As long as I can remember I've been fascinated by my family's ethnic background. My parents grew up on the South Side of Chicago where your ZIP code reveals your nationality. My mother grew up in the solidly Polish/Lithuanian neighborhood of Garfield Ridge, in Chicago's south-west side (60638).
My dad hails from Bridgeport, home of the Chicago White Sox and the Daley political machine. Nothing against the Cubbies, or "Da Bears," but I'm White Sox all the way. On my father's father's side, I am the 4th generation to live spitting distance from Comiskey Park (old and new - it moved; then we moved.)
Europe has exerted a magnetic pull on my soul for as long as I can remember. I had the 1980s version of a "grand tour" with Sr. Mary Frances and Miss Ambrister, the directress and English teacher, respectively, of my 3rd but not last high school: Mt de Chantal Visitation Academy, in Wheeling, WV. Three years as an undergrad at American University, two years as a reporter, and then off to graduate school at University of Colorado, Boulder. I spent two years (1995-97) living in Poland conducting research for my dissertation on Poland's post-communist transition.
The process of "post-communist transition" (to what, no one can be sure) is, to me, the most compelling political and social transformation of our time. But, that may have a lot to do with the fact that I am an ardent Slavophile. I can't seem to get enough of reading and watching films about the myriad ways Slavs have suffered, starved, censored, tortured, exiled, and murdered but also created, danced, ate, drank, persevered and survived for the last thousand years. It's an incredible history.
My geographic interests are shifting eastward over time from Poland and Central Europe into Russia, Eurasia and China. I am LOVING learning all the ways "the East" has shaped the world in ways that few of us "Westerners" realize.
I feel fortunate to live in a time where there is an endless supply of podcasts, audiobooks and the 24-7 news cycle so I can never be without something to plug into while I hike with my dogs, work in my yard, or clean my house.