I am so excited to introduce you to Izabela. Izabela is my friend, confidante and all-around badass blogging motivation.
I met Izabela eight years ago when she auditioned to sing in the choir for which I did some administrative work and a small amount of directing when our fearless leader was absent.
Izabela stood out from the dozen or so other people who auditioned that day because she knew exactly what she wanted to sing and didn’t do any meta-language about it. She just stood up and sang “My Tribute” in Polish. Her voice reminded me of Freddie Mercury. Still does, every single time I hear it (which is not nearly often enough.)
At the time I met her, she was thirty, had been married about a month, and had just moved to France from Poland. She had lived an entire life before I met her. Now, her life was all new beginnings.
She intrigued me. She was a foreigner, living in France, just like me. She had amazing clothes, which, as you know, is one of my passions. She probably thought I was the single most shallow person on earth for those first years I knew her, because every single time I would see her I would pre-empt every conversation by commenting on something she was wearing. “I want the same thing!” I would whine, to which she would respond, “I got it in Poland.”
She is a woman of tremendous instruction and experience, having studied theology and also worked for Canal Plus, a gigantic media outlet while living in Warsaw. She always loved France, and met and married an adorable, smiley and good-natured French guy (much as I had years beforr). They have two children, a crafty and funny daughter who is four (just one month younger than my youngest!) and a hefty and handsome son who was born in January of 2021.
A little less than five years ago, Izabela also became one of my voice students. Imagine us, both with huge pregnant bellies, singing our hearts out.
Izabela’s move to France inspired her to start writing internet travel guides in Polish for Alsace, the region of France we live in. This grew into a business offering interactive French courses for Polish speakers.
I am honored that Izabela was willing to take the time away from her family, especially in the midst of this never-ending third French lockdown to answer a few of my questions!
Lily: Hey, Iza, what are some of the things you loved to do as a child?
Izabela: I LOVED singing (are you surprised?). It came from my dad who was a professional singer and when I was little, he travelled around the world with his choir. As a five year-old I knew the most songs from their repertoire and sang them all day long (does it make you think of someone maybe? Yes, my four year-old does the very same thing.)
Lily: Hah! Yes! We were just talking about that! What I love is how four year-olds sing 24 hours a day, but when we try to get a note in edgewise it is, “Mom! STOP SINGING!” Simply adorable. (Eyeroll!) But I digress. Please, go on!
Izabela: I loved to read. I learned to read quite early. Later I started loving to write. At the age of seven I dreamed to be the youngest published poem writer.
Lily: Were you encouraged to pursue the things you loved to do?
Izabela: It depends. To sing – yes, I was encouraged to a certain point by my mum. I remember singing with her (she doesn’t know how to sing though, but as a child it didn’t bother me much).
Lily: Oh, the irony!
Izabela: But by my dad, never. Later when I was a teenager he managed to discourage me with some harsh words that stuck with me for years.
Lily: Ah, I am sensing that this might have been a reason to start looking for a shovel to start burying your treasure… What about writing? Did you get an encouragement to write?
Izabela: Not really. I tried to show my works to my parents a few times but they were definitely not interested.
Lily: Have you found a way, as an adult, to return back to those activities?
Izabela: Yes. My love for singing and writing was too strong to resist. It became a part of my identity. Starting to blog eight years ago opened a totally new chapter of writing expression in my life.
Lily: When you are doing what you love, how do you know what the next right thing is?
Izabela: Research, conviction, flash of brilliant idea,…all of the above.
When I sing I rely more on conviction and the illumination it can bring, while in writing it’s practice, learning and research.
I’m not sure if I told ever you, but coming to you for singing lessons a few years ago was a result of one of this “flash” moments. One day while singing with our choir I was struck by a clear loud thought in my head. It told me that I need to ask you to give me some singing lessons in order to overcome some limitations I felt in my head. Voilà. Example of a flash of brilliant idea!
Lily: You were just as much of an encouragement to me at the time. Plus, the two of us, pregnant up to our ears…no wonder our children sing all the time!
Izabela: All. The. Time.
Lily: Tell me a story about you and fashion.
Izabela: We were quite modest as a family. The clothes I wore as a child were always given by someone else. But I didn’t complain! Many of them were given to us by my aunt who lived in Italy so the clothes were simply beautiful and of very good quality. I think she is the one who, over the years had the strongest influence on my fashion taste.
Later, as a teenager my parents loved to buy clothes in second hand stores… I hated that but had no choice. Also from time to time I went shopping with my mum to a huge (in my eyes) shopping center in Warsaw but I hated it as well. I hated feeling obligated to try on clothes I didn’t like. And then again being forced to wear the dresses chosen by my mum.
As a teenage girl I listened a lot to Nirvana and grunge became my fashion style for several years.
Izabela: The real change came only when I started to earn my first money as a student. I could finally buy things I really liked. I got to play and test out different looks. However, finding my own style took a while. In retrospect, I have been most inspired in my style by my very elegant (and exceptionally beautiful) aunt Elżbieta.
Lily: Now for the question I have always wanted to ask you. Tell me the origin story of your signature red glasses!
Izabela: I love red. When living in Poland I had already red glasses once, but then I changed them for a pair of violet ones that I didn’t like in the end.
After moving to France, I needed to get new glasses, and my husband wasn’t really a fan of my violet ones, either. And then we found these red frames. It was a coup de foudre.* I knew they had been there waiting for me.
As I started showing myself in red glasses on my blog, people started to recognize me on the street. That was the moment when red glasses became my signature look. I cannot imagine changing them for a different color. Not that I ever would. I just love them.
*coup de foudre: Love at first sight.
Lily: How do you see a way forward for your passions as an influence for good in the world?
Izabela: Moja Alzacja (which means My Alsace – www.mojaalzacja.pl) is all about living in France from an expat point of view. My ultimate goal is to make people feel at home in France and to make their emigration easier.
Iza Rabehanta pisze (Iza Rabehanta writes – www.izabelarabehanta.com) is a channel of expressing myself, giving a testimony of my battles, wins and losses, sharing my sometimes down-to-earth and sometimes spiritual reflections. I have often thought that there is so much of men’s point of view on things (life, spirituality, God) out there. I’m trying to add a woman’s perspective and thoughts.
Lily: You’re preaching to the choir, sista!
Izabela: As for a way forward for my passions? Singing helps me to connect to God and to myself, while writing is the ability through which I can touch people and help them in a practical, down-to-earth. I love sharing my experiences with people. I just want to see the audience grow.
Lily: The more your audience grows, the more you know you’ve helped people! I totally hear you! Hey, Iza? Thank you soooo much for sharing your story with us. I know it will be an encouragement to many.
BTW: You sparkle.
You can find Izabela’s writings at www.mojaalzacja.pl and www.izabelarabehanta.com.
Special thanks to Zu Jach for the lovely photos of Izabela!
This article is part of a series called Bags of Gold. If you want to get caught up:
Part One: The Shame of Plenty
Part Two: My Bags of Gold
Part Three: What’s in a Name?
Part Four: On Heaven and Dinosaur Poop
Part Five; Just Blame Me, Okay?
Part Six: You used to Sparkle
Part Seven: She Sparkles: An interview with Izabela Rabehanta (You are here.)
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