in America, but in England to European parents. My Ukrainian father lost his home, his family, and his country to war. My English mother sacrificed hers when she married my father. And I came of age straddled across an ocean and a history.
I navigate my way through the murky aftermath of my father’s war. With painful reflection, I detail how his psychological terrors, terrors that he brought into our home, terrors that came in the dead of night, and also on days when the sun glowed like a new penny, affected me long into adulthood.
Living in the shadow of a country that was my birthright, my childhood, and a puzzle to me,
I also recount the ways my mother’s stubborn refusal to adapt to life in America, coupled with her decision to relinquish her country for good after my father’s unexpected death, prevented me from claiming either nation like my own.
Cultural confusion. A chronic search for identity. The weight of another’s history.
Every day from every country for any number of reasons, for hundreds, perhaps for thousands of years, people leave the country of their birth for another, some by choice, some because of economic or political threat, and others because of an acute case of wanderlust. In truth, few want to leave permanently, and fewer still return to the landscape they once considered home.
The stark reminder of these topics resonates across centuries, splintering boundaries of culture and country for all of us. Immigrants. War survivors. Dislocated families and broken hearts. Anyone who has grieved a loss of family or country.
Join me as I guide readers through a childhood labyrinth of ambiguity and longing and adolescent grief in a struggle to unpeel the layers of a family history eventually revealing a new path to reconciliation before finding a home to call my own.