After nearly a week back home in Italy, I’m finding it virtually impossible to write. The desire has vanished and I can’t figure out why. A rehash…
I traveled to Krakow, Warsaw and Lviv to research my biological mother’s side of the family. Armed with only the most basic of information gleaned from Ancestry.com, I flew to Krakow. I had scheduled myself for three weeks in that architecturally and culturally stunning city to do my research.
The information came fast and furious. I lucked out finding a wonderful young man who hosted me via Airbnb. Aleksander was deeply knowledgeable about history and culture from Galicia, an area now encompassed by present-day Ukraine, Poland and Belarus.
Aleksander was genuinely interested in my story and my search for relatives. He was instrumental in finding the city in which my maternal grandmother, Carolina, was born. Prior to Krakow, I had only a phonetic spelling of her hometown. Because of Aleksander, I was able to pinpoint the area to search.
From there, I was able to search more effectively in the Krakow archives. I also had the joy of discovering the city and its many cultural and architectural delights. Eventually, I traveled to Warsaw, at Aleksander’s suggestion, where I found information on my maternal grandfather’s family. When I left Krakow, I was armed with more information than I ever expected. My family tree sprouted more limbs.
After a week back in Italy of “recuperating” and absorbing this information, I trekked to Lviv, Ukraine. Again, fortune smiled on me with the host I found through Airbnb. Edward, an American expatriate hailing from Greater Seattle, was the consummate host. With a tremendous sense of humor, a generous disposition and a wicked sense of fun, Ed helped me maneuver Lviv and offered substantial insight into the area and its access.
Traveling to Olesko, the main city in our homeland, my brother, his girlfriend and I visited our grandmother’s hometown, Rozwaz and our grandfather’s hometown, Kuty. While finding no information in Rozwaz save for a priest’s name, we hit the motherlode in Kuty. Father Stepan, the parish priest promised to mention our arrival during mass the next day. I left Edward’s phone number with the priest since I spoke no Ukrainian and we left for Lviv.
During Sunday mass, Father Stepan announced an American had arrived seeking his family, the “Bakuns”. A parishioner hurried over to the home of my cousin, eighty-year-old Zenovyi. Zenovyi called his son, Viktor, who lived in Lviv. On Monday Viktor called me. I returned his call Tuesday morning and we met at noon for what turned into a seven-hour chat.
Two days later, I had dinner with Viktor’s family in Lviv and the following Sunday, Viktor took me to Kuty where I worshipped in a 350-year-old Greek Catholic church, the church of my ancestors dating back to at least my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, circa 1778. After church, we went to Zenovyi’s home where I was introduced to him and we filled in the blank spaces in our lives.
I had dinner one more time at Viktor’s and also went for coffee with his wonderful son, Victor. I was bathed in their acceptance and generosity, awash in a sea of unexpected familial familiarity. Victor insisted on riding with me to the airport.
I needed time to reflect once I returned to Italy. So here I sit, reflecting, along the Adriatic, nursing a latte and a strawberry dessert. And I have no freaking idea what to write.
The desire has left me. It’s gone. I don’t know why. Is this journey over? Is there a new one to pursue? Do I need to write anymore? Is a book necessary?
This particular experience is hitting me in a way that I cannot describe. When I returned from my first trip to meet my father and brother in 1978, I was in a daze. I vividly recall returning to North America after meeting my father’s side of the family in Italy in 1997—I retired immediately to the bedroom because I was emotionally exhausted.
Now here I am in 2015, a mental zombie. Shouldn’t I be accustomed to this by now? It’s become old hat. Traveling around, finding and meeting new family. Yet it is still so earthshaking.
I want to be able to write again. I keep reading about other writers and their discipline, how they force themselves to write every day—even if what they write is crap. I’m sorry. I cannot do that.
I do want to continue with this second book. If I don’t, I’ll feel as though this voyage will have been all for naught. I’ll feel like I’ve let people (my “fans”!) down. Yet I want it to be good. I want it to be a step above Lemonade. I have in my mind how I want to write this book, but right now my mind is still so scattered that I can’t make heads or tails of anything.
People here in my current little hometown of Alba Adriatica, Italy call me “Professore”. They ask for my autograph. They invite me specially to go kayaking, drink champagne, have coffee. If I don’t follow through with this book, will I be a fraud?
I hold no illusions about making a living from my writing. Indeed, I’ve already purchased my return ticket to Oregon for November because I have to be realistic about this endeavor. At $846, I couldn’t turn it down. Will this purchase be a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing me to leave Europe because I’ve cemented it in my mind that a return to Oregon is my destiny?
I have two sets of friends from Oregon visiting in a few days. I will be traveling to the Cinqueterre to visit one set. The other couple is coming to Ascoli Piceno where I will put on my tour guide hat. Perhaps they can give me insight. Perhaps I just need to clear my head a bit more. I have no official timetable for this book. Instead, time will tell.