A Gateway to Unraveling Stories

This is where I feel most like myself, surrounded by my Italian community of friends and the Italian culture.

by Urmi Hossein

Since childhood, we moved around a lot. I lived in Palermo (Italy), my birthplace, for nine years. We then moved to the north of Italy in the region of Lombardia, residing in Vigevano (a small town in the Province of Pavia) for three years. Afterward, we moved to the UK for a year and finally returned to Italy to settle in Milan. My parents are originally from Bangladesh, and now live in the UK, while I reside in Canada. 

Throughout my entire teenage years, I constantly bounced around from one place to another, changing schools, making new friends, moving houses, and never having a place to call home. I later moved to Canada, where I completed my university education, and settled down. Despite my considerable time in Canada, I never refer to it as home. 

Upon my arrival to Canada, I struggled when people asked me, “Where are you from?” I would always respond with, “Take a guess.” No one could accurately guess my origin. Given my South Asian appearance, many assumed Indian or Pakistani, but none would say Bengali. However, when I began speaking, they would say, “You are probably Latina.” I suppose my strong Italian accent gave it away when I spoke English. Every time I faced this question, I spent ten minutes narrating my story—where I was born, where I lived, where I grew up, why I have such an accent, and where my parents are from. Sometimes, it was so energy-draining to explain my ethnicity and upbringing. 

Comparing myself with many friends born and raised in one place, I envied them because they had one straight answer, whereas, for me, it meant a ten-minute monologue whenever someone asked, “Where are you from?” 

When people asked me, “Where are you from?” I would always respond with, “Take a guess.”

Then came the struggle of what I call home. Despite living in Canada for an extended period and spending most of my childhood and teenage years in Italy, it never occurred to me to call Canada home. My parents reside in the UK, where I visit them, yet I don’t consider the UK home either. Even though I lack a physical house there, I always call my birthplace, Italy, home. This is where I feel most like myself, surrounded by my Italian community of friends and the Italian culture. I love speaking Italian, eating Italian food, and embracing the art of gesticulation. 

With time, I’ve realized two things: home is a choice that is not necessarily tied to a physical location, and being born in one place and growing up in another makes me an interesting person full of stories to tell. 

With my journey of constantly moving between places and with the question “Where are you from?” I consider myself a gateway to unraveling stories that span across many cultures and continents.

Urmi Hossain is Bengali by blood and Italian by birth. She works in the financial services industry in Canada, where she is currently residing. She is a self-published author, blogger, speaker, polyglot, and mentor. During her life, she has lived in Italy, UK and Canada. Her first book is: Discovering Your Identity: A Rebirth from Interracial Struggle. She is an advocate of women’s empowerment and very passionate about teaching and mentoring other girls and women. She is part of the organization called Women In Leadership for the Victoria Chapter in Canada as the social media lead. She enjoys being a promoter of self-investing and personal development. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and boxing.

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