Migrations have very long history and have always strongly affected societies. In considering this phenomenon, the perspective of the migrant himself is often overlooked. However, one Monday evening, April 24, 2023, the focus was precisely on this experience, through the presentation of a theatrical performance, a lecture, and a panel discussion. The event was a collaboration between the John Adams Institute, OBA, NIAS and the Polish Culture NL Foundation.
Ambassador’s personal motivations
After a brief introduction by the moderator, Fadoua Alaoui, the first to speak was the US Ambassador to the Netherlands, Shefali Razdan Duggal. She stressed the importance of migration for her own country, but also referred to personal experience, being the daughter of a migrant single mother who worked beyond her capacity to create opportunities for her child in their new country, the United States. She also mentioned the situation of migrants for whom relocation is not a free choice, such as refugees from Ukraine, many of whom have scattered all over the world, while a large group of them have remained in Poland.
Then Consul Dagmara Bobak of the Embassy of Poland invited to the first item on the program – an adaptation of the play Immigrants by Sławomir Mrożek, who himself left Poland for many years,
Free choice or alienation?
The play, written in 1974, depicts two emigrants sharing a room. Tensions arise between them, and it gradually becomes apparent that she left for economic reasons and he for political beliefs. However, they both struggle with the question, how free are they in their choices? The play is a dynamic interweaving of dialogues and sung monologues, and the physical struggles of the characters are choreographed.
The alienation they experience is extremely poignant. It’s hard for them to escape the question: “where are you at home?” The message was made all the more intense as among the audience, many people have had similar experiences.
The show was produced by the Buda Staging Performance Foundation.
In the second part of the program, Dr. Nancy Foner of The City University of New York presented statistics illustrating the growth of immigration in the US since the 1960s and the extent to which it enriches American society. You can read more about this in her recently published book One Quarter of the Nation: Immigration and the Transformation of America.
According to the author, migration accelerates urbanization, rejuvenates the demographic structures of societies, and thus provides the necessary number of people in the labour market.
In the polarized society of the United States, the attitudes toward migration are the subject of much dispute, and this fact has clearly resonated in the moderator’s very well-conducted discussion with sociologist Professor Els de Graauw. Striking examples were given of how local authorities shape their integration policies, how they welcome migrants recognizing their positive impact on the development of the city and region.
While providing new opportunities, migration also creates problems. For individuals – due to alienation, for societies – due to integration difficulties. However, the general conclusion of the evening was the notion that migration brings a valuable enrichment to both, individuals, and societies.
Pictures Gerrit Serné
Video impression of the evening: