What defines a homeland?
What defines a homeland? For many people that have immigrated, homeland gets a new different definition. This reminds me of the Russian song “Homeland”. Do you remember it?
What defines a homeland?
The pictures in your ABC primer,
Good trustworthy comrades,
Living in the next building.
That song, that our mother has sung to us,
The fact that under no circumstances
Can it be taken away from us.
(“Homeland”, music by Veniamin Basner, Russian lyrics by Michael Matusofski, English translation by Alexander Bidnyy)
Did it sound familiar? Yes? It sure did to me. But don’t get me wrong, this article will not be about patriotism. Nor will it be about foreign countries being unbearable without birches and forests.
For every one of us, homeland is an umbrella term. For some it may be the birches I have just mentioned. For others, it may be the fields and forests.
For me, homeland simply means home. Home, in which my mother is waiting for me. Home, in which I am loved. Home, in which I feel like a child. That is why, whenever I get asked if I miss my homeland, my answer is always “yes”. This “yes” includes in itself homesickness, missing my mom, my brother, even security I guess. This homesickness does not go away as time passes. It includes missing the times when I was still a kid. It includes missing the days when I could hug my mother every day. It includes the fact that I have left and will probably never return. And so I live on, summer to summer, Christmas to Christmas. That is the time when we are all back together. It feels like no one has ever left anywhere, and we always were and will be together. It feels like childhood.
Right now I am explaining all this, and the image of Leningrad pops up in my head. Do not try to correct me. For me, this wonderful city will always stay as Leningrad. I was born there, raised there, and left all my warm memories about past summer vacations there. Leningrad is the city of scraped knees, loose wheels on my bikes, falling into ditches from my bike, the Finnish Gulf, Mednoye lake, my Granny (that always tried to get me to eat up), my Grandad (who always fixed my bike), and my godfather (whom I loved very much). We kept a tortoise back then. I taught it how to swim, but ran away soon after. She was probably shocked by my actions.
It turns out that homeland in my understanding is nostalgia. Missing my family and mu childhood.
Also, I often notice that once I leave the airport, after arriving back to my home country, I start to breathe differently, with the entirety of my chest. It feels like my lungs expand and everything seems easier, more fun, and calmer. I understand that it’s probably all in my head, but I feel it, and it doesn’t go away. It’s similar to what I get when I come back to Leningrad, my home city. I like it there. I like the weather, the city, and the people. Everything is somehow different there. Every corner there is soaked with history. The people are nicer there. And if you are lucky enough to bump into someone from my grandmother’s generation, it’s a whole different story. They are incredible people with a love for life. Very intelligent and educated. They are those with whom you will never be bored. Oh how many stories they have to share! How much they have been through without becoming grumpy! The only thing they have left after the war is not anger, but a habit of stocking up on food. They have an unconscious fear of famine. The famine the went through during the Siege of Leningrad.
That is my homeland too, and I miss it a lot. I miss my grandmothers and my grandfather. I miss their love for life, understanding nature, wisdom.
I detest it when other immigrants say that they miss their home but don’t have time to come visit. Nonsense. If you truly miss it, you will surely visit. You will always find time and the means to visit those that love you and are always waiting for you. Something like that.