Border Storiesby Penelope Starr on May. 04, 2010, under Arts
What if we all told the stories of how we came to be in this country? Mine goes like this:
Ellis Island received all four of my grandparents from various eastern European countries in the beginning of the 20th century. I was able to find my Hungarian grandmother’s name on the ship manifest because I have her name from a sampler she stitched and my Austrian grandfather’s ship because my father shared his name. But my mother’s parents arrival informations remains a mystery to me because I don’t know the names that they had before they were “americanized” by the immigration officials.
My grandparents and their generation never talked about “the old country”, at least not to us kids. They had all worked very hard to assimilate and leave the bad memories of pogroms, the coming of World War I and other horrendous stories behind them. I assume they all became citizens of this country; I don’t even know. We didn’t talk about it.
My grandfathers got work, my grandmothers stayed home with the kids and barely learned English because they were in a New York neighborhood of Eastern Europeans and didn’t have to. My father spoke German until he was in first grade.
My parents were both born here as was I – and my children and grandchildren. We are all the descendants of brave people who crossed the big ocean under very unpleasant circumstances, not knowing what their reception would be once they arrived.
Substitute the time period and the countries and my story isn’t that different from that of all immigrants who cross borders for a better life.