Migrant Hostel - Peter Skrzynecki

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Peter Skrzynecki's 'Migrant Hostel', Parkes 1949 - 1951, illustrates how in the initial stages of belonging, people feel insecure, experience doubt and fear and search for friendships to establish a sense of security. The poem is in 4 stanzas and each stanza is more than 6 lines long. Each stanza is one sentence and several ideas are brought out within each sentence. This syntax visually shows how doubtful and tentative the migrants were when they came to Australia. Australia was supposed to be a haven for these troubled masses who were coming from prison-like camps during World War 2 and, ironically, the migrants were transported to hostels similar to their prisoner of war camps. The title itself is ironic in the poem, because hostels were supposed to give comfort but this one in Parkes created a sense of insecurity and alienation. To overcome this insecurity, Skrzynecki's family sought for friendships, instinctively linking on with people of similar accents, surnames and places of origin. Similes such as "nationalities sought each out instinctively - a homing pigeon" and "we lived like birds of passage - always sensing a change in the weather" show, for belonging, they needed friendship and trust. Symbolically, pigeons - like these European migrants - were also foreign birds that were brought from overseas to find a home in Australia. There are a lot of antithetical phrases that display the doubt, anxiety and fear experienced by new Australians, such as "comings and goings" in and out of our life, the gate needing its sanction to pass in and out of our lives and "lives that had only begun or were dying". This shows how in the initial stages of belonging, every individual is confused whether he or she belong to a group or not.

The metaphorical expression "A barrier at the main gate sealed off the highway from our doorstep - as it rose and fell like a finger pointed in reprimand or shame" creates an image of incarceration which these Polish migrants encounter...
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