I met my future husband in Bremen, Germany, in the fall of 2013. I was starting my second year in the TransAtlantic Masters Program (through UNC) and he was finishing a German language course at the local university.
He is Polish; I am a born and raised Southern gal.
Fast forwarding through several years of relationship building, small town USA xenophobia, and many awkward TransAtlantic Skype sessions, we settled in Charlotte two years ago.
My husband’s native language is Polish, but he speaks English and German fluently.
I speak… Southern American.
Our relationship is in English, which is a strange thing to clarify for someone that’s never needed to clarify that before. While we mostly understand each other, simple misunderstandings turn our molehills to mountains very quickly.
Before we moved to Charlotte, my conversations with my husband’s family (outside of his sisters), were limited to confusing games of charades and the ol’ “smile and nod.” Any attempt to learn Polish turned me into a frustrated mess.
This context preamble is meant to set up my reasoning behind why Charlotte is the only place we’d now ever consider living.
Unbeknownst to most people, Charlotte is home to the Polish School of Charlotte, a non-profit language academy and community organization. The Polish School of Charlotte provides all levels of Polish language and culture instruction to roughly 40 children and 20 adults.
My adult class is made up of a revolving group of roughly 6-8 people who, like me, have some sort of connection with the Polish language. Except one lady who just “wanted her next challenge.” This lady is a saint.
Each Sunday afternoon, we struggle through two hours of noun/verb/adjective agreement and an unending slew of consonants to somehow piece together a basic knowledge of the Polish language. We all collectively groan about all of the exceptions to the grammar rules. We celebrate finally mastering how to pronounce simple words like “dziękuje” (which does not sound like you think it sounds). We laugh about our relationships’ cultural and language barriers.
Growing up here, I never thought Charlotte would be the place that I would connect most fully with an international community and my new family.
Beyond the school, the Polish community is vibrant and active.
There is a Polish grocery store near Carolina Place Mall. There is a Polish restaurant off Monroe that makes a mean Pierogi. There are Polish heritage events all the time. Best of all, the Polish community welcomes anyone interested in learning something new!
Our next event, on March 19, Welcoming Spring – Marzanna Parade will take place in Freedom Park.