From The Peopling of New York City

Jump to: navigation, search

Who Am I?

Grazyna Drabik

  • My “major”: Immigrant & exile literature.
  • Professional plans: A book about New York.
  • Special interests: Mountain hiking & poetry translation.
  • Favorite readings on the syllabus: Poems about New York.
  • The most complicated aspect of the course: Difficulty of reconciling the multiple objectives - covering history of NYC, current immigration issues, individual research, and the WIKI project.
  • The best thing about Seminar 2: Getting to know the students and their stories.

Where I am From

I came to New York from Poland – for a visit. Stayed in this city unwillingly, due to political and personal circumstances.

I was born in Warsaw and grew up in a dramatic landscape of the impoverished, post-war country under the communist regime. But my family roots were in two culturally rich regions and offered me windows to different worlds.

On my father’s side, I come from Podhale, the mountains in the south of Poland. On my mother’s – from the plains and forests of Lithuania. The stories my parents told me and their resistance to the dictates of the authoritarian regime taught me to distinguish between “politics” and “society,” between the government and the people.

New York and I

So, I am supposed to write about this city, the city I hated once so much.

Pardon me, New York, but when I was thrown on your shore I couldn’t see your
beauty. All I wanted was to be back where I belonged.

I paid my dues though. Left. Returned. Made my home here not just once but
twice. Lived on Manhattan Island longer than anywhere else. I see you now as
you are: hurried, tired, hard working, proud. And reckless. Glorious in the
springtime. Rich with surprises every day.

I know your music: the children swinging in a playground, the teenagers trash-
talking on a basketball court, the plaintive call of a fire truck, the rumbling of the
subway, the sudden outburst of salsa from a passing car, windows wide open,
hearts beating fast. I know the presence of the wind, and how it raises the waves
on the mighty Hudson. How it runs across the bay towards the sea. How it counts
your bridges, all 2,020 of the grand and the small.

You are truly the city of islands, a multitude of people and their hopes. Every day
we navigate this archipelago as if it were an ordinary thing. We learn to speak in
tongues. We are not amazed that each of us, from near and from far, can feel at

New York, my unwanted, found poem.