We’re a country of immigrants. And every immigrant has a story.
When my husband’s great-grandfather came to America, like many immigrants at the time, he planned to send money for his wife and family to join him. (Little did he know that at the time he left, his wife was pregnant. He thought he was leaving a wife and five children but there would soon be six.)
Before he had a chance to send anything, though, his wife and eldest daughter were killed in a pogrom (an organized massacre by Cossacks, usually of Jews in Russia or eastern Europe). The village collected money to send the now-five children to America, with the eldest – my husband’s grandmother Ida, aged 13 at the time – as the head of the family, carrying the newborn. They walked to the train, took the train to the ship, and eventually walked down the gangplank into a new life.
Quite a story.
My grandmother’s immigration story was also dramatic. She was 16 at the time and yearned to go to America; she spoke of nothing else. Her parents asked the rabbi for advice. He thought the girl only wanted to go because her parents were against it. He advised them to give permission, even give the money, to call her bluff. Uh oh, rabbi, not exactly. Off she went.
Her father later journeyed to fetch her, but was turned back at Ellis Island because of ill health. The second time he tried, he was admitted. While in America trying to get his daughter to come home to Poland, though, he died of a heart attack. She stayed in her new life.
Fast forward to today and the stories and images of Syrian migrants. Their troubles at home are unimaginable and their journey treacherous. They walk for weeks only to encounter a non-crossable national boundary, or they get in dangerous overcrowded little boats though they can’t swim. They’re yearning for a place to live in peace, to work, and to be able to promise their children a future, a new life.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Never was it so true.
Any interesting/horrific/funny/unusual immigrant stories to share?
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