Perceptions and ideas of belonging, or of not belonging vary. Ones perception of belonging can vary drastically. Our perception of belonging is not something we are born with, it is something that is shaped as a result of our life experiences.
Peter Skrzynecki lets us into the mind of his “gentle” father in the poem “Feliks Skrzynecki”. In this poem it is made clear that the persona of the poem i.e Feliks, has a very closed off relationship with the society of his new home. We first get this impression when Feliks describes his father as keeping pace “only with the Joneses”. This suggests that Feliks only worried about what was important keeping up only with himself, never bothering with what everyone else was doing. He felt that it was better to not belong than to belong to the Australian society.
Peter goes on to describe Feliks as a man who preferred the solitary of his garden as opposed to a lively social environment. This is made apparent when he writes “Alert, brisk and silent he swept its (garden) paths ten times around the world”. For a man to spend such a large part of his life tending to his garden this suggests that he has a strong spiritual connection to it and feels like he belongs most when he is surrounded by what he loves most, “like an only child” to be exact.
Moving away from Mr. Skrzynecki, in the first stanza of St Patrick’s College a clear picture of Mrs. Skrzynecki is painted for us when Peter uses a capital letter when referring to mother. From this we get the feeling that Mrs. Skrzynecki is not a pushover and wanted only “What was Best”. This suggests that Mrs. Skrzynecki felt that by enrolling Peter in a prestigious school that either he would automatically belong or that belonging was something of low importance.
Finally we come to young Peter, a 13 year old who cannot seem to fit in or belong anywhere. In the second stanza of “St Patrick’s College” there is a clear contrast between mother and son. Peter sits “Under the principals window” sticking “pine needles into the motto” on his breast. This suggests that Peter mocks the school and places little importance on its prestige.
Peter also describes his younger self as a “foreign tourist”. This simile emphasises how much young Peter fails to connect with his school and the people within it. He is confused and he finds it difficult to achieve a sense of belonging at school. Caught up between the two very different lifestyles of his migrant family and the local school students, Peter’s perception of belonging is mixed up and he has not yet felt what it is like to truly belong.
From the above described poems we can see how people’s perceptions of belonging can vary drastically usually based upon their life experiences.
A sense of belonging can emerge from the connections made with people, places, groups, communities and the larger world. Humans need belonging; it gives them a sense of safety and completeness.
In Peter Skrzynecki’s “Migrant Hostel” there is a strong sense of a human connection. When Peter writes, “Nationalities sought each other out instinctively” it highlights how people of the same race are drawn together instinctively. He describes this attraction as human nature. From this we can see that a sense of belonging has emerged between these people from their connections with others of the same nationality.
He also compares these people to birds when he uses the similes “Like a homing pigeon” and “We lived like birds of passage. The use of this simile suggests that humans travel together in packs much like birds. This comparison to birds shows how the pack like behaviour of birds is also exhibited within humans. Groups and communities or packs give people a strong sense of belonging. These groups are usually formed when groups of people share something in common whether it be race or “memories of hunger and hate”.
“10 Mary Street” is