Many times i think about the identities of a culture. What does it mean to be Portuguese, or English, German, Italian, Swedish, Greek of Pole? For sure the way we live our lives, our feelings towards the land where we were born… but not only! It’s also about culture, ethnography, religion, rituals, etc…Many times I feel like people think that being from some country is like being a football fan.. well, that also… but so many more things! Being a sports fan representing your country might be one of a million things that have to do with identity… knowing the lyrics of the national anthem is also another thing, but there is also literature, gastronomy, history, art, etc… I feel like I am repeating myself. Many times I am shocked when I ask something about Polish history to people in Poland and they don’t know how to answer. As a Portuguese person, history is very important for me to know. I read a book about history of Poland and I was amazed with such variety of episodes that are not only important for Poland but also to all Europe!

Still living in Poland I started to feel and live the culture, the rituals that, although people don’t know well how to explain, once you live here, you start to experience and live that Identity. One of the reasons, I believe, people kind of lost the knowledge about their identity, was because of the last World War. The last War and the all the wars before including Poland being divided by several other European nations. I understand when I see it written somewhere “Pamiętamy” – “We Remember”. Well you should remember… while you remember others won’t forget. But people should also look for some lost roots and try to remember that also, a culture that some tried to “delete” but that is still there, waiting to be rediscovered and to gain new life. And, of course, creating more and new culture!Some of the culture in Poland is connected to religion, most of all to Christianism. In many things Portugal and Poland are similar.. we celebrate the same religious events in a very similar way. I found it funny when someone, once, asked me if Portugal was a Muslim country… funny and weird question.

For example, In Christmas, families get together to celebrate, they give presents; they eat wonderful food and have a lot of fun. In Poland like in Portugal people eat in Christmas, most of all, fish, in Poland Carp, in Portugal Cod Fish.

In All Hallows day ( 1st of November ) people go the commentary to honor the dead friends and family. The same in both countries.. but here comes a big difference in my opinion: While in Portugal people go to decorate with flowers, candles and visit in absolute silence, only cut by the lament of someone now and then, in Poland there is some joy, friends and family meet, they talk and smile, you can see children, sometimes laughing and running. That wouldn’t happen in Portugal, for example. In Portugal people barely take children to commentaries and if they do they tell them to shut up and make no noise. People don’t talk or meet others… it is really sad! I like the way polish people deal with the dead… I feel that, In Portugal, people run from the dead, like trying to avoid a difficult subject, a big drama! In Poland also.. but there is a way of dealing with it that is more healthy and somehow more happy. Another thing is that in Portugal commentaries have big walls all around. That makes it impossible to see the inside from outside. It’s like trying to separate death and life! We should celebrate the dead with a smile and not only crying. The dead left us memories of good and bad, but if we remember them it’s because we miss the good things… And good things should make us smile! This is a very good example of identity. That reminds me of an exhibition I saw many years ago of Mexican altars. The Mexicans celebrate the dead with joy also. They make beautiful colorful altars to celebrate the lost ones.

The way we celebrate things tell a lot about our culture and history in general. One day I want to take my child to a commentary without leaving on her mind some kind of taboo. I don’t want to make it like some of my family that never took a child to such a place, because they believe it might leave some trauma in the child… This is ignorance and it’s silly, I think.. but then again Portugal has a different culture and we shouldn’t judge cultures. As a Portuguese I prefer the way the Poles deal with this subject!

Goncalo Franco