The film examines the complex sense of identity of many Canadians, through the experience of four Canadians who share a Polish ancestral connection.
Two of the characters are Jewish, but have very different feelings about their Polish roots. One, whose family left Poland several generations ago, is actively seeking to regain, for himself, some way of “being Polish”, and has gone so far as to study the Polish language and to research his family’s genealogy in Poland. The other is the son of Holocaust survivors and, while wants to confront and examine his Polish origins, decides, in the end, that being Canadian and Jewish is what really defines him.
For the two Christian characters, Poland has not been a central part of their consciousness, throughout their lives, and the trip to Poland forces them to confront what it means to have Polish roots.
One character is of mixed Polish and Canadian Métis heritage, and being Métis is far more important to her. Professionally, she is an aboriginal rights lawyer. Early in life, however, she was a dancer, and had been inspired by a Polish dance troupe she saw as a child.
The other Gentile character had always associated being Polish with the poverty and hardship her grandparents experienced as immigrant homesteaders on the Prairies. The visit to Cracow and Warsaw opens her eyes to a Poland of great cathedrals and works of art, a country that was once a major power in Europe and has a long and glorious history.
The film weaves together the stories of the four characters, both in Canada and Poland. In the end, it opens the door, for viewers, to a broader reflection on Canadian identity. In many ways, these four characters are very typical Canadians - Canadians who carry with them the baggage of multiple heritages. The film helps us to understand what those multiple strands in our identities could mean – if we took the time to explore them.