Last three years numerous times I was asked what my home country was. Three years ago guesses were correct or close to the truth: Russia, Ukraine, Poland. Then, as years passed, suggestions became various: German, British, Swedish, French, Czech, Dutch, Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian and even American (!). Many times I was approached in Maltese, in Germany I was asked for directions as well as in Southern Spain.
Sometimes I wonder what I would have been like if born in Sweden, France, Germany, Poland or Spain. How different would be my perceptions? How the country of origin does affect our minds, opinions, visions? Would we even recognise ourselves born in other corner of the word?
One thing I am perfectly sure about is I’d still get into odd situations and would have plenty of adventures. But what about education – would I be still proud of my universal academic education? And food preferences – would I think of pasta as of the tastiest thing in the world if born in Italy? And what about tolerance in general – would I pass by kissing boys without surprise if born and grown up in Netherlands? Would I be a fan of cruel psychotic Disney cartoons if was a child of USA? Probably, yes. Or how different my generation would be if not growing in times of a big change – USSR collapse?
These reflections convince me how much of true “us” is formed in certain surrounding and could be different. We could not choose where to be born but how much our individuality and our character depends on us? How possibly can we have such different family values varying from “wife is for life” in Malta and “wife is not a wall, it can be replaced” in Russia. It easily could be the opposite way… All these international battles to protect national identity and values seem so ridiculous.
Would I wish to be born somewhere else? I do not know, honestly. I learnt about other countries from books and they all seem imaginary. I cherish memories about my tough and full of hardship childhood. Nevertheless, Tolstoy and Bulgakov were loved as much as Robert Stevenson, Hans Andersen and Astrid Lindgren. At the age of 25 I decided to move away from Russia as I could no longer call it home. I realize some habits are changing, I am becoming Maltese in some way. Is it important to have a national identity?