All of us migrants; what about me?

Migration in the universal sense

When one studies historical, biological, astronomical or chemical matters... generally with most scientific studies, movement, on a large or small scale, is inseparable from life as opposed to inertia which is associated with death…

Immobile matter does not exist as soon as one takes a step back to observe it under a microscope or a telescope.

Animals migrate across the oceans or through the air. Since time immemorial, men have populated every corner of the earth and have sought to discover unknown lands and even explore space in recent years.

There are many reasons why people leave their birthplace and travel to an unknown land: mass migration, exodus, flight, conquests, explorations, pilgrimages, initiatory journeys, the search for vital resources...; the list is endless of what made people move and what makes men and women move.

These journeys, for better or, unfortunately, also for worse, have been an essential part of humanity’s history. It would be naive to claim that migration is no longer a part of one of the foundations of humanity. I cannot understand those who portray migration as a problem or a crisis when it is an integral part of what makes us human and even what makes us exist.

Migration in its literal sense

When I try to remember the place where I come from, I find myself traveling through so many countries, so many names, so many traditions that I get a bit confused.

For a long time, I believed that my surname, Spitzer, came from one of my ancestors’ profession (Spitzer appears on Staedtler’s pencil sharpeners) and I thought that this ancestor sharpened pencils. Until the day when I discovered, looking at my family tree, that before living in Eisenstadt, Austria, this ancestor lived in Spitz and that he had since been called Spitzer. This name already bears the mark of a journey.

Then, over the years, this surname mingled with others such as Braun, Gaon, Andreades, Vanvakidou, Abdal, Madeleni, Psalti..., Levantine Catholics, Sephardim, Orthodox, Ashkenazim living together in a fragile, and yet so enriching, harmony. Those men and women whose blood ran through my veins had, I would like to believe, out of love, decided to cross the borders of their communities to meet each other.

These people, these families sometimes travelled thousands of kilometres for so many reasons, taking with them their traditions, their know-how, their history and that of their ancestors. Sometimes in search of new skills, sometimes to flee hostile situations, sometimes just to seek a better life for their family.

Some have more than likely encountered obstacles by settling in unknown regions, but all of them seem to have been able to start a home where they have landed.

This story is not unique, it is the story of millions of people since the beginning of time.


When I read two letters that my grandfather wrote and in which he asked for asylum to escape one of the deadliest follies of our recent history and to save his family, when I felt the anguish that he felt through every word, when I felt the fear of not being accepted into this country that could offer him security, it was clear that the sacredness of articles 13 and 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an obvious and indisputable fact.

My migrations

It is difficult for me to accept my sedentary lifestyle, as I am someone who accomplished the trip of a lifetime as a baby and since then has only moved to go on vacation. Fortunately, a moment of shame is quickly forgotten. Whenever I meet someone whose journey reminds me of the experiences of close relatives or friends of relatives, I feel like I’m among family. The family of those whose roots exist somewhere else, but who are reshaping a new life, where they settle down. The family of those who carry with them all their wealth – and sometimes they have very few possessions – and who share them wherever they can settle down again.

My spiritual migration

Being someone who is not attached to any particular tradition, I think that migration on a spiritual level is the search for the reason of my presence among the living. I claim the right to ignorance because it compels me to seek the truth. Not to find it and take refuge in it but to try to approach this absolute that no one can reach. Unconsciously and without any certainty, I must go into the unknown to try to understand what I am and the meaning of my presence here. With this approach, I consider that certainty is sedentary and that the desire to learn, to understand and perhaps one day to know is spiritual migration. Every time we accept to give up the comfort in our knowledge, we dare to venture into an unknown world, we are forced to try to understand its essence and rethink about our existence in relation to this new world. I am not saying that, in my case, it is a constant effort; I often have to remind myself that I know very little and am uncertain about a lot of things, but I would like to continue this quest until my last breath.

"Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind". Leonardo Da Vinci