So much has changed in my life since the last post. I’ll just mention two out of a few significant things. Firstly, just over a year ago, my mum passed away. Secondly, I visited Africa for the first time.
Here’s why these two distinct events go together in my mind. My mum was Polish. My dad is Nigerian. I was born and have lived in Europe my whole life, but during the pandemic, Europe became a foreign land to me. Africa seemed different.
In lockdown, I started watching mixed-race Europeans thriving in Ghana, on YouTube. At the time, the continent seemed like the oasis of freedom compared to the West. Watched through the eyes of Vanessa Kanbi or the Acheampong family, on YouTube, Ghana seemed like a haven. One that I could… maybe… somehow… reach?
In the greatest depths of lockdown, the level of difficulty – especially for a European without an African passport – seemed as high as that of travelling to the Moon. Still, I considered moving to Ghana. Quietly at first – just one very shy thought, then another one — slightly bolder. Then, I said it out loud for the first time, then the second time, and again… Finally, my Polish passport arrived at the Ghana High Commission in London, awaiting approval i.e., a b-2 tourist visa.
Living in England was scary. I became depressed for the first time in a long time. The world at large as well as the little world inside my head grew more and more unbearable. And, I lost my love for writing which to me had previously been a means of recycling the pain of human experience and a source of healing… That’s one of the reasons why I hadn’t written for this blog in a while. So, when the walls were caving in, in a cold London rid of human touch, I continued escaping reality through positive YouTube stories of freedom under the African sun.
But soon, more bad news came – my mum was in the hospital. I wanted to drop everything and go there, but she told me not to worry because she’d be coming out soon. Plus, the hospitals didn’t allow visitors at the time. So, even if I did travel to Poland from England – which at the height of the pandemic was only slightly less complex than travelling to the Moon – I would not have been able to see her.
Five days later, at six am, I was woken up by a phone call I will never forget. My sister was crying hysterically, yelling into the phone that mum was gone. “What? Gone where?!” Then it hit me.
The time between the phone call and mum’s funeral which happened one week later was a total blur. I honestly cannot remember much of what happened in between. I was numb, struggling to care for my kids, alone because my husband had travelled to Ghana. The kids and I were meant to join him three weeks after l received the terrible news from Poland. We had all gotten our visas by then.
Friends rushed to the rescue, offering to babysit (24/7 for a whole week) enabling me to go to the funeral, in Poland. I didn’t know if I’d be able to come back to England (due to travel restrictions continuously changing), let alone travel to Ghana, just two weeks after coming back to London. But I had to pay this final respect to my mother.
She was “the Europe” in me. When she died, it felt almost as if the European part of me passed away with her. Africa became even more alive in my heart.
Thankfully, I had survived the funeral, got out of Poland and into England. After being grounded by a 10-day quarantine requirement, I had just about 72 hours remaining to take the pre-departure PCR test for the Ghana flight. Thankfully, mine and the kids’ tests had come back negative, and we made it to Africa.
12 weeks spent on the African soil helped me rest and reset. Hugely simplifying what happened during that time, I realised that grass wasn’t greener on the other side and that my Europe wasn’t dead yet. There were: grandma, my sister, and friends here; plus many doors were beginning to open again…
God was alive, and a new hope whispered (at first) that I can overcome the madness of everything that took place in the last two years.
A new dream to continue telling stories – through short films – was born alongside that hope. My affection for the written word is recovering too. But, in the meantime, my YouTube channel called Afropean Monika rose out of the ashes.
Join me there if you’re interested in my Afropean travels, mixed-race heritage talks, and other matters connecting Europe to Africa.