What is your connection to Poland?
I never met my grandfather. But growing up I heard the stories. My grandparents came to Australia after WWII, and like countless others who migrated, had survived incredible trauma and suffering against insurmountable odds. As a child, I didn’t know much about what happened. I remember writing a fiction story in primary school based on what I knew about my dziadek under Stalin’s rule, and my grandmother cried. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I began to feel a connection to a country I had never visited. Like a magnet over a compass, I felt drawn to a culture that I was seldom exposed to. I didn’t know much, but I did know that I had a lot of questions. Thus began my journey with Polaron.
How did you feel when you were told that you’re officially Polish?
During the process of claiming Polish citizenship, Polaron conducted extensive family research that exceeded all my expectations. It was unexpected, invaluable and – in fact – life-changing. It was this research that has now brought my whole family closer to their Polishness. Polaron found my grandfather’s birth and marriage certificates. We learned about the conditions of the gulag (labour camp) he was held in. After the Amnesty his promised land was the same city that my wife’s mother was born. We even found distant cousins in Poland and Canada whom we did not know existed. I legally changed my surname from Sargent (the anglicised version) to the original Sierżant. As a result of this research, not just me – but my parents, my uncles, my brothers – are now actively engaged in learning about their heritage and roots.
What are your plans now that you have Polish citizenship and a passport?
Now that I am a Polish citizen, I hope to visit Poland soon. My wife has German citizenship, which means we are both global citizens. For me, this is more than a just a document. Polaron has helped me connect not only to the past; my citizenship is a connection to the future. I am now learning Polish, and my father converses with me with the words he remembers as a young child. Now that I am a Polish citizen, I hope to visit Polska with my Tata; the country we are both grateful for.