A DNA Test Revealed I Am Whom My Parents Hate The Most
It's kind of ironic, isn't it?
I don't know much about my ancestry.
I was born in Poland, and so were my parents. But their parents - not exactly.
They all immigrated to my hometown - Wrocław, also known as Breslau - after the Second World War, just like hundreds of thousands of others hoping to start a better life there.
One of my grandmothers came there from the Eastern Borderlands - a former part of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that used to be under Russian rule for the past two centuries. Her father was originally French, but his ancestors fled France following the French Revolution.
My other grandmother and her husband - my grandfather - were born in the former territories of the Austrian Empire. However, both of their families claimed they came from the 'South.'
And my other grandfather was - most likely - Ukrainian. But no one in my family knows for sure where was he born or what did he during the war.
Ooph. I know, that's a lot to take in.
I always wanted to know more about my family's past and origins. But even when my grandparents were alive - now only one of them is - they rarely talked about the past. It was too traumatic, they said.
One of my grandfathers actually wrote a memoir about his youth and the Second World War, but shortly after writing it, he burned most of it.
My parents know very little, too. But they've always insisted that we're probably near 100% Polish, and that's something to be proud of.
It turns out that's far away from the truth.
I wasn't expecting to get a Molotov cocktail of genes
A couple of months ago, my partner bought us both a DNA test for our anniversary. And while his results weren't surprising in the slightest - his family is Italian, Portuguese and Swiss, and that's what the report showed as well - mine definitely were.
It turned out that besides being Polish and Ukrainian, I'm also Russian, German and Ashkenazi Jewish with a sprinkle of Balkan & Greek. A real Molotov cocktail of genes.
But the 'fun' part is that besides the Southern European part - which accounts for less than 1% of my ancestry anyway - these are all the nationalities and ethnicities my parents, and many other Poles, hate.
Because Russians are evil, drunken barbarians who care only for their own wealth and power and ride bears for fun. Germans are even worse. And Jews always find a way to include themselves in everything you do and ruin it.
I know. It's bad.
And while I obviously don't think like that, or hate Russians, Germans or Jews, I do understand where it is coming from. We all share an utterly fucked up, complicated history.
Russians invaded us many, many times. So did Germans. Together, they even managed to wipe us off the world map for two centuries. Good times. And even though before the second World War, over 3.5 million Jews were living in Poland, anti-semitic sentiment grew extremely fast among Poles during the post-war Soviet times.
Ever since I was little, I was spoon feed all sorts of crazy stories and conspiracy theories about the Jews, Russians, Germans or all of them together. If anything terrible happened in Poland, it must have been their fault. If we weren't doing as well as we hoped for, it must have been their fault. And my parents always seem terrified that they'll come for us again.
Little did they know - or perhaps knew and never said anything - they hated people who most likely were their great-grandparents, grandparents or maybe even parents.
We're all guilty of a massive amount of bias and prejudice
I know that these DNA tests aren't exactly accurate. And the results you get can slightly change over time as the algorithms used to calculate them get more refined.
But the more I think about it, the more they make sense to me. Kind of. And I don't think that's such a unique mix, either.
Eastern and Central European territories have seen a lot of wars, invasions and overall chaos in the last millennia. Poles did a bit of running around like madmen trying to invade others as well - in the 17th century we were even strong enough to take Moscow for a while. Kudos to us. But our unfortunate geopolitical position always fucked us up in the end.
It does really make a lot of sense that we mixed during all that time, with some of us - like me - ending up to be a bizarre, yet quite possible, hybrid.
Which makes it even more ironic that we all hate one another, too. Yup, it's not only us Poles that got the 'let's hate on everyone' genes.
Germans always looked down on Slavs, and Nazis even considered us a sub-human race. Russians consider themselves the ruling class of Slavs, and ever since Hitler betrayed them, they started hating on Germans, too. And Jews, well, I don't think I even need to elaborate on whom they hate and why.
We all have reasons - more or less valid - to hate each other. And sadly, we raise the new generations with that hatred too.
But none of this is unique to our part of the world.
We are all guilty of a massive amount of bias and prejudice.
Practically every country on this planet has 'enemies' - nations or ethnicities they hate or even consider inferior to them. Most of the time, this hatred is based on either pseudoscience or history - which can often be biased or exaggerated - or is entirely made up.
And while it might seem all fun and games to stereotype one another, the moment the people we're stereotyping start getting discriminated against, harassed or even killed because of that, maybe it's time for us to re-evaluate what we think and say out loud.
Division only makes us weaker
Around the time I was 8 or 9 years old, I told my parents - who were always very patriotic - that from now on I prefer to refer to myself as a 'global citizen' and not Polish, since the concept of countries is just stupid.
I think they were close to throwing me out on the street after that one.
I'm not sure where that idea came from, but I'm guessing it was just a reaction to an overwhelming amount of hatred and bias my parents, school, media and the environment I grew up in tried to instil in me since I was little. But it never sat right with me to assume things about others.
And I still think of myself as a bit of a 'global citizen'. I still think the concept of nations, nationalities, and in particular, nationalism is silly. And I still think lumping everyone from a specific country, ethnicity or race together and treating them like one homogenous group - and not as unique individuals - is wrong, pointless and counter-productive.
It's insane how much time and energy we all spend on hating each other.
And why do we do that?
Because we were born on a particular piece of dirt, and that piece of dirt just so happens to belong to a particular nation, and that nation doesn't like people born on another piece of dirt.
Right. Makes sense.
When we say we hate this or that nation or ethnicity for what they've done to us, what we're really saying is 'I hate the people in power that made these decisions on behalf of an entire nation.' That's pretty much it.
And sometimes, those who we consider the enemy are actually the victim of the very same systems of oppression we are under. The Soviet regime is a perfect example of that. Yes, it was created by the Russians. But it was also Russians who suffered during the USSR. Alongside Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians and others.
We were all fucked by the people in power, who then used propaganda to incite even more hatred. Because that hatred created division. And division only makes us weaker and more susceptible to further manipulation.
But when we let those, often untrue, stereotypes or biases take over us, we end up seeing what we want to see in other people instead of seeing what is really there. And that's a shame.
We might not all be a walking Molotov cocktail of genes like I am, but all humans alive today can trace their DNA back to one person - known as the 'mitochondrial Eve' - who lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in southern Africa.
And while this doesn't exactly make us relatives, it at least shows that we all share one common theoretical ancestor, and we all belong to one species - humankind.
Which should be more than enough to help us see beyond all the silly biases, stereotypes, prejudices, and bigotry, don't you think?
And if it isn't, just adopt W.C. Fields' approach:
I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally.
This story was originally published on Medium.