blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


CAMILLE ZAKHARIA  |  Elusive Homelands

The Immigrants

We, as immigrants, constantly search our innermost selves to justify our selfishness, and our noble explanations abound. “We really didn’t leave our families for a better future for ourselves. It’s all for our children.” Our aging parents, whose multitude of sacrifices ensured our ability to emigrate in search of this “better life,” may suffer our loss, but this is what they really want for us, a better future in a foreign land thousands of miles away from them. We did not forsake our homeland. It is our homeland that betrayed us with its wars, its corruption, and its failing economy.

Elusive Homelands—The Immigrants exhibit
 Elusive Homelands—The Immigrants
 VCUQ Gallery, Doha, Qatar
 October 4–November 8, 2007
Photo by Larry Koltys 

Our choices are the optimum solution for all concerned. Our children will have an exotic dimension to their otherwise integrated foreign identity gleaned from their knowledge of the faraway land of their ancestors and the flavorful food of their childhood. We, with our strange accents and unusual clothes, will be a source of pride for them, and they will grow up appreciating our sacrifices, the long hours we worked in jobs that we were overqualified for, just to give them a fighting chance at a better future. Our differences and idiosyncrasies will not embarrass them in front of their friends.

Our parents, who talk to photographs of grandchildren they have never held, will take lonely, broken hearts to their graves. But we assure ourselves that they are happy to see us doing so well, so far away. It is, after all, the reason why they sacrificed so much to educate us. Their hearts swell with pride at the knowledge of their sons. They worked night and day to put us through engineering school. Now we run our own business in our new homeland. They feel their efforts have been duly rewarded, even though our training did not prove useful in the end. Our corner stores are still the best in the neighborhood.

And our countries, whose political and economic demise we participated in, hold up their heads as their young, government-educated, multilingual citizens flee to build the economies of foreign lands while those of their own crumble.

Yet we, the martyred immigrants, choose to believe that we sacrifice all and expect nothing in return. As our children rebel under our pressure to turn them into the ideals that we could not live up to, we blame this foreign land, for its social ills are not our fault. It is no wonder that our children succumb to its many temptations. We did not face the same pressures in our youth.

—Camille Zakharia