Anna Faciejew won the Higher Education Category of the 2019 Melbourne Writers Festival's storytelling competition 'Love & Melbourne' .

Falling in love with a city

By Anna Faciejew (Poland)

A girl walked out of the city train onto a busy platform. It was 11am and the day was rather grey. Little drops of cool rain were falling onto rushing pedestrians but they didn’t seem too bothered. The train station itself was quite grim and didn’t live up to the expectations of the big, wonderful city Melbourne was supposed to be. She stood there for a few minutes, overwhelmed and confused. Moving countries was not easy for her and all of the sudden it felt like she had made a big mistake. Panic hit her and all sorts of questions and doubts started flooding her head. ‘What if it was never going to work out? What if she would hate this city and never be happy?’ Someone bumped into her and rushed passed without apologising. She only then realised she was still standing on the platform and the train she got off, as well as everyone around had already moved on. Not feeling any less anxious she started walking and left the train station.

Days went by, without any signs of the existence of the sun. She was trying to focus on setting up her life but she didn’t know where to start. Everywhere she went she was reminded of how different she was to everyone. People struggled to understand her accent and she struggled to understand theirs. She was getting confused with all the different coffee types and the names of the meals she had never seen before. She felt very lonely and defeated. But then she met Rob.

Union Place

Rob was a mathematics student born in Sydney but a true ‘Melburnian’ at heart. He loved everything that involved sports, science, music and obviously coffee. Rob showed her that the best cafes in Melbourne are not the ones on the main streets but the ones hidden in graffiti-covered alleyways and suburban garages. He showed her that good music in Melbourne is free and available to everyone and that the more Melbourne references one can fit in one song, the more popular it will probably become. He took her to football games and told her that if she screams ‘ball’ or ‘deliberate’ once in a while she will look like a true footy expert. He also taught her that it was okay if Australia doesn’t win all of the international sporting events, as long as they beat England. Apparently it is the single most important sporting rule in Australia. He also took her to many museums, art galleries and exhibitions of international and local artists. She all of a sudden found herself amazed with the creativity and endless potential of the city.

Together they battled Autumn, strolling through dozens of stunning parks and gardens covered in the most colourful leaves, visiting countless markets and hiding in cosy cafes. He also introduced her to many of his friends both Australian born and those that moved here at different stages of their life. Over the course of months, she got to know them and they shared their stories, political views and their problems with her. She didn’t know it then, but it was the most important thing Rob had ever showed her. He made her realise that Melbourne is not a metropolitan concentration of buildings, but a unity created by thousands of diverse people like Rob and like the girl herself. People that come from all around the world and choose to create music, art and coffee and live their lives here. They all have different backgrounds and different stories but they have a common sense of belonging and a willingness to open their home to newcomers and show them they belong here too.

As for the girl herself, she found her place in Melbourne sooner than she ever expected she would. She also realised that the people, and what they share with others, is what creates a place and Melbourne truly has the most beautiful people of all. For realising that and for sharing his piece of Melbourne with her, she will forever be grateful to Rob.