This time I decided to photographs all of us – Leonarda, Yuri and me (and Leonarda’s grandson because he is an integral part of her life. Yuri and me often visit Leonarda and she always treats us with something.
It was the most difficult photo shoot for me because I was photographing three or four people and being one of the subjects at the same time. I made it to use as an introductory image of all subjects together.
Migration issues are actively discussed nowadays. Debates about its cultural, social, political and economical effects are reflected in in the media, public opinions and even in art. While most of the researches, statistics and opinions analyse global and common effects of migration, either positive or negative, I decided to look at what’s happening on the personal level. The questions I posed were: what do migrants do to assimilate and/or to adapt? why do migrants choose to assimilate or to adapt?
Within the project I was observing one family as an example of one social unit. I chose three family members as representatives of different ways of assimilation/adaptation. And the subjects are my partner (Yuri), his mother (Leonarda) and me.
Leonarda came to Britain from Latvia 8 years ago, when her native country was experiencing an economic crisis, to find a job and also to avoid her ex-husband. In the beginning she had tough times in the UK. She didn’t know the language at all, had never been in Britain, had no friends or family here. At her first workplace in the host country, she also experienced age discrimination, but being very hardworking, positive and purposeful person, Leonarda began learning English language and secured permanent workplace at another job. After she settled down in new country, she began to persuade her children, including Yuri, to join her.
Yuri came to Britain 6 years ago, when Latvia was still in crisis and when he wasn’t satisfied with the level of his incomes. He knew just a few words and phrases in English from PC games and yet he decided to follow his mother’s example and to migrate. He started factory worker job and took English course. Within a year and a half he went from being a conveyor worker to cleaner, handyman and finally, engineer position. And he wanted me to come and join him.
I never wanted to migrate. I remember myself learning English words when I was about four years old. I had visited UK years before I moved here, I felt in love with Edinburgh’s architecture, was fascinated by all the museums I visited, I couldn’t take my eyes off paintings at The National Gallery in London and pulled my lower back after standing and staring at them for the whole day. I really liked the country, and yet when Yuri decided to move to Britain, I didn’t come along with him. I liked my life in Latvia, in a beautiful city, having a good job and an active social and cultural life, being close to my family and friends. But after a year and a half of regular flights to Yuri and back, I agreed to move for the sake of our relationship.
This project observes how each of us, Leonarda, Yuri and me were and still are trying to adapt to our new lives and to assimilate into local society.
I acknowledge that there are much more various ways of assimilation and adaptation than redlected in the project because everyone is unique and has his or her own reasons for or against integration, everyone has own way of achieving or resisting it and there’s no right or wrong choice, either decision has both positive and negative effects. But at the end of the day, we all (migrants) go through the both processes and probably the most difficult challenge is to chase the balance between integrating and retaining our cultural identity.