ANA Mileage: 221,317 miles

Oh I miss Polish food. Juicy sausages, delicious hams, amazing soup. None of them are available in Japan. There are some substitutes like Germany sausages, but they don’t really cut it.

I’ve been with Marcin for 14 years, but the only time I visited Poland was back in 2008 when we had our wedding ceremony there. His parents live in Lodz, the second biggest city, and at that time Asians were a rarity there. My family, Asian friends and I got stared at wherever we went. We found it amusing.

Every now and then, I have an urge to visit Poland. But I haven’t, for the last 10 years. It is much easier to go there from Japan than from Australia (where we used to live), as Lot Airways fly directly from Narita to Warsaw. I can get a reward return flight for 55,000 miles and the direct flight takes only 11:30 hours. So obviously it’s not about the financial cost of going to Poland that stops me from visiting Marcin’s birthplace.

Is it about Marcin’s parents? No. His parents are cool. His mother – Mamusha – had him when she was 18, so she is an amazingly young-minded 65 year old mother. His father, Arek, two years younger than Mamusha, is the funniest Polish man I’ve ever met. They both have always loved me for all these years like a daughter they never had. When Marcin talks to them on Skype (which happens everyday around 5-6pm), they are always asking us when we are visiting next.

His parents are cool, the food is amazing and I have enough miles to get free flights to Poland anytime I wish. Then why don’t I go? It is the emotional stress that comes along with family gatherings when visiting a family overseas.

It’s so complex that I don’t know where to begin. For starter, Marcin has a biological father, whom I’ve refused to meet. Mamusha divorced him when Marcin was 5 years old. He had a problem with alcohol and did almost nothing to help Mamusha raise Marcin. When I visited Poland in 2008, I refused to see him. For me, Arek was the one and only father.

Then his cousin. He has three of them, and one of them has stopped talking to Mamusha and Arek after his mother, Mamusha’s sister, committed a suicide. His cousin somehow blames his parents for his mother death. If I were Marcin’s, I wouldn’t talk to this cousin who disrespects my parents. Yet he still talks to him on important occasions like birthdays. He considers this as a problem between his parents and his cousin, and there is no reason why he has to abandon a relative with whom he spent his unique childhood through Poland’s difficult times in the 70s and 80s.

There are more complex family-related issues, but this is enough to distress me about going to Poland. Regardless of who doesn’t get along with whom, there will inevitably be family gatherings if we visit.

Missing Polish food, I sometimes ask Marcin if we could go to Poland, but not telling anybody apart from his parents. He rolls his eyes and says “Impossible”. Then I came up with the idea of not flying to Poland, but to Berlin and meet his parents at the German-Polish border (I’m looking at Google Map now and it looks like Szczecin might be a good candidate). His eye balls still roll:

“How can I say to my relatives and friends, ‘Oh I’m going to be in Poland, but I won’t be seeing you.’”

Then how have I managed to avoid a visit for many years without being seen as a bad daughter-in-law to his parents, relatives and friends? I’m genius. Here is what I’ve been doing.

I occasionally send Marcin to Poland alone, with lots of gifts to everyone. Then I have invited his parents to see us in a country in which we live.

By doing so, everyone wins: I don’t have to go through family dramas, and we are seen as good kids flying his parents around the world. Between 2005 and 2019, we have flown his parents to the following destinations:

MamushaArek
Sydney, Australia21
Gold Coast, Australia21
Paris, France11
Bangkok, Thailand11
Tokyo, Japan33
Cebu Island, Philippines10
Hong Kong & Macau01
Amami Oshima Island, Japan10

My Poland is where Marcin and his parents are.Family is very important, but getting to 50 years old, I don’t want family dramas and stress associated with families. I do miss Polish food, but wherever we are, I feel Poland as far as Mamusha cooks Polish food and see Marcin and his parents crack up at each other’s jokes, with tears rolling down their checks.

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