This Is Us

‘I Can’t Understand Your Daddy’s Accent’

My immigrant dad, the most embarrassing man on the planet, made no sense until I understood where he came from

Alexandra Szczupak
Human Parts
Published in
13 min readJun 25, 2020


Photos courtesy of the author.

When you grow up in a comically rural town like I did, you’re more acutely aware of how different you are for having an immigrant parent than you would be if you lived closer to civilization. My dad, apparently unafflicted by the chronic embarrassment I struggled with daily, did not possess this overt awareness of his foreignness. I remember not thinking anything was out of the ordinary, until it was out of the ordinary.

“I knew your dad was Polish, but I didn’t know your dad was Polish,” peers would say upon meeting my father. At 13, I was pathologically insecure and fiercely guarded the more salient bits of my life. I can’t decide if this was out of actual embarrassment or a sense of protection over my father’s perceived “quirks.” Even the snacks he prepared (read: open-faced tomato sandwiches) would initiate a barrage of questions or comments from outsiders that I did not want to address.

At times, and to my dismay, it seemed he would intentionally push the boundaries of local townspeople. Like the time my dad stopped to get gas on our way to the lake. He forced me to go inside with him to pay…