“City and I”

Anna Lesiczka
17th November  2022

“City and I”

Do you have a sense of belonging? - I heard. At first, I couldn’t understand the question. I don’t have a sense of belonging to a place, but I do have a sense of belonging to a thing. I collect items and they are becoming mine. They belong to me and I belong to them.

Cities - perhaps the relationships I have are strong, but I have never really put too much effort to their expression. A city is different from a home which is always more emotional and serious. Homes contain many things that belong to you and you have to take care of them. Cities contain many things you want to possess but you never will or you fool yourself you already possessed ( “my cafe, my library, my tram, my way home”). Your city also contains your home, but sometimes you don’t feel the city when you are at home.

I noticed that the relationship with my house, a current living place, is stronger when I don’t like the city where it is located. As a result, I need to build a wall to mark the border between my house and the rest. It happened when I lived in The Hague.

For all the years I never really liked it. Sometimes I believed that it was different. But all I liked were the people, my studio, my house, and the sea. Probably it doesn’t really mean liking the city. Now when I live in the city that I like, I remember again how it feels. I don’t need a strong house anymore. My drive to collect things isn't that high. I don’t have to fight for my territory. I don’t have to go back to the apartment to feel comfortable. I would survive without my own room.

I lived in Warsaw for the same period of time as in The Hague. I didn’t have my own room even once. For three years I lived in a dormitory in a shared room, and for one year I lived in a living room next to a couple that lived in a bedroom. I wanted to have my own space, but at that time it was unreachable. I was okay because I preferred nothing else than to live in my old room (where I had peace, quiet, and a lot of space only for myself, where I actually remember being happy).

So I survived in Warsaw in spite of all the troubles I experienced living far away from my family as a teenager, because I loved the city. I was barely in the house, but I managed to have my home outside.

Soon it’s gonna be a year since I didn’t visit Warsaw. My friends who stayed say that they even forget that I lived there. It’s strange that this bond just broke after I left to live somewhere else. I don’t have my ticket subscription and I keep forgetting how to get where I want to be. I like being lost in a city I don’t know, but being lost in the city I once knew gives me a lot of fear (like a reminder of every memory fading away).

There was one time around two years ago when I was going to Warsaw by train on Sunday evening. I used to travel like this regularly during high school. I felt like a time traveler - physically moving to the past, seventeen again, going to school the next day. When the darkness came, while leaving the train and later the station, I didn’t know where I am. I was trying to reach my cousin’s house but I messed up the way and I found myself standing at the end of something, without the ability to check the direction. I called and asked him to pick me up, saying the street and the house number where I was located. It was a situation impossible to happen when I lived there.

I remember the time not so long ago when I couldn’t stand being in Stalowa Wola, my hometown. Places I once loved seem to always enter the sphere of hate. But it passes. And now my hometown is again one of my favourite places. Memories lose their flesh, become neutral, and the cities dry out to be liveable again.

Growing up, I wanted to move out of my hometown forever. I can’t recall the moment when this idea came to my mind. While traveling around the country with my parents, I was trying to imagine our lives in every city we were passing through. But at the same time, I had difficulties processing that people live there for real. And what holds them there? Life outside my hometown seemed unreal.

It doesn’t make any sense when I think that I always wished that we would move, because first of all, I loved my hometown. The happiest moment of my summer was always coming back from holidays and entering the town from the west side where it looks calm and spacious.

There was no chance that my parents would move anywhere so I did it myself as soon as I could. I remember argumenting my decision saying that I don’t have anywhere to go for a walk because I already know all the paths.

Maybe this is my hobby - cities. This city that becomes mine, and that city which I already gave up. Building a relationship with a new place gives me excitement, therefore this is how I spend my free time.

I leave my room, my apartment, and my building, I go to my metro station and I catch my train. I like to sit on the yellow seat because it’s the only one in the row full of blue seats. I move forward looking for the one that is free. It depends on time, but usually, I would find a yellow seat for myself. Later I catch my boat and I enter my studio. I sit on my chair and I look at my sea.

Every Sunday I take a trip and I go somewhere I don’t know. I choose the bus over the metro so it takes twice as long. I sit at the back next to a window, look at the map on my phone, repeat all the ways in my head, and try to remember where I am. It seems like a puzzle. I become familiar piece by piece. I slowly recognise the picture. Suddenly I know that I went there before and I remember how I felt.

I took a break and went to collect chestnuts. I came back with a full bag. Every autumn I collect many chestnuts and keep them with me. I was thinking of what I said at the beginning - about no more desire for collecting. Looking at the pile of chestnuts here with me, the familiar image, like always before from everywhere else, I think I wasn’t right. I need to gather things whenever I am located. I always fight for my sense of belonging.