A couple of assignments to consider my own spiritual geography added pressure. What follows is a somewhat random exercise in probing into my identity.
Recently, inspiration also came from Reinder Bruinsma, a fellow European, a thinker-writer-theologian, a colleague and a friend. A few definitions he listed included a thought, that one’s identity is a work in progress.
In his lecture on “Adventist Identity in a Postmodern World,” at Australia’s Avondale College, Reinder referred to a view expressed by a social scientist, Vivienne Jabri, that “the identity of an individual is not static, but is a developing framework,” based on an invisible, so to speak, discourse between the individual and his or her social milieu.**
So, I looked back. Identity, but when? I pondered. Actually, I thought I already knew who Rajmund Dabrowski was/is. I reject the tabula rasa concept. There is more that effects who I am than my perceived and experienced reality.
Reviewing my past, I needed to consider what has contributed to my make-up as a human being, a cosmopolitan man, who enjoys life and engages in the cultural milieu? How does my pedigree, those who were before me, contribute to who I am? I have never met them, but they, I believe, are in me and have contributed to who I am now.
In essence, my DNA features expressive humanness and non-conformity. It includes religious conviction, a need for a fulfilling spirituality and authenticity, as well as “pushing the borders” in life.
A search for the genetic “bricks” of my identity led me to Jozef von Czajkowski, my great grandfather on my mother’s side. He was a landowner, including several flourmills, in Southern Poland near Czestochowa and Lubartow. There were nobility claims murmured as part of our family lore. However, he was also a rabble-rouser. A bigger than life story is told in my family, that he did not refrain from drink and fistfights, and once, he rode a horse inside a local tavern. His notoriety was well known, my mom recalled. It was said that the police arrested him quite often, but would not dare to keep him locked up for long. Apparently his status helped.
My grandmother, Janina Jedrzejak, was the youngest of Rozalia and Jozef’s seven children. For me, she was the “Mother of All Housewives.” But there was more. I was fortunate to have a grandmother who connected me with two things at once – her faith, and her care for people. I spent hours listening to her, though one had to drag out from her memories of herself and her wisdom. She would tell stories about people that entered her life, but less, much less about herself.
Like many Poles who lived through WWII, my grandparents, Jan & Janina, met violence and suffering head on. Irrespective of the consequences, Janina turned their home in the central Polish industrial town of Tomaszow Mazowiecki, into a shelter for a Jewish family during the Nazi purges of the 2nd World War. My uncle Alfred and aunt Bonia told me that overnight, their family was enlarged by four Jews: a mother, a father and their two boys, who were kept in a courtyard shed just outside their apartment house for months…
* First part of several reflections on personal and our family life journey.
**Discourses on violence: conflict analysis reconsidered, Manchester 1996, in: Adventist Identity in a Postmodern World, Reinder Bruinsma, Avondale College, January 16-18, 2011 [manuscript].
In part 2 - Genetic bricks from my father’s side of the family, and more