Lifestyle & Relationships

From Azerbaijan to Poland: How I Created A Home Away From Home

Countries of Origin: Azerbaijan & Poland

Nargiz Mammadzada sitting and looking off to the side
(Photo courtesy of Nargiz Mammadzada)

I am Nargiz Mammadzada, a young woman who moved from Azerbaijan to Poland at the age of 23 during the COVID pandemic’s most frightening period. 

I left my family, friends and loved ones behind. In short, my whole life.

Almost two years ago, in April, I started my life from scratch. As difficult as it was, I am just as happy and proud that I did it, especially because I did it alone.

But why did I do this? What is my story? For this, I will have to take you to the 2000s.

When I was a young child, even before I was in school, I watched TV shows for kids. In one of these shows, two people showed different cities, countries and continents to children by traveling to them. I watched with such admiration that I vividly remember sitting closer to the TV each time and watching with a big smile on my face. And then, when I was just four or five years old, I made a very big decision: I would travel the world, choose all the countries I want to see, and live in each of them for a while.

As I grew older, I did not forget this resolution. I always reminded myself and told my family about my dream. I admired the Eiffel Tower so much that my friends and family always bought me Eiffel Tower accessories. I still admire the Eiffel Tower, but unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to travel to Paris.

Then I started school, and of course, one of my favorite subjects was geography. I have read and researched so much that I have already visited numerous destinations in my dreams, where I have seen different countries and met new people. I scoured encyclopedias about different cultures because I was preparing myself for my great journey one day.

However, the turning point in my life took place when I was just 13 years old, when I decided to study in another country.

Naturally, the thought of living in another country has always excited me. In my opinion, being born in one country does not mean we have to live in that country for the rest of our lives. Our world, as a whole, is our big home. Every inch of it, not just one country. But there were also many other factors that led me to make this decision. I was not comfortable with the society in which I lived in and its standards, and I did not feel relevant or that I fit in. One of the driving factors in my decision was that the standard of living was not as high as I wanted it to be.

From early adolescence onwards, I started working harder to build my future the way I wanted it. At first, no one, including my family, believed me because they thought the decision I made in childhood would change. But little did they know that I had remained on that path since that day.

I graduated from school as an “Honorary Graduate” and subsequently pursued a bachelor’s degree. From the very beginning, I planned to study for a master’s degree in another country because I wanted to get my degree, gain some experience by working a little, and take this big step after I had become more confident.

Fortifying my dream while at uni

By the time I was an undergraduate, I had already started to develop my English skills. Learning this language to perfection was one of my biggest goals. I read many articles about different countries and universities. I never stopped researching, I never stopped dreaming, and most importantly, I never lost my passion and desire.

Seeing this determination, my family did their best to support me and help me grow as a more educated young woman. They were the ones who encouraged me to do more research and learn more languages. My peers and colleagues often criticized me and tried to dissuade me from my chosen path because not only was I the only daughter of my family, I was also the only child.

Whenever this happened, whenever people did not understand me and judged me, I always had the same response ready: “No matter what, we are given only one chance to live our lives, and when I will look back in the future, I do not want to start my words with ‘I wish I had done things differently.’ I do not want to regret the life I could not live or blame anyone for that.”

And I would also proudly add: “I am not the only one who thinks so; my mother always tells me that, too. She is my biggest supporter.” 

My mom always says, “If you want this so badly, I cannot stop you. It is your right to go and live your life the way you want. In the future, I do not want to be the reason you regret that you did not do it, and I do not want to be the one who got in your way.”

For me, these were the words of a parent who treated their child as an individual, not as a dependent person. Nothing could stop me from following my thoughts and dreams, but of course, the support of my family meant a lot to me.

I didn’t let rejection clip my wings

This hasn’t been easy. First, I applied to universities to study in Italy, which was my dream, and I got accepted to five of the world’s top-ranked universities. However, the joy of admission was overshadowed by the rejection of my visa application. Suddenly, my dream of studying in Italy ended before it began.

But this cloud had a silver lining. 

In 2021, I moved to one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, Gdansk, where I started my master’s degree. Shortly after moving, I began working alongside my studies. It was very important for me to be a strong and independent young woman, so standing on my own two feet without needing anyone’s financial support was my main goal.

photo of the city in Gdansk, Poland
(Photo courtesy of Nargiz Mammadzada)

I overcame culture shock and loneliness to love my adopted city

Of course, the difficulties I experienced in the process of adapting, the culture shock, and the struggle I waged within myself due to being far away from all my loved ones were difficult at first.

At the start, I felt so alone. It was the very first time in my life that I had come so far away from the place where I had lived my whole life. In this country, where I did not even know the language, even doing grocery shopping was a very difficult task for me.

There have been many moments when I have asked myself, “What am I doing here? I want to go back to my country, to my family!” However, despite my initial reservations, I always managed to pick myself up and continue from where I left off.

I didn’t even know how to maintain a healthy relationship with my family and friends on my own but I am grateful to them that, during these two years, they never once made me feel that I was far away. Hours of phone and video calls with family and friends were sometimes the only thing I looked forward to during the day. When I had a problem or when I was looking for someone to share my experiences with, or just to talk to, they were there for me. My phone is full of photos and videos my friends have sent me in the last two years. There was nothing they would not do just to put a smile on my face. And I am so grateful for them and will always be. The first time I had to spend my birthday far away and without anyone, they were once again there for me.

I have to say that since I moved during the height of the COVID pandemic, it was not easy to socialize and make new friends. This, of course, made the situation even more difficult. It was only after the restrictions were lifted that I had the opportunity to meet new people.

But over time, Gdansk started to become my second hometown. Now I can say with all my heart that, in the future, even when I will live in another city or another country, I will remember this city as my second home. It’s where I spent the best years of my youth, a city where I built my independent life with more confidence, and it will always be difficult to do justice to its importance to me with mere words.

Thank you to Julianna Wages for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Lifestyle & Relationships team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Nargiz Mammadzada was born in 1997 in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and lived there until 2021. In 2021, she decided to move to Poland and start her master's degree there. She believes that through writing, we express ourselves and leave memories for future generations. Her goal is to publish her own book one day. She is very interested in learning new languages, finding new films and series to watch before everyone else and writing about them, attending operas, ballets, and other performances, as well as visiting museums, and, of course, traveling to various countries.

One Comment

  • Joanna

    Your story reminds me about my own years ago when I moved from Poland to Norway. I know exactly what you went through and I do admire your strenght and inner motivation! Now I’m back to Gdansk, the very place that has become your second home, and I’m so happy for you that you have fullfilled your dream! Keep doing that!

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