The journey started in Poland, during the time of communism and Solidarity activism, and part of my childhood was via refugee camps of Italy to Canada where I grew up. From there, I went on to study international relations and international human rights law, pursuing a career as a humanitarian, advocate and educator. But the transitions along the way meant that my identity was changing – connecting to the different communities and cultures around the world, with the aim to advance and protect human rights. At the same time, while I had this privilege and incredible mobility as an international worker, having a sense of adventure and belonging to many places, I was also missing things – a sense of home, belonging, and even access to certain rights not accessible to non-citizens.
Moving from place to place, as much as I loved it, had also taken its toll and I made Hungary my home base - somewhere I would come back to from every mission. I came to Hungary to work with UNHCR initially, but then I wanted to stay so as to stop moving for a while, so I started doing a PhD at CEU and teaching. This time also allowed for personal self-exploration, more of an inner journey than I had the space to do before. These last years, I have worked with different organizations, and continue to – they are all transnational in nature, advocacy or educational initiatives, towards cosmopolitan ideals.
There is an interesting contrast to having made Hungary my home base, having come to work with refugees in Europe, then teach and study at CEU, an emblem of open society, in a political environment that closed its borders at the height of the “refugee crisis” and has had an anti-migration stance. In fact, I just found out that my friend Raed, a Syrian refugee who was once a student of mine (CEU had a learning program for refugees and asylum seekers), was denied citizenship in Hungary, leaving him to remain in limbo.
As my mind turns to leaving Hungary, one home, to Canada, another home, and then yet another place where I will have another home– I feel simultaneous excitement and sadness, joy and grief.
The story of a cosmocitizen is about becoming something much beyond what we have conceived, as an “expanded self”. If we open up the space of what it means to be a citizen as part of a global community, we can truly make any place our home, see other human beings as our brothers and sisters, celebrate diversity, and together take responsibility for making it better.