A Sort of Homecoming

There’s a common story told about many people from Central and Eastern Europe of being born in one city, never moving but changing nationality many times through the 20th century. It was true for people in Prague and it was true for the people of Pula, where my grandparents were born. When I got to Europe I soon wanted to visit the city and learn some more about my roots.

I’m sure many of you know Croatia well and have probably visited Pula. The city is on the sea, so has many opportunities for going to the beach, taking boat trips or visiting historical sites. And while I visited these places, I was more curious about seeing the world my grandparents had left behind.

Melting pot is a term used to describe many different nationalities or cultures all living in the same city or area together.

My grandparents were born in the first decade of the 20th century. Pula was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. My grandparents spoke Italian as their first language but could also speak some Croatian and understood German. It was the type of cultural melting pot a boy growing up in the culturally boring suburbs of Perth dreamed about.

My wife and I went there by train from Slovenia. While waiting for our train to Pula at Ljubljana we missed the announcement, which was in Slovenian. There was going to be another difficulty. The only contact I had with my distant relative – a second cousin of my mother – was an address. I wrote a letter in my limited Italian, telling him that we would be coming to visit. But I sent it the day we left the Czech Republic so I didn’t know if he had got it.

If something gives you a lift, it makes you feel happy or cheerful. Don’t confuse it with someONE giving you a lift – this means they drove you somewhere.

After a long train ride we got off at Pula. After a year in the Czech Republic, I got a lift from seeing the sea a few hundred meters away. Our plan was to find the nearest campsite and try to locate my distant relative. We put our backpacks on our shoulders and I got the shock of my life.

A photo of me from about seven years earlier was thrust in front of my face. It had been a while since I’d seen myself looking so thin. Holding the photo was a man in his late forties. With him was a young woman who in perfect English explained that the man was my mother’s second cousin. She was his daughter and they were going to take us to their house for lunch.

My letter had arrived that morning. Had we got there on time, we would have arrived before the letter and they wouldn’t have known we were coming. But this way we were lucky – we had a ride and my cousin’s wife was preparing lunch.

I had to use all my basic Italian, but fortunately his daughter spoke English really well. Most surprising was that this man’s father was still alive. The old man was the cousin of my grandfather and at 90 still spoke a tiny bit of English. Even more interestingly, the old man was born near Brno. That my then girlfriend (now wife) was Czech was mentioned by everyone. It was as though we’d come full circle.

Sadly, not many pieces of my grandparents’ life there remained. But the place seemed strangely familiar. The pines, the limestone, the sea and its typical smell reminded me in some ways of my hometown of Perth. My wife wondered if that was why my grandmother moved there. I doubt it. My grandmother cried when she first arrived in Australia. I don’t think she ever fully left her homeland.

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Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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There’s a common story about many people from Central and Eastern Europe. They were born in one city, never moved but changed nationality many times through the 20th century. It was true for the people of Prague and also for the people of Pula, where my grandparents were born. When I got to Europe I wanted to visit the city and learn something about my roots.

I’m sure many of you know Croatia and have probably visited Pula. The city is on the sea, so has many opportunities for going to the beach, taking boat trips or visiting historical sites.

My grandparents were born in the first decade of the 20th century, when Pula was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. My wife and I went there by train from Slovenia.

In Pula we missed the train to Ljubljana. It wasn’t the only problem. The only contact I had with my distant relative – a second cousin of my mother – was an address. I wrote a letter, telling him that we would visit him. But I didn’t know if he received it.

After we arrived in Pula, our plan was to find my relative. We put our backpacks on our shoulders and I got the shock of my life.

A man in his forties showed me a seven year old photo of myself. With him was a young woman who in perfect English explained that the man was my mother’s second cousin. She was his daughter and they were going to take us to their house for lunch.

My letter arrived that morning. If we didn’t miss the train, we would have come before the letter and they wouldn’t know we were coming. But we were lucky.

I tried to speak Italian, but fortunately his daughter spoke English really well. Most surprising was that this man’s father was still alive. The old man was the cousin of my grandfather and at 90 still spoke a tiny bit of English. Even more interestingly, the old man was born near Brno.

Sadly, not many pieces of my grandparents’ life there remained. But the place seemed strangely familiar. It reminded me in some ways of my hometown of Perth. My wife wondered if that was why my grandmother moved there. I don’t think so. My grandmother cried when she first arrived in Australia. I don’t think she ever really left her homeland.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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There’s a common story told about many people from Central and Eastern Europe of being born in one city, never moving but changing nationality many times through the 20th century. It was true for people in Prague and it was true for the people of Pula, where my grandparents were born. One of the tasks I set myself when I got to Europe was to visit the city and learn some more about my roots.

I’m sure many of you know Croatia well and have probably visited Pula. The city is on the sea, so it presents many opportunities for going to the beach, taking boat trips or visiting historical sites, including one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. And while I took in these sights, I was more curious about seeing the world my grandparents had left behind.

Melting pot is a term used to describe many different nationalities or cultures all living in the same city or area together.

My grandparents were born in the first decade of the 20th century. Pula was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. My grandmother spoke Italian as her first language but could also speak some Croatian and understood German. It was the type of cultural melting pot a boy growing up in the culturally monotonous suburbs of Perth dreamed about. When I got there, I discovered that Italian was used only among Italian families and most people were keener to speak English, which is the case everywhere. But getting to Pula was not so straightforward.

We went there by train from Slovenia. While waiting for our train to Pula at Ljubljana we missed the announcement, which was in Slovenian. There was going to be another complication. The only contact I had with my distant relatives – a second cousin of my mother – was an address. I wrote a letter in my limited Italian, telling him that we would be coming to visit, but I sent it the day we left the Czech Republic. I had no idea if he had got it.

If something gives you a lift, it makes you feel happy or cheerful. Don’t confuse it with someONE giving you a lift – this means they drove you somewhere.

After a long train ride we got off at Pula. After a year in the Czech Republic, I got a lift from seeing the sea, blue-green and smooth a few hundred meters away. Our plan was to find the nearest campsite and try to locate my distant relative. We slung our backpacks on our shoulders and I got the shock of my life.

A photo of me from about seven years earlier was thrust in front of my face. It had been a while since I’d seen myself looking so trim. Holding the photo was a man in his late forties. With him was a young woman who in perfect English explained that the man was my mother’s second cousin; she was his daughter, and they were going to take us to their place for lunch.

Apparently, the letter had arrived that morning. Had we got there on time, we would have arrived before the letter and they wouldn’t have known. I doubt they would have minded because we would have arrived the next day when the letter would have been there, but this way we had a lift and my cousin’s wife was preparing lunch.

My TERMrudimentary Italian got a work out, but fortunately his daughter spoke English really well. Most surprising was that this man’s father was still alive. The old man was the cousin of my grandfather and at 90 still spoke a smattering of English. Even more interestingly, the old man was born outside Brno. His father had been an officer in the Imperial Army. That my then girlfriend (now wife) was Czech was commented on by everyone. It was as though we’d come full circle. There was also the similarity, both physically and behaviourally, between my distant cousin and me. On our second morning he was furious at the noise a neighbour was making. To see him pace and gesticulate in anger was to see myself in 20 years time.

Sadly, not many traces of my grandparents’ life there remained. The house they owned was demolished a long time ago and the Pula they knew, which they called Pola, is more a bustling resort than a sleepy seaside town. Yet, the place seemed strangely familiar. The pines, the limestone, the sea and its characteristic smell reminded me in some ways of my hometown of Perth. I mentioned this to my wife. She wondered if that was the reason my grandmother ended up there. I doubt it. My grandmother cried when she first arrived in Australia. I don’t think she ever really fully left her homeland.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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