Do you believe in destiny? Personally, I don’t, but I think I should. I never wanted to live abroad, but here I am, having lived in multiple countries over the last 10 years. So how did it happen? I met a man from another country, and it was my conscious decision to move, but it looks like destiny had a hand in this as well.
- My family
I was born into a multilingual, multicultural family. My mom was born in Poland, but lived in the Netherlands for almost eight years. My father was raised in France. Growing up, I listened to their stories of growing up abroad. My cousins are French. I have family all over the world, and am just learning to appreciate my Jewish heritage. So how could I not live abroad when abroad was around me every day?
- My name
There are several stories explaining my name. One is that my father wanted me to have a Slavic name. And then I was named after a character from a Russian opera. Her character is happy, and worry-free, as a contrast to her more melancholic sister Tatyana. But my parents also made sure that my name would be easy to pronounce by non-Polish speakers. Olga sounds pretty much similar wherever you go. Except maybe (hear, hear), in the Netherlands where the “g” sound is pronounced with this guttural sound. Each time I hear my name pronounced that way, I tend to think they mean someone else. And I remember my parents telling me, “when you’ll live abroad, you’ll have to learn this,”” or “You have good communication skills, you should be a diplomat.” I ignored that at the time, but it must have made a big impression on me.
- My schools
I was the first generation not to have Russian at school. And while most schools in Poland introduced English as first foreign language, the director of my primary school wanted us to learn German first, with the explanation that if they didn’t, no one would learn German. Students could still take English classes for a small fee , but otherwise, we had German. I already spoke this language, so that was no problem whatsoever. I chose a secondary school with a focus on German, which lead me to study it, which lead me to meet my husband, which led me to move abroad to Canada, to Germany and now, to the Netherlands.
- My husband
Speaking of my husband, he was raised in a similarly travel-friendly way as I was. He travelled a lot as a child, and he also showed an interest in language, having studied English, French, and Latin at school. As a scientist, he went on a graduate student exchange program to Canada. Then, when I got pregnant, and we got married, he applied for a job in the Netherlands. And now, here we are.
- My personality
Well, I rarely felt I belonged in my country. Or any place, really. Maybe before I even moved abroad, I was an expat at heart? Now, in the Netherlands, I’ll be the first one to admit that I am not particularly well integrated into the Dutch community. Yes, I’m missing out because of this. But maybe this is the place which is actually just right for me? I mean, not the Netherlands, but that place which is neither here nor there, neither Poland, nor Germany, or the Netherlands, but all of that and none of that? Or, in other words, a home just for myself?
I don’t believe in destiny. But come to think of it, my decision to move abroad didn’t really feel like a decision at all. It felt like the thing I was supposed to do.
In novels, the heroine or the hero often has a destiny to fulfil. But the way they do it is by their own choice. It’s a paradox I can relate to very strongly. Why? Because I look back and see how everything conspired to bring me here. It was a force I couldn’t resist, and as a relatively lazy person, I often took the path of least resistance. It’s interesting to see how what is exciting and fascinating for others is just so normal to me.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I decide not to believe in destiny. I believe in the power of choice. Even if the choices you made are exactly what you were supposed to do.