Citizen of Nowhere.
Back when ex British Prime Minister Teresa May called those of us who objected to Brexit 'Citizens of Nowhere' it struck a chord with many of us who saw it as a compliment rather than the insult she intended. I would still rather be a citizen of nowhere than a citizen of an increasingly xenophobic little island with delusions of empire. But I don't expect everyone to agree with me.
I've always felt that I didn't quite belong anywhere. Or - more accurately - that I belonged almost everywhere. So in Ireland, I felt Irish. In Poland, there seemed to be a significant part of me that responded to Polish culture, art, food, music - something quite viscerally Polish. Working in or visiting Scandinavia I felt at home. But this has, over the years, also made me feel oddly homeless. Or at least completely a-patriotic, if there is such a word. So when Mrs May hurled what she saw as an insult, I think many of us seized on the phrase with a sudden leap of joyful recognition. That's exactly what we are. Citizens of Nowhere.
Back in the early spring, a friend came along for a glass of wine or two in our garden. She had just had a DNA test from My Heritage (other sites and tests are available). She has a Scottish Italian background and the test had not only confirmed what she already knew, but identified a few other interesting elements to her DNA.
Reader, I tried it for myself.
Because I'm in the middle of researching and now deep into writing a new book about my Polish family background, The Last Lancer, I opened an account with My Heritage, and when a 'special offer' popped up on the site, I couldn't resist giving it a try. In due course the neat box arrived complete with the test kit: a couple of glass phials, swabs, an envelope and precise instructions.
Basically you have to swab your cheeks, put the business ends of the swabs in the phials, seal them and post them. I was a bit surprised to find that the packet was heading for Texas, complete with special customs stickers. My only advice to anyone who is about to send off their test would be to pay a little extra for track and trace. My packet spent weeks in the post.
However, just when I was despairing, I got the message that it had arrived. I could follow its progress through the various testing stages, until last week, the email I'd been waiting for dropped into my inbox: my DNA results were ready.
I already knew that I'm Irish, Polish and quite likely Scandinavian via my Yorkshire grandfather. If any of those were missing, I'd have been very sceptical. I needn't have worried. There were a few surprises but in fact most of them served to confirm things I had long suspected to be true - and the rest were fascinating.
I am: 35.4% Irish, Scottish and Welsh - which in my case almost certainly means Irish. My grandmother Honora was of Irish parentage on both sides, and those parents were Irish as well. I've written about that side of the family in a book called A Proper Person to be Detained.I am 17.5% Eastern European. As the site says 'People of Eastern European descent trace their roots to Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Hungary. The early Common Era saw the region largely populated by Slavic and Baltic tribes with later Roman, Mongol, and Ottoman invasions.' Not unexpected, given that my father's family, whose surname I still use, were from the Polish part of what is now the Ukraine and - as I've discovered in the course of my research - had been settled there for hundreds of years.