A Theme of Migration in Peter Skrzynecki's Poems
The treatment of migrants in Australian society extends to expectations that cause a one sided opinion, limiting perspectives of their collective experience, creating a psyche perpetuated by uncertainty which impacts their sense of belonging and not belonging. The resulting divide between the different cultures is a constant tension felt by friends, family and ultimately shows that we need to become more understanding and review our attitudes towards foreigners despite our differences. These objectives are illustrated in Peter Skrzynecki's poems, 10 Mary Street, Migrant Hostel and Felix Skrzynecki, which all dive into the personal encounters of the poet and his family being migrants, therefore discloses the ideas of bonds leading to the pressure of belonging and a sense of inclusion being labeled as an Australian citizen. Fundamentally, his poetry demonstrates the instability of being a migrant and the challenges faced as an individual who is living in a different home encouraging us to present migrants with acts of kindness in order to show understanding.
The strain felt by immigrants reflects on society as a whole, demonstrating the mistreatment and the requirement of understanding. Peter Skrzynecki delves into this idea through the metaphor in the second stanza of “Migrant Hostel”, ‘’circling to get its bearings; years and name - places - recognised by accents’’ which captures the emotions portrayed by migrants living in the hostel, ultimately expressing their sense of displacement. This adequately inspires the audience to reevaluate their views surrounding migrants in relation to their own complicit actions. The adoption of sensory imagery in ‘’recognised by accents’’ incorporates the perception of belonging with people from similar backgrounds and stories who may share the same name, place or culture whilst trying to migrate. This effectively situates the audience to place their perspective into the deprivation of the migrants, as they establish an attitude of disassociation when their migrant experiences are not appreciated by the wider community. The placement of a simile in “for over two years - we loved like birds of passage” amplifies the constant journey they were on as a family to seek a home in which they felt they belonged. Audiences recognise that establishments such as migrant hostels created the awareness of the separation between Australian society and migrants, conclusively, leading migrants to the feelings of not belonging. This allows the audience to uphold the value of the lives of migrants who have discovered the strength to overcome the difficult journeys they have faced.
The politics of war generates tension between migrants and the citizens, resulting in alienation. Skrzynecki demonstrates being placed into an isolation as the Australian society refuses to accept him as a migrant working to subsidise his family. The emplacement of the harsh imagery in “Five years of forced labour in Germany” lays out the experiences of entrapment and being segregated in the poem “Feliks Skrzynecki”. Migrants receive no sight of the future and are left wondering what life is going to bring within their family. The utilisation of onomatopoeia in “Hands darkened, from cement, fingers cracks” accentuates the idea that Feliks is a hard working father who supports his family no matter the situation he is challenged within. This effectively implies that Feliks is just as hard working as the rest of Australian society, whilst feeling empathy for Feliks being indefatigable. Skrzynecki has implied an emotive language that produces nostalgia within the quote in stanza five lines one to four; “growing older, I/Remember words he taught me,/Remnants of a language/I inherited unknowingly”. Peter Skrzynecki elucidates the language taught to him with rich status to maintain the inheritance of his culture after migrating. The emotional response causes the audience to think back to their culture and try to find a connection within the poem, such as the values, wealth, language, or an article passed through generations. Feliks implies a positive outlook even though the struggles faced, just like challenges with cancer, yet pushes through to support his family with an efficacious viewpoint.
The movement from one place to another constructs hardships and drags stress and anxiety alongside it. Peter Skrzynecki makes this prominent in the poem ‘10 Mary Street’, as it represents a departure from a migrant hostel with the accompanied family, finally receiving the freedom of being an individual outside of dehumanising themself in a new country as an immigrant. Peter Skrzynecki thinks of the hostel as his first home in Australia in which he starts a new life in a foreign country that he couldn't speak the language of and without having any knowledge of family in said country. Peter and his family had limited connection to anyone apart from other immigrants within the country to communicate with and express these emotions and problems expressed in the quote “For nineteen years/We departed”, representing the use of inclusive language. This language technique regards the audience with the word “we” and avoids the use of certain words that may exclude particular groups of people to collectively maintain sympathy for the persona. “Hid the key/Under a rusty bucket;” symbolises Skrzynecki’s acceptance to residing in a new country foreign to him and believes that the sense of belonging is absent as there is no one to connect with, and finds it difficult to relate with the Australian society. This impacts the audience as they too would have a sense of connection to a place, helping him to draw them into his story. The inclusion of a metaphor in “Kept pre-war Europe alive” reinforces the idea of Skrzynecki’s family reviving the connection to Europe that has not yet been severed. Ultimately, reminding the audience that Skrzynecki and his family feel most connected to Europe which was where they felt they belonged. This encourages the reader to respond to the text with emotions that may be felt by migrants. This allows us to support migrants through the struggle of having a sense of belonging as they change their lifestyle to fit into the social dogmas of Australia.
The poems composed by Peter Skrzynecki proclaim a sense of not belonging, as the Australian society lacks cooperation in accepting and having sympathy towards migrants. Understanding and acknowledging the migrants point of view, Skrzynecki illustrates the strain migrants feel in the poem “Migrant Hostel”, whilst further demonstrating the mistreatment migrants have faced in the Australian society. Peter Skrzynecki then goes on to expound in the poem “Feliks Skrzynecki'' as it legitimises the experiences his father was confronted with when he was placed into isolation as the Australian society refused to accept him as a migrant working to subsidise his family. Additionally leading to the experience of migration and accompanying hardships being set free from the migrant hostel, Skrzynecki throws light on “10 Mary Street”, as it represents a departure from the hostel accompanied by family in which he begins to feel the connection to the country.