Why Walking Your Ancestor's Landscape Can Change Your Life

Why Connecting With the Landscape of Your Ancestors Can Change Your Life


By Mary Jaksch

Do you know the landscape of your parents, or grandparents? If your family is still well rooted in the soil of your homeland, then you will know that landscape intimately. But if you come from a family where the roots have been cut, you may not have a felt sense of where you come from.

My family’s roots were severed. My father, Wenzel Jaksch – who, as a Social Democrat was part of the Resistance – fled Czechoslovakia just before the Nazis invaded and was never allowed to return. This affected not only my father, but also the next generation – my brother and myself – as well as our children.

We are all rootless.

Taken together, we have lived in over twenty different countries, and we each hold at least two passports.

There is a telling moment: ask any of us where we come from – and there is a lengthy pause. “Well – ” we tend to say, and then we start explaining where we were born and what nationalities we hold.

A few weeks ago, a small group of family and friends got together for a private pilgrimage. We re-enacted my father’s escape from the Czech Republic into Poland, walking over the Beskide mountains. Before my father died (I lost him in my teenage years because he had children late in life), he wrote a nail-biting account of his escape.

Wenzel Jaksch escaped in winter, disguised as a ski tourist. He survived impossible odds. Even walking the same trails in summer was hard. (One day we had to walk over 30 kilometers in the driving, cold rain with heavy packs.)

I’ve set myself the task of writing about his escape and  our experience of re-enacting it. It’s  bit daunting, and this post is the first step.

The outcome of connecting with the landscape of my ancestors was totally unexpected

When I arrived back home, I went to visit a good friend of mine. She kept on studying my face. then she said, “You look so different. It’s really striking. It seems like something fundamental has come to rest.”

That’s right. It has.

Seeing my father’s beloved homeland and walking through it, has somehow healed something within me. I now know where I come from, and have reconnected with my roots.

What about you? Have your family’s roots been cut?

What is your experience of this? I would love to read your comments.

Image of Mary Jaksch: Elspeth Collier


About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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