No, it's not a trick question. Or a Dr Seuss riddle although right now it feels very much like an unsolvable puzzle. Today I found out I was not who I thought I was.
Like many kids with immigrant pasts I wanted to know more about my family. My Polish heritage was passed down through food, community and an affinity with my name but with precious little detail or fact. Who were my Polish ancestors? Where did they live? Where were they during WWI and WWII? Where did they live before that? What were their names? What did they look like? I know absolutely nothing about the people who came before the generation that moved to Australia. So like many I decided to find out. I did a DNA Test.
Today those results came back. Even last night we were joking with the kids. "What if it comes back that I'm not Polish" I asked. "Don't be stupid mum, you're the most Polish person I've ever met" came the response. We laughed.
Well it turns out I'm not Polish.
I am very much Ukrainian and back before the 1800's Slovakian, Hungarian, Moldavian but all clustered around the Ukraine border. I have living DNA-matched relatives in Lviv and Kyiv. But I do not have a single genetic connection to Poland. Out of 14,500 matches, not one.
So as you can imagine I have so many questions today. Who am I? My Polish heritage has been so much a part of my identity for as long as I can remember. Who am I now? And my grandmother taught me to cook what I thought was Polish food but does that mean all this time I've been cooking Ukrainian food? Does that explain the discrepancies from the Polish recipe books? And how did everyone around me come to believe I was Polish? Someone at some point knew the truth. How far back? Did my grandparents adopt a Polish identity to help them escape during WWII? Where did they flee from? I can find records that put them in Dachau but how did they get there?
So many questions! As we keep digging I'll post updates from time to time. I'm sure I'm not the first one to lift the lid of a genetic pandoras box with expectations of certainty and find anything but. So for now - and particularly after the last few years I've had - I am staring into the big blue sky and wondering Who Am I?