Belonging Beyond Borders: Cultural Transition in the Context of Polish Immigration to Canada

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Immigration is a common worldwide phenomenon which has profound effects on an individual’s cultural identity. Indeed, the shift from one culture to another has significant and unexpected consequences for an individual. My essay explores the issues of cultural identity in the context of Polish immigration to Canada. This essay analyzes the Polish-Canadian collection of short stories assembled by Kasia Jaronczyk and Małgorzata Nowaczyk, while also drawing from some of the real-life accounts from the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Although literature from other diaspora communities has been published in Canada previously, the anthology, Polish(ed): Poland Rooted in Canadian Fiction, is the first collection of literature from the Polish diaspora in Canada. Published in 2017, several of these stories offer valuable insight into the Polish immigration experience, even in cases where immigration is not the primary theme of the story but rather forms the backdrop. A close reading of these fictional stories uncovers an array of unique perspectives on the issues of cultural belonging and identity. It is, moreover, an accessible and interesting way to gain an understanding of the issues which come into play with immigration. The issues are manifold. Firstly, the paper considers the complexity of the linguistic challenges involved in immigration. The stories show the struggles, vulnerabilities, and coping strategies used by immigrants to deal with the language barriers. The paper also discusses the importance and role of the diaspora, in terms of its educational, cultural, and social role. The relationship between the diaspora and the immigrant is by no means straightforward; this paper considers some of the nuances of that relationship. Secondly, my paper explores the issue of choosing one’s cultural identity. Specifically, it answers two questions: Is cultural identity something which an individual can claim and choose? And what does the process of cultural transition or adoption involve? Through the lens of the stories, we see that the process of cultural transition includes elements of cultural shock stemming from numerous sources—the topography, popular culture, celebrations—and the experience is unique to each individual; even within one family, the experience is not uniform. A final section of my paper goes beyond the specific context of immigration to show how individuals may adopt other cultures without crossing geographical borders.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Research Material
  • DOI
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International