The British Library

Karolina’s Story

Your hometown shouldn’t always feel like your hometown.

There are many artists who express their huge love for the country they were born in, many artists who have feelings for the streets they grew up in, many artists who express their unbearable love and wish to live in the country that they were born in.

I am an artist too, but If I would ever feel the need to talk about the love for my motherland - I couldn’t do it.

My name is Karolina. I grew up in Lithuania, one of the small Baltic countries. And though living in such peaceful, beautiful and calm place, I could never be happy. Could never feel the love for this gorgeous green nature. Never felt that feeling of pride when singing Lithuanian anthem.

I’ve always asked myself why I have no feelings for Lithuania and Lithuanian people.

One of the reasons could be the fact that despite being born in Lithuania, I grew up in a Polish-Russian mixed family. My parents and grandparents were also born in Lithuania and have spent all their lives as residents of Lithuania having Lithuanian nationality. The reason of being a mix was several invasions from Russia and Poland. This caused people to mix up and live all together in one place (which in fact was invaded Lithuania).

Nowadays Lithuania is a free country but there are still many Russian and Polish families living in there. They have their small communities, schools, radios and TVs. They live in Lithuania thinking of it as a hometown since their families did so as well.

Let’s move to the sad part of the story.

There is discrimination. True Lithuanians don’t always like the fact that there are many Russian and Polish people living in their country, mixing up the culture. There are obviously many people who are very tolerate, but I experienced discrimination myself. I am the citizen of this country with Lithuanian nationality, knowing Lithuanian language and yet still - I feel bad and unwanted in here.

This makes me feel sad up until today - I’ve never experienced true love for my hometown. I just felt unwanted there. Hopefully someday my children will be able to experience this feeling.

So I left - just right after finishing school I decided to leave Lithuania and study in London. When leaving I was pretty sure that I am not going to come back to Lithuania. Maybe because I had this inner feeling that told me that my mission in Lithuania is finished, who knows.

I don’t know what do I mean to London. To the United Kingdom, in general. Probably almost nothing as there are so many people like me here.
London to me means a lot, though. Just when I came here, I felt better. I felt home, pretty much more safe than in Lithuania. There are so many people like me in London. This makes me feel like I have a family here.

I live here for almost one year now. Every time I come back to Lithuania, it just feels like a visit. There were times when I came back to London feeling depressed but only because of living through my days in Lithuania again. Of course, London could always recover me.

London feels like a hometown to me. I feel good.

Who knows, maybe there are more places in the world which could feel the same to me.

One thing I know - never be scared of finding your hometown in other places.

-Karolina, London

© Yinka Shonibare, 2018 | Website by Hanna Sorrell