Belonging Essay

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For individuals to feel a sense of acceptance and belonging to place, people around them need to accept them as they are. Belonging to a place occurs through our interactions with people around us. The failure to understand or accept an individual’s uniqueness prevents this sense of belonging from developing. Texts that explore belonging to a place through connections to people are Peter Skrzynecki's poems, "Feliks Skrzynecki", "10 Mary Street" and "Migrant Hostel", the short film, “Be My Brother” directed by Genevieve Clay and from the website,, the online article, “Making sense of this place” by Susanna Freymark. Each of these texts encourages the responder to reflect not only upon the importance of belonging to a place, but also on the way in which understanding and acceptance by others impacts on one's ability to form this connection. In the poem, “Feliks Skrzynecki”, Peter Skrzynecki describes the sense of belonging achieved by his father through his attachment to his Polish friends. Feliks’s friends are a source of understanding as they share common memories, experiences and traditions. Together they “reminisced about farms where paddocks flowered…Horses they bred, pigs they were skilled in slaughtering.” The positive connotations expressed in these lines allude to the immigrants’ shared experiences and heritage, and the solace which Feliks derives from the connection with his Polish friends further nourishes his sense of cultural belonging. \ Peter, however, does not feel this same sense of inclusion as he does not understand the Polish culture or the behaviour of his father’s friends. This is demonstrated in his reference to how they, “Always shook hands too violently” and the “formal address /I never got used to”. This same sense of lack of understanding and alienation also exists between father and son. Peter’s allusion to “Hadrian’s Wall” in the lines, “Watched me pegging my tents/ Further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall” and his admission that, "I forgot my first Polish word", are indicative of the widening gap between them as both father and son find it increasingly difficult to share a common understanding or a sense of cultural community . Feliks's garden, to which he has a great affinity, is yet another place where he feels secure and blissful. From the talks he has with his friends it is evident that he is used to hard physical labour and that he understands and has a close bond with the land. The poet writes that Feliks loved his garden, "like an only child". This simile emphasizes the love and devotion that his father lavishes upon the garden, and the hyperbole, "swept its paths Ten times around the world" suggests his connection with it and the way in which he has created for himself a world which he understands and with which he can identify and belong. Peter describes his father sitting in the evening “With his dog, smoking” and reflects that he was, “Happy as I have never been”. This last statement further emphasizes Peter’s feeling of alienation and dislocation from a place in which his father is completely content. Developing a sense of belonging through understanding can also be seen in the poem “10 Mary Street”. This poem describes the emotions of an immigrant family through their process of integration into the Australian society and their understanding of the Polish culture. The house is a place where, after having lived there for nineteen years”, they feel they belong. Understanding “the whole block” gives an indication of their connection to the house and their familiarity with their local neighbourhood. The statement that,“Each morning the house was shut like a well-oiled lock", illustrates their routine movements and the reference to the ‘lock’ represents the security they feel living in the house. Their home is warm and inviting, illustrated by the description of it painted “in its china-blue coat”. The color suggests vibrancy and life...
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