A Family Affair: Stories of Love and Loss

Family, be it the one that created us or the one created by us, is an essential part of life for most people worldwide. Even in good times, our family relationships can be challenging and complex. This dynamic for migrants is even more problematic.

The first challenge these migrants face is separation. While some migrants come to Slovakia with their families, many other migrants leave their families behind in their home country. Fortunately, with time this separation, while heartbreaking, usually becomes a less dominant feature of these relationships. Some families cope well with the distance, while others fracture and become irrevocably damaged.

Naturally, family cohesion is not the only dynamic complicated by separation. The inability of some migrants to return home adds to the tragedy of death in the family. These people must grieve alone without the benefit of having family members to share and commiserate.

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The family we make

Of course, the family we are born into is only part of the migration story. Many foreigners migrate to Slovakia because of their Slovak partners, while others fall in love and begin their families in Slovakia. For the migrants who marry into a Slovak family, acceptance is often the first hurdle to feeling whole. 

Foreigners often find that their new Slovak families greet them with suspicion. For some, these attitudes soften over time, but for many others, it is a permanent state of these relationships. Migrants bring their expectations and family traditions that can be incompatible with those of in-laws and the wider Slovak family.

Some of these conflicts may be attributable to communication challenges. Poor Slovak skills can put a strain on all aspects of family life. Parents can especially be troubled when it comes to helping their Slovak children with homework or taking them to the doctor. Often these parents need a helping hand which puts pressure on the Slovak spouse to take on more parenting responsibilities. 

Unfortunately, these communication challenges go beyond foreign parents. Children of migrants can suffer from a lack of exposure to the Slovak language or a less-than-understanding Slovak public. These kids can, at least in the beginning, mix languages leading to confusion and isolation in school. These differences become the objects of ridicule for classmates. Sadly, the demands of conformity can weigh heavy on the children of migrants.

Why Stay?

It may seem that the burdens migration places on families are enough to send them all packing. However, migrants are some of the most resilient people you will ever meet. They look past all these challenges to see the good in Slovakia. Many find the numerous benefits, such as generous maternity leave, after-school activities, safe streets, and decent universal healthcare, to be more than enough to stay. These migrants feel that Slovakia is a better place to raise a family. They hope to put down roots so that future generations of their family can call Slovakia home.

I want to thank my guests: Daria Rychagova, Jamie Byrne, Lia Bowers, Brielle Zahn, Steve Mellor, Barbara Hill, and Eva Hill.

This podcast and my series on migration are supported by Fjuzn, a program of the Milan Simecka foundation, whose goal is to create a platform for migrants living Slovakia whose voice should be heard more in our society. Fjuzn hosts the Fjuzn festival and with the cooperation of migrants and their communities organizes other events around the country to showcase the art, projects, perspectives, and stories of these lesser-known people. To learn more about their events, hear the stories of other migrants in Slovakia and listen to this podcast series, visit www.fjuzn.sk 

Also, follow them on Instagram at:  https://www.instagram.com/festival_fjuzn/

And Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/fjuznNMS 

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