Monday, March 21, 2016

Your People

Recently, I submitted a sample to a company that specializes in autosomal DNA testing. I wanted to see how the results matched what I had been able to unearth while researching my family tree in 1990, before I went to live in Poland. I was able to gather paper evidence and successfully confirm relations four generations back on my mother's and father's sides. In addition to family oral histories, I grew up believing that I was Polish. But what does that mean exactly?

The other day, I got the results of my DNA test and the results were both surprising and unsurprising. Not surprising: I am 100% European. 

But here were the surprising percentage breakdowns: 74% East European; 9% West European; 9% European Jewish; 6% Scandinavian; and 2% Trace Regions (in my case, Great Britain).

Over the centuries, the geographical region of the country we know as Poland was "visited" by many tribes; therefore, the Eastern and Western Europe and European Jewish data are not surprising. However, I really thought that I would have had some Asian ancestry (courtesy of Mongolian "visitors"), but according to the DNA test, that is not the case. I was quite intrigued by the Scandinavian and Great Britain information. 

I've been thinking a lot about the results of this test, wondering if my intense need to travel, explore (if that is, in fact, genetic) may have been inherited from roving Vikings, Celts, Teutons and/or wandering Jewish souls in my makeup. Since the data supposedly goes back 1,000 years, I will never know who these people that left their imprint on me were, but I think perhaps their lives have already been manifested in mine. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

In Memorium

Polish film maker Krzysztof Kieslowski died 20 years ago today. I'd like to pay a brief tribute to him by listing some of my go-to, comfort films, many of which were his creations.

I have seen most, if not all, of the films the prolific directyor made during his too-short career as first a documentarian and then in feature films. My favorites, in no particular order, are: The Double Life of Veronique; The Decalogue; the Three Colors trilogy, and Blind Chance. I have turned to these movies frequently over the years to reaffirm the beauty and sadness of life. Their pervasive undertow of melancholy, interspersed with dark humor and contrasted with sensual beauty, underscore the ironies of life. They uplift, while leaving behind a wry smile, and reinforce the emotions I experienced while living in Poland for two years as several of these films were conceived and shot.  [Update: The Criterion Collection will be releasing their version of The Decalogue in September 2016. Very exciting and welcome news!]

For some, but not all, of the above reasons, I add these favorite comfort (desert island?) films to the list: Roman Holiday; The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Wings of Desire; and Happy-Go-Lucky, and Before Sunset.