HSC STANDARD ENGLISH PRESCRIBED TEXT: Skrzynecki, Peter – The Immigrant Chronicle Chosen Poems: -Migrant Hostel -Postcard “Belonging is essential for human fulfillment” When somebody belongs they usually feel accepted and comfortable, yet when somebody does not belong, feelings of detachment and disorientation can be seen, so surely belonging is essential for human fulfillment. Peter Skrzynecki’s poems Migrant Hostel and Postcard show the fulfillment of belonging but mainly of not belonging, being disoriented and detached from the society in which Skrzynecki and his family lives.
Skrzynecki’s poem Migrant Hostel deals with his family’s migration to Australia, living in a migrant hostel and struggling to adjust to a new cultural environment with all the physical, personal, social and economic changes migrants usually go through. These changes can strip people of their belonging to a society and a need for human companionship usually from people with familiar families is necessary to reassert social identity in that new cultural environment and fulfill ones human needs.
Skrzynecki uses a simile in stanza two “like a homing pigeon” which allows the audience to understand this need for what was familiar, the need to belong as there is that instability in the hostel. Because of the Polish heritage of Skrzynecki’s parents the only way to feel they belonged in the migrant hostel and in society in general was to take comfort in shared experiences “Years and place-names/Recognised by accents”. The simile “like birds of passage” in the third stanza echoes the simile in stanza two so again we see the need for belonging to create this sense of human fulfillment and familiarity.
Skrzynecki uses a simile again in stanza four “rose and fell like a finger/pointed in reprimand or shame” for the “barrier at the main gate” and so is also personified, through this simile it suggests a feeling of blame and imprisonment in a literal and figurative way. This shows the audience that all sense of belonging has been lost because they can’t control their own lives. The other poem I decided to study, Postcard, conveys a sense of not belonging as Skrzynecki distances himself away from this sense of belonging.
A sense of not belonging emerges in the third stanza where Skrzynecki explains that he never knew Warsaw “except in third person”, he only knows of his homeland through what his parents have told him and through photos. In stanza four Skrzynecki reflects on his parents’ attachment to where they came from and how that their sense of belonging to their homeland is essential for their own human fulfillment. Skrzynecki tells this as if he were speaking to the city, his “father/ will be proud/ of your domes and towers” and his mother “will speak of her/ beloved Ukraine”.
A shift in tone occurs when Skrzynecki adds the rhetorical question at the end of stanza four “what’s my choice/to be? ” he begins to consider a sense of his own belonging through the question and starts to need that feeling of belonging for his own fulfillment. Another rhetorical question is asked at the end of the fifth stanza “what more/do you want/besides/the gift of despair? ” this demonstrates the growing interest in acquiring an attachment to Warsaw but also resisting it, this idea reflects that essential need to belong for his own fulfillment in life.
In the sixth stanza we see Skrzynecki resisting his interest in Warsaw through “refuse to answer/the voices” the voices are of the personified city that “haunts” him. This conveys that sense of not belonging. Although the audience is told in the poem from the personified city that Skrzynecki and Warsaw “will meet/before” he dies, even if it is against is will. Through this we see that Skrzynecki is drawn to the sense of belonging to his hometown of Warsaw, and that this sense of belonging is essential for his fulfillment.
As you can see through both these poems, Migrant Hostel and Postcard, belonging is essential for human fulfillment. This sense of belonging and not belonging is conveyed through the use of personification of Skrzynecki’s home town of Warsaw and through the memories of his parents’ origins in Postcard. As well as through similes in Migrant Hostel that emphasise mainly the disoriented feeling of not belonging, and the need to belong for their own human fulfillment.