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American Mosaic

American Mosaic: The Immigrant Experience in the Words of Those Who Lived It

Foreword by Oscar Handlin
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    American Mosaic
    Book Description:

    This extraordinary work of oral history captures the immense drama and full dimensions of the American immigrant experience. The men and women who tell their stories include such famous names as Alistair Cooke, W. Michael Blumenthal, Edward Teller, and Lynn Redgrave. But they share these pages with 136 other people whose stories are equally compelling: a Jewish former sweatshop worker and union organizer, a Scandanavian homesteader, a Polish coal miner, an anti-Nazi refugee, a Japanese war bride, a Mexican migrant worker, a Cuban exile, a South African interracial couple, a Soviet dissident, and many more. They reveal the mingled joy and pain, hardship and triumph that were and are part of the glowing dream and fearful gamble of a new life in a new land. They offer unique understanding not only of the makeup but of the meaning of America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8019-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Oscar Handlin

    All too often we lack the means of knowing the thoughts and feelings of the people around us. We and they are inarticulate, having lost the power of expression not through lack of will or ability but through disuse.

    How much more difficult it is then to recapture the ideas and emotions of strangers separated from us by time or place. Men and women of wealth or education make themselves known in words on paper through written records left behind. Those not accustomed to the pen or typewriter remain vague figures in the distance, whom we can only dimly perceive,...

  2. Passage to America
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    We are all immigrants or the children of immigrants. Even those “original Americans,” the Indians, walked across a land bridge from Siberia some thousands of years ago. In the five centuries since the European discovery of America, an estimated fifty million men and women made the journey to this country, a mass migration without precedent in recorded history. They came in waves, reflecting events and conditions in the Old World, some driven by war, famine, or prejudice, some lured by tales of gold and free land. They came from every nation, from every class, and from every religious persuasion. We...

  3. PART I THE LAST OF THE OLD: The Traditional Immigrants

    • Sonia Walinsky FROM RUSSIA, 1906
      (pp. 1-2)

      It was 1906. I was six years old and we were on a train with some other immigrants going from New York to Chicago. I had learned a little English before we left home, and I remember when people on the train spoke to me in Russian, I said, “Speak only English. I’m an Americanka now. Don’t speak Russian to me. I’m an Americanka.”

      My brother and I were entered in school in Chicago right away. And my brother, who was ten, was surprised to see me on the stage of the auditorium of the school the first Friday we...

    • Walter Lindstrom FROM SWEDEN, 1913
      (pp. 3-8)

      At eighty-three, he is still tall and erect, with piercing blue eyes and work-gnarled hands. He lives with his wife in a small house on the South Side of Chicago.

      The place where my ancestors lived was on a small island off the coast of Sweden. It was a little farm surrounded by dark pinewoods.

      My father often told me there were trolls in those woods, who crept out at night to do mischief to us. I had no reason to doubt him because the bowl of milk that we put out for them every night was always empty in...

    • Pauline Newman FROM LITHUANIA, 1901
      (pp. 8-14)

      The calamitous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, in which 146 women and girls lost their lives, was a landmark in American labor history. It galvanized public opinion behind the movement to improve conditions, hours, and wages in the sweatshops. Pauline Newman went to work in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory at the age of eight, shortly after coming to the Lower East Side of New York City. Many of her friends lost their lives in the fire. She went on to become an organizer and later an executive of the newly formed International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union, of which she...

    • Anna Ohlson FROM NORWAY, 1906
      (pp. 14-18)

      The little house stands in a grove of poplars surrounded by level Dakota prairie. There is a woodshed, an outhouse, a barn, a pond with a few ducks. Inside the snug kitchen, Anna Ohlson and her husband share a pot of coffee with a visitor. They are both in their late eighties, and she is somewhat palsied, but he still chops the wood for the cookstove and she still bakes bread twice a week. On the wall over the table is a fading photograph of the first log house built on this land. Six small boys, a beribboned girl, and...

    • John Daroubian FROM ARMENIA, 1919
      (pp. 18-25)

      American children who failed to clean their plates used to be told: “Think of the starving Armenians.” John Daroubian is one of those legendary sufferers. He was driven into the desert; he ate wild grasses; he watched his small brother die crying for a crust of bread. At seventy-six, Mr. Daroubian still works, earning a comfortable living for himself and his wife with a small import business in New York City. He has warm, dark eyes and a skin like old parchment.

      I was born in Cholmolka, a small village but a beautiful one, because we are in the bottom...

    • Peter Kekonnen FROM FINLAND, 1905
      (pp. 25-28)

      When Peter Kekonnen came out to northern Minnesota at the age of sixteen, there was still virgin land to be had. He made a home for himself and his family in the wilderness. Now close to ninety, his eyesight dimmed and his strength failing, he lives with his oldest daughter. His granddaughter and his new great-grandson, also named Peter, were visiting at the time of the interview, and for a moment the baby was put into the old man’s arms. Time seemed to melt away as the two Peters, with identical turned-up noses, broad cheekbones, and slant-set blue eyes, clasped...

    • Albertina di Grazia FROM ITALY, 1913
      (pp. 28-32)

      Albertina di Grazia is plump, black-haired, fashionably dressed. She and her husband, a prosperous New Jersey builder, live in an impressive, modern house, equipped with climate control, room-to-room intercom, and a central stereo system. But she remembers the little mountain town of Montazzoli in the Abruzzi region of Italy, a world that was virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages.

      Over there we worked for a baron and hardly saw money from one end of the year to the next. All the people in the village would go down the mountain and work on the baron’s land. They were given a...

    • Taro Murata FROM JAPAN, 1907
      (pp. 32-36)

      Tiny, slender, delicately boned, he has a wispy white forked beard and a shiny yellow pate, like a figure on a Japanese screen. His high-pitched voice is just barely audible. His even tinier wife serves Japanese tea and wafer-thin, almost flavorless cookies to the interviewer. Outside the living room of their Seattle house is a cherry tree, beneath the branches of which the old couple often sit to write their daily haiku poem.

      I came over at the age of nineteen on an immigrant boat from Japan, theSaramara. We had to pay sixty dollars for the fare. I had...

    • Gunnar Johanson FROM ICELAND, 1905
      (pp. 36-39)

      Gray-eyed, deeply tanned, over ninety years old, he still works his North Dakota farm.

      I was almost eighteen when I came here on June 14, 1905. I came from a little fishing village in Iceland, and there was nothing to do there but work on the sea and unload the ships. Most of the boys there wanted to go out on the ocean and fish, but my mother said no. She was afraid for me, you see, because my father and two brothers had been lost on the sea, and, well, she didn’t think that was the kind of life...

    • Bridget Fitzgerald FROM IRELAND, 1921
      (pp. 40-43)

      Tiny, with tip-tilted nose and curly gray hair, she speaks in a breathless, high-spirited brogue, pounding the table frequently for emphasis. Widowed years ago and retired recently at seventy-five, she lives on Long Island with her only child, a married daughter. She spends her days looking after her grandson and “keeping everything spotless.”

      My mother would’ve had about fourteen children, or fifteen, sixteen, maybe. There was ten that lived. Over there they have a flock of children, and the older one watches the next one, the next one watches the next one, and the next one watches the next one;...

    • Elizabeth Dolan FROM IRELAND, 1912
      (pp. 44-45)

      She came to the United States at the age of sixteen and went to work as a nursemaid.

      I lived with the family, with a doctor in the Back Bay, an old Boston family. They used to have a lot of help at that time. There was a cook and a chambermaid and a waitress and chauffeur. There were two children, and I just had to feed them, you know, see that they eat, and take them out walking and in the carriage, the little one. I think I must be there about two years, and then I took up...

    • Katherine O’Hara FROM IRELAND, 1930
      (pp. 45-48)

      Small, vivacious, with bright eyes, she lives alone in a small New England town and cares for her tiny home and garden by herself. She still goes out to clean houses several days a week.

      I wanted my mother to be happy. I used to say to her as a little girl, “You don’t have to worry now, because when I grow big, I’m going to America and I’m going to make plenty of money and I’m going to send it home to you. You’re going to have everything, mamma.” It seems so strange that it came to pass.


    • Michael Kinney FROM IRELAND, 1930
      (pp. 48-53)

      He retired three years ago, after working thirty-five years in the same steel mill. Now he’s happy with his free-pass trip on the bus and says proudly, “I can get on the bus at nine and ride till four in the day, and it don’t cost me nothing.” He spends his time “playing around in the yard and going down and get a beer and a shot and come home.” He has a daughter who is a schoolteacher and a son who went into electronics. Both have left Pittsburgh.

      I was raised on a farm in County Kerry. Well, you...

    • Sophie Zurowski FROM POLAND, 1895
      (pp. 53-53)

      A widow, 109 years old, she lives in a nursing home in Gary, Indiana.

      My husband worked in the steel mill all his life. Hard work. He was working hard. None of my boys ever went to work in the steel mill. The one that got to be a druggist, when he was going to college he went to work over there to make a little money, and he said, “Daddy, I don’t know how you could stand that place!” My husband said, “Well, I could stand it. If you want to make a living, you have to stand it.”...

    • Steve Madich FROM YUGOSLAVIA, 1910
      (pp. 53-55)

      He was still working underground, loading coal, when he retired at sixty. Now eighty-six, still tall and straight, he lives alone in a small mining town in western Pennsylvania, in an immaculate apartment, which he cares for himself. Once a year, on the last Friday in July, he attends the Serbian Day picnic in a nearby city, where he participates in the games, eats barbecued lamb, and talks to relatives and old friends he hasn’t seen since the last Serbian Day celebration.

      That time, 1910, there was talk about America—making big money and things like that. So I thought...

    • George Palochek FROM CZECHOSLOVAKIA, 1912
      (pp. 56-58)

      He has been retired for eighteen years and now spends his time gardening and making end tables with elaborately carved designs. His work shed in the back yard includes a soft armchair, a sink, and a small refrigerator filled with soft drinks. The walls are covered with family photographs. Through the open door can be seen a fence hung with strings of garlic and the twelve hundred Bermuda onions he has planted this year.

      I was getting on to start sixteen years old, and then you can’t get no passport to United States, because Franz Joseph [Czechoslovakia was then part...

    • Vera Gurchikov FROM HUNGARY, 1911
      (pp. 58-60)

      A tiny, wrinkled old woman wearing a babushka, over eighty years old, her blue eyes still sparkle. She lives in a small, neat house in a quiet, lower-middle-class town that was once a thriving iron-ore mining community. Her kitchen is filled with pictures of her sons in uniform. Mother of six, grandmother of four times that number, and now even a great-grandmother, “Baba” centers her life around the little Russian Orthodox church in a nearby city.

      We are Carpathian-Russian people, from the Carpathian Mountains in Austria-Hungary—a little village, a couple houses, small—and everybody had a little place to...

    • Casimir Kopek FROM POLAND, 1910
      (pp. 61-61)

      He arrived in Chicago before World War I and worked in the stockyards for fifty years. Now retired, he lives with his wife in a South Side apartment building, which he owns. But his neighborhood is changing and he is angry.

      I was in hospital in Chicago and fellow in bed next to me was a nigger.

      “You kept my people in slavery!” he says to me.

      “I never keep anybody in slavery,” I say, “I was slave!”

      You see in them days just like niggers was slave here, Polacks was slave to Russian czar. Polack barons sell them for...

    • Matthew Murray FROM IRELAND, 1914
      (pp. 61-62)

      He lives on the top floor of a three-decker tenement in a Dorchester neighborhood once wholly Irish, now partly black. Like many Irish in Boston, he worked for the Metropolitan Transit Authority until his retirement.

      I arrived here a week before Christmas, 1914. You really want to know why? I wanted to get away from the war, England. That’s why. I went right into it here, right in it. I was in the army, in the big war, the first war. I was in England, France, Belgium, Germany.

      I was just a farmer in Ireland, County Galway—planting and reaping...

    • Grace Calabrese FROM ITALY, 1924
      (pp. 62-65)

      A widow with two married children and a comfortable life, she has spent most of her life working in New York City’s garment trade. Now retired, she is active in a senior citizens organization, helping to sew for various charitable projects.

      I came in 1924. I was going to be fifteen years old. My father was in the U.S.A. since 1921, and three years later, when he had his citizenship papers, there was a law that he was entitled to come back to Europe and pick up his family, so he did that. Our ship was supposed to land in...

    • Joseph Baccardo FROM ITALY, 1898
      (pp. 65-68)

      The old-fashioned striped barber pole turns slowly outside the little wooden barbershop in a small town near Philadelphia. Joseph Baccardo sits on the porch in the sunshine, waiting for one of his regular customers to show up. He’s been in business in the same place since 1902.

      My father was born in 1843, and when he got to be a young man, he had to go into the army. There was a war on then between Italy and Austria. After the war, he went back to Sicily and got married there, but there wasn’t much work, you know. So finally...

    • Zosia Kaminsky FROM POLAND, 1924
      (pp. 68-68)

      I’ll never forget that moment when I had to leave and the train went away. My family, everybody was there. My mother, my father, sisters, brothers, little nephews, some friends. And I remember my mother made me a little pillow, so I’ll be able to lay down in the train on the bench.

      Of course I was very anxious to go, to see the world. My husband’s taking me to see America and to see the whole world. Everybody was crying. I couldn’t understand why they’re crying. When the train started moving, then I was crying, too. My mother, my...

    • Julia Goniprow FROM LITHUANIA, 1899
      (pp. 68-68)

      The day I left home, my mother came with me to the railroad station. When we said good-bye, she said it was just like seeing me go into my casket. I never saw her again....

    • Ludwig Hofmeister FROM GERMANY, 1925
      (pp. 69-74)

      At seventy, he still spends two or three days a week at his store in Buffalo, now working at a new skill—setting diamonds.

      I come from the Black Forest, where they make the cuckoo clocks. My father was a clockmaker, and when I got to be fourteen I got out of school and then I was an apprentice, first for watchmaking, and then for clockmaking. I didn’t want to do that at all. I wanted to be a forest ranger, but that was out of the question. I had to do the same thing like my father, you see....

    • Demetrius Paleologas FROM GREECE, 1915
      (pp. 74-76)

      A millionaire businessman, he is now eighty-four and retired from a very active and successful career as a restaurateur. He was a founder and past president of the state restaurant association and a member of the advisory board of the Office of Price Administration during World War II. As president of a local Greek-American society, he raised a hundred thousand dollars to build a church and a school in his native village. He is proud of his family, of his achievements, and of both his countries.

      There are some festivals in the country, where they sell animals, and one day...

    • Nick Pappas FROM GREECE, 1922
      (pp. 76-76)

      I went all over the world and I never went back to my village. See, I can’t go there as a tourist, because they think I’m the Lord here. They write to me and say, “We hear that you are a multimillionaire. We hear that you control the government of the United States.” These are the illusions, you see, when you are successful a little bit....

    • Arthur Wong FROM CHINA, 1930
      (pp. 77-79)

      He arrived in New York’s Chinatown at the age of seventeen. Now sixty-six, he is the owner of a laundry in a small seaside town in New Jersey, where he has built a respected place for himself and his family.

      In Chinatown there are family associations—the people that come from the same village, same surroundings, and so forth. They help one another, and they help me find jobs. As you know, the Chinese people in this country are very well known in laundry and restaurant trade. I was here no more than two weeks, and my relatives, friends, and...

    • Ho Yang FROM CHINA, 1920
      (pp. 79-82)

      He is an officer of one of the family associations that handle much of the cultural and social life of San Francisco’s Chinatown, arranging funerals, festivals, and religious ceremonies. In his seventies, he is short, vigorous, affable.

      My village in Kwantung Province was very small, only about a hundred people, and it was really poor. Most of the people had only a rice field about as big as this room. [Indicates an area about twenty by thirty feet.] And if you were lucky, you had two or three like that. We used cows for plows, you know, because buffaloes were...

    • Ibrahim Hassan FROM PALESTINE, 1922
      (pp. 82-84)

      He is a large man, dressed in a business suit and tie, in the office of his flourishing Oriental rug store in Lincoln, Nebraska. At seventy-three, he still attends to business daily, though his son is the real manager of the store now. A Christian Arab, he is active in church affairs.

      In 1913, or just about that time, the sparks of war started to fly—the First World War—and the Ottoman Empire, under which we were subjects, started to make its move and conscript young men in the army. A good many of these boys can afford to...

    • Branwyn Davies FROM WALES, 1923
      (pp. 84-84)

      I was born in a little town in South Wales and was orphaned at a very early age. I lived with a sister and brother-in-law, and in 1923 my brother-in-law was offered a post in Shanghai, China, and I, naturally, as part of the family, was going there with them. The house was sold and the furniture was sold and we had the tickets. Then we got word there were uprisings in Shanghai [against the British] and the whole thing was canceled. The house was gone and the furniture was gone and we were all packed for somewhere. So the...

    • Sylvia Bernstein FROM AUSTRIA, 1914
      (pp. 84-87)

      Tiny, spry, she talks animatedly and laughs often. She is active in Jewish affairs. Years ago she founded Hadassah in her upstate New York town and, more recently, a senior citizens club at her temple.

      Austria, you must understand, was a very anti-Semitic country. When I was a little girl my father had a butcher shop, and next door was a pork store. Naturally, that man wasn’t Jewish. He was a very nice man, but when he got very drunk, he would come to my father and say, “Mr. Bernstein, that little one I’ll take away from you.” So my...

    • Vladimir Zworykin FROM RUSSIA, 1919
      (pp. 87-87)

      Known as the “father of television,” this well-known inventor was vice-president of RCA Laboratories, has received twenty-seven major awards, including the National Medal of Science, is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and holds more than 120 patents.

      I came to New York and I took a room in some house. It was Fourth of July and nobody told me anything. In the morning I heard “Bang! Bang! Bong!” I ran out; I grabbed something and ran through the back door and met the proprietor of this building. She said, “What are you doing?”

      I said, “Get...

    • Lydia Orloff FROM RUSSIA, 1934
      (pp. 88-93)

      She is eighty-seven years old and frail. Her face resembles a skull—almost fleshless, dark shadows everywhere, thin lips; yet her sunken eyes sparkle, her sparse hair is rolled on curlers and neatly covered with a bright print scarf, her voice is strong and vibrant, her movements agile. She talks with gusto, with humor, and with total recall of all the tiny details of her early life as a member of an aristocratic family. Now she is housebound and relies on the priest’s wife for her meals. Her tiny rented room in Brooklyn is cluttered with souvenirs of her past—...

    • Max Levy FROM RUSSIA, 1921
      (pp. 93-100)

      Now retired, he ran a successful accounting business in Boston. He was seventeen, a student in Odessa, when the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in 1917.

      Reeshelievskaya Street was a well-lighted street in the evenings, with expensive apartment buildings, large stores of every description, richly decorated store windows with all kinds of merchandise, ice cream parlors, watermelon lounges, and restaurants, all ready to serve the evening crowd of students. The street was wide, with trees on both sides, wide sidewalks with wooden benches for accommodation of the strollers. This was where all the students used to congregate in the evenings, to...

    • Ida Levy FROM RUSSIA, 1921
      (pp. 100-105)

      After her divorce from Max Levy over forty years ago, she went to work as a cleaning woman. With some help from her ex-husband, she managed to support herself and her three children and to send them all to college. Now she lives in a nursing home in a Boston suburb.

      When I was a little girl my life was very dull, like all the rest of the people in Russia—poorness, no time to invest in pleasure. I lived in Zaslav. It was supposed to be a big city, but you can cover it in an hour—the four...

    • Gregory Leontyeff FROM RUSSIA, 1923
      (pp. 105-109)

      One of the last of the Cossacks, he is now churchwarden of a Russian Orthodox church in northern Indiana. His calendar is the church calendar. He lives in a small apartment on the church grounds, so that he can be available for regular services, holiday celebrations, births and deaths and marriages. Bent with age, he bows stiffly and kisses the hand of the interviewer before settling down to reminisce.

      Cossack—that’s the society that in whole Russian history, they protect the country. My father Cossack, my grandfather Cossack—maybe two, three hundred years, people from my family belong to Cossack...

    • Ivor Davies FROM WALES, 1923
      (pp. 109-109)

      I was always grateful for the chance to become something more than I would have in the crowded valleys of Wales, where they was almost waiting for dead man’s shoes, you know....

    • Thomas Neil FROM SCOTLAND, 1929
      (pp. 109-109)

      There was no work in Glasgow—seven shipyards and they was all shut down. I said I’m going to America where a man can make a living. I came out on theSkandia,and I went through Ellis Island and the immigration man says, “Where you from?” and I says, “Glasgow,” and he says, “What state is that in?” and I answered, “It’s in a hell of a state,” and he let me in....

    • Andrew Fraser FROM SCOTLAND, 1930
      (pp. 109-112)

      His early years in the Highlands left him with a passionate interest in classical bagpipe music—“not the usual drums and pipe bands”—and he has established a school in this country to train pipers in the traditional mode.

      The choice in Scotland was either to be a farmer or gamekeeper or such. Or, if you are mechanically inclined, you must go to the shipyard. That’s all there was. I had an uncle was a gamekeeper, and every year when I had my summer holidays, I used to go and stay with him and my aunt, and I just loved...

    • Hiroshi Yamada FROM JAPAN, 1901
      (pp. 112-116)

      Semiretired at eighty-nine, he lives on a quiet street in Seattle on the income from three apartment buildings that he owns. He still drives a car up and down the steep hills and tends a vegetable garden in the rear of his house. He spends much of his time going over and rearranging his extensive collection of documents and photographs of life in the relocation camp. Prominently displayed on the mantelpiece is a photograph of himself and the American camp commandant taken during World War II.

      After I came here I worked in a hotel and I saved my money...

    • George Kistiakowsky FROM RUSSIA, 1926
      (pp. 116-118)

      He is a prominent scientist, professor emeritus at Harvard University, and a former presidential adviser. Born in Moscow into a family of the Russian intelligentsia, he fled Russia after the Revolution and made his way to Berlin, where he studied chemistry at the university. He received his Ph.D. in 1925 and was looking forward to an academic career.

      What frightened me was, basically, that I was a person without a country. I had a so-called League of Nations passport, which meant nothing. To get a visa anywhere was exceedingly difficult. No country wanted Russian émigrés, and I was, for good...

    • Agnes Martin FROM CANADA, 1931
      (pp. 119-120)

      On a dusty street on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico, artist Agnes Martin lives and works in a Spartan storefront loft. Most of the single huge room is a studio, where she works on the stark, rectilinear paintings for which she has become known. A tiny space is reserved for living—a cot, two wooden rocking chairs, two dressers—vintage 1920s—a hot plate and a coffeemaker, a refrigerator (almost empty except for a wooden box of peaches, a carton of yogurt, and a bottle of milk). There is no phone. Ms. Martin herself is as Spartan in appearance...

    • Isabella Mendoza FROM MEXICO, 1915
      (pp. 121-124)

      Plump, toothless, and well into her sixties, she has flashing black eyes and an air of amused vitality. Her remarks are frequently punctuated with a throaty chuckle. Settled at last after a lifetime of migrant labor, she lives near Santa Cruz, California, in a dilapidated frame house that her children have bought for her. Although she rarely steps out of the door, she is not alone, for her world comes to her. While the interview was going on, two of her daughters drank coffee at her dining room table, a son-in-law packed mangoes on the kitchen floor, and five grandchildren...

    • Alistair Cooke FROM ENGLAND, 1932
      (pp. 124-134)

      For over forty years, writer and broadcaster Alistair Cooke has interpreted the United States to his native England. His “Letter from America” is still broadcast weekly all over the Commonwealth, and his books on America have been consistent best sellers. In recent years, as host of educational television’s “Masterpiece Theater,” he has also been interpreting England to American audiences. Silver-haired, urbane, relaxed, he looks back on his life thoughtfully in the study of the spacious apartment on Fifth Avenue, where he lives with his American wife.

      I was born in Manchester, England, the capital of smog. When people—much later—...

  4. PART II THE WARTIME INFLUX: Heroes, Victims, Survivors

    • Emmi Hofmann FROM GERMANY, 1956
      (pp. 135-135)

      I saw it—the way they picked the Jews up and put them on a pickup truck. No matter what age they was, they pushed them on there. It was terrible. You were standing and you couldn’t say anything, because then they grab you, too. I had a girlfriend and her grandmother was a Jew. She was picked up and not even her own daughter and grandchild could help....

    • Klara Zwicker FROM GERMANY, 1957
      (pp. 135-136)

      There were stars on the houses that the Jews lived in, and we knew that they came and took them away, but we didn’t know where. We thought maybe they went to some safe place or they were putting them somewhere in another part of the country....

    • Elise Radell FROM GERMANY, 1939
      (pp. 137-142)

      She has fresh coloring, crisp graying hair, and a casual, matter-of-fact manner—no accent at all. After working as a dietician for several years, she now teaches consumer economics at a community college. She and her husband, a highly successful real-estate man, live with their two sons in a spacious house on a hill, overlooking two ponds and a golf course.

      I was born in 1931 and Hitler came to power in 1933. As a little girl I never noticed anything. We were much integrated into the society. We had friends that were Jewish, that were non-Jewish. There never seemed...

    • Enid Armstrong FROM SCOTLAND, 1941
      (pp. 143-148)

      In the early days of World War II, thousands of children were sent from Great Britain to the United States to escape the blitz. By the end of the war, five years later, for many of them this country had become home. Enid Armstrong was one of these “blitz kids” who eventually settled here. She is now happily married, for a second time, to an American oil executive with whom she travels extensively. Her three children, by her first marriage, live with their father.

      When I was about twelve years old, it looked very bad in the British Isles. We...

    • Hilda Gerhart FROM GERMANY, 1946
      (pp. 148-151)

      She was left with grandparents in a small Bavarian town in Germany at the age of three, while her parents came out to the United States to establish themselves in New York. The war intervened and she wasn’t able to join them again until she was seventeen, by which time they were divorced.

      When we started school, we had to go “Heil Hitler,” and even now, when I try to tell which hand is left and which is right, I always have to go “Heil Hitler” to myself to know which is the right hand. [Laughs.] It seems so natural,...

    • Lieselotte Mueller FROM GERMANY, 1951
      (pp. 151-154)

      She came from Hamburg in 1951 and settled on Long Island. Now she is a busy housewife and mother, taking an active part in the PTA and other school activities.

      Once in a while I noticed it—I must have been thirteen or fourteen. There was just another customer like me in a little store, telling a political joke, and then I heard somebody of the other customers say, “You’d better shut up or you land in a concentration camp.” That was the very first time I heard the nameconcentration camp. I thought—I mean, just thinking back now—...

    • Tanya Shimiewsky FROM POLAND, 1950
      (pp. 154-161)

      Wearing the traditional wig of Orthodox Jewish women, she sits and talks quietly and unemotionally in the large living room of the rooming house she and her husband operate in Chicago. The neighborhood is changing, and as blacks move into the area, the Orthodox Jews, afraid, move out. Tanya and her husband are trying to sell their house.

      When the Germans came to our town, we were scared in our own houses. Then they made the ghetto. In my town! They moved all the Jews from the whole town together, just in a few streets. And they brought in Polish...

    • Wojtek Pobog FROM POLAND, 1949
      (pp. 161-171)

      He is a gentle man, soft-spoken, and he looks at his blonde wife often as if for confirmation of what he says. He was a child in Warsaw when World War II began.

      We were in church and the church was packed, and we could hear the Germans marching on the streets and this rhythm of their boots on the street. And, all of a sudden, the priest started singing one of the most beautiful songs in Polish. It’s sort of a Catholic hymn, “God Who Saved Our Poland.” I remember everybody in the whole church started crying. And that’s...

    • Grete Rasmussen FROM DENMARK, 1950
      (pp. 171-174)

      Tiny, blond, and blue-eyed, she is now a nurse in a Southern California hospital. She and her husband have no children. They spend much of their spare time organizing the local chapter of People to People, a program that promotes international good will by placing foreign visitors in private homes.

      I grew up in a home where my parents had a tremendous compassion for people. Many times we really couldn’t afford to buy certain meat—even if my father had a farm. I had only two dresses: one for church and one for school. But anyone who was in trouble,...

    • Riccardo Massoni FROM ITALY, 1939
      (pp. 174-181)

      A strong-featured, vigorous-looking man of sixty, Dr. Massoni is a surgeon at a medium-sized hospital on the East Coast.

      My father was a well-known anti-Fascist lawyer in Italy before the war. When I was a young boy, about six or seven years old, I remember him coming home once, all beaten up, with black and blue marks all over his head. The local Black Shirts, they knew my father. At that time, Leghorn was only maybe a city of a hundred and twenty thousand people. In a city of that size, a lawyer with an excellent reputation was a prime...

    • Alexandra Danilova FROM RUSSIA, 1939
      (pp. 181-184)

      In orange leotard, pink tights, and worn ballet slippers, visibly tired after teaching a class of aspiring ballerinas, Madame Danilova relaxed briefly in a tiny lounge at the School of the American Ballet Theater in New York City. It was her lunch break and she had scheduled two interviews between her morning and afternoon teaching schedules. She yawned occasionally, stretching her arms in a graceful arc and closing her eyes, the long, false lashes curling against her cheek. One long leg was crossed lightly over the other, the foot pointed naturally, automatically, toward the floor. Over seventy, she is still...

    • Victor Machinko FROM THE USSR, 1954
      (pp. 184-184)

      A Ukrainian who left the USSR during the chaos of World War II, he works now as a skilled mechanic in Cleveland.

      I feel more than average American. I see how some people behave at work. They are never happy. They pay the taxes, which are probably the smallest taxes in any countries I know of, and they complain about it. They would like things given to them. And some of them are lazy, too. Some of them like to stay on unemployment. We know a couple that are collecting unemployment, and they say, “Gee, I like it. Now they...

    • Serge Nicholas FROM MANCHURIA, 1938
      (pp. 185-188)

      He was born in Manchuria of Russian parents. Now fifty-eight, he heads the Department of Physical Education at a northern California college. Sailing is his avocation, and he served as an official judge for the Olympics in 1968. He has been a Fulbright scholar twice, is on the screening committee for future Fulbright selections, has headed various professional organizations, is a Rotarian, and is chairman of his local Red Cross organization. He also has the West Coast franchise for a large fiberglass sailboat corporation.

      My family was originally born and raised in Russia and settled in China during the Russo-Japanese...

    • Edward Teller FROM HUNGARY, 1935
      (pp. 188-192)

      Some historians of science claim that science in the United States blossomed only after the influx of refugees from Europe before and during World War II. There is no doubt that American science was significantly influenced, and its character dramatically changed, as a result of the contributions of brilliant men like Hans Bethe, Eugene Wigner, Stanislaw Ulam, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, and scores of others. One of these men was Edward Teller, popularly known as “the father of the H-bomb.” He spent the war years at Los Alamos, working on thermonuclear bombs, and was later instrumental in establishing the Lawrence...

    • Eugene Wigner FROM HUNGARY, 1934
      (pp. 192-195)

      Soft-spoken and self-effacing, Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner is now professor emeritus at Princeton. In his spacious office in Jadwin Hall, he is surrounded by photographs of old friends, colleagues, and teachers. When he mentions a name from the past, he jumps up to locate the picture and looks at it lovingly. Like his friend and colleague Edward Teller, he was born in Budapest.

      When I was seventeen, my father asked me, “Well, son, when you grow up, what would you like to become?” And I said, “Well, father, if I am honest, I would like to be a scientist...

    • Ursula Ritter FROM GERMANY, 1946
      (pp. 195-196)

      She is blond and fine-featured, a housewife in a prosperous seaside town. Currently she is taking courses toward a master’s degree in physics.

      During World War II my father was a scientist specializing in underwater research for the German government. He worked in a camouflaged laboratory by a deep lake in the Alps. My mother and sister and I lived with him there in a farmhouse in the village. I was totally unaware of the war until early in 1945 when the French captured the village. I was six years old then. Two tanks came in, only two tanks, that’s...

    • Friedrich von Dietze FROM GERMANY, 1947
      (pp. 196-199)

      His manner is commanding, his speech precise, and his posture erect. He holds a management position in a major American corporation. With his wife and six children, he lives in a comfortable house with a swimming pool and spacious grounds in an affluent suburban community near Washington, D.C.

      At the time when I was invited to immigrate into the United States, I was thirty-two years old and the year was 1947. The situation at the time was that Germany had lost World War II and most of us were out of work—at least out of the work that we...

    • Karl Reinhardt FROM EAST GERMANY, 1955
      (pp. 200-204)

      Once scientific director of a large chemical corporation in East Germany, he was entitled to special privileges for food, tobacco, clothing, and housing. He was even offered a high governmental office. But prestige and material rewards seemed empty.

      When Hitler came to power in Germany I was twelve years old. Why shouldn’t I join the youth movement? What I saw was what Boy Scouts are doing here—going out camping and finding their ways according to the stars, and it was a type of those activities which, of course, would appeal to a youngster of my age. So why should...

    • Klara Zwicker FROM GERMANY, 1957
      (pp. 205-207)

      She was born shortly before World War II in a small industrial town in the Ruhr Valley. Now married to a long-distance bus driver, she is the mother of two small boys and is an avid gardener and home dressmaker. The family lives in a neat, green-and-white cottage in Providence, Rhode Island.

      It’s foolish to hate other people just because of their nationality. Like the Jews. I was shopping at the mall with my friend last year and, you know how it’s crowded at Christmastime? We sat at a table in a lunchroom with two other ladies and we began...

    • Lore Steiner FROM GERMANY, 1938
      (pp. 207-207)

      A Jew, she left Germany to escape Hitler.

      I have not knowingly passed on any traditions from Germany. You are formed by your home and upbringing, so I have probably passed on things that I take for granted. But knowingly, I don’t think so. I would rather not carryon anything from Germany....

    • Willi and Ilse Kienzle FROM GERMANY, 1955
      (pp. 207-214)

      They are both tall and thin, a well-matched couple. He is gregarious, likes to tell jokes, teases his wife good-naturedly. She is quiet, serious, intense. Their house is unmistakably German. The furniture, the draperies, the china, the pots and pans, even the radio console have been imported from Frankfurt.

      WILLI: Before the war I was in the merchant marine. I worked on a German liner, the Hamburg-American Line. I was a chef, because that’s my trade. The war broke out and we were in the Channel at that time, with two thousand passengers for New York, but we couldn’t make...

    • Tacwyn Morgan FROM WALES, 1946
      (pp. 214-223)

      Tall and thin, with sandy hair and an easy smile, he’s a specialist in computer technology. He and his wife share a love for music and for long walks in the woods near their Michigan house. His hobby is fixing things, using his hands, but he still has to be pushed by his wife to buy the tools he needs, “because that’s the way I grew up.” He says, “The amount of my disposable income always embarrasses me.”

      I was born in a little village called the Hole in the Wall. I’m quite serious—except that the name was Adwy’r...

    • Frieda Ross FROM GERMANY, 1948
      (pp. 223-227)

      An attractive blonde in her early fifties, she works as a laboratory technician in a large cosmetics firm in Connecticut. She and her husband and four poodles live in a neat, split-level house, furnished with European flavor. She is a talented needleworker and an excellent cook and pastry chef. Every weekend, holiday, and vacation afternoon, she serves coffee and homemade cake with whipped cream, remembering her favorite Bavarian custom.

      It sort of was an odd feeling, I guess, if you lose a war. I don’t know—the youth couldn’t see the faults of it all, actually. I mean Hitler; to...

    • Tanaka Simpson FROM JAPAN, 1949
      (pp. 228-228)

      She was one of the first Japanese girls to marry an American soldier.

      My parents were against it and so was my grandmother, but at the last minute they agreed. Of course, they preferred me to stay over there, but they accepted it. We had to marry twice. In the embassy, that’s just the paper. The real thing was the Shinto ceremony in my parents’ place. A traditional marriage, with the wigs and the whole thing. My husband had to take his shoes off and wear a kimono. You know, they bought the largest kimono, but it was still too...

    • Keiko Grant FROM JAPAN, 1955
      (pp. 228-232)

      Tiny, pretty, dressed in a bright silk kimono, she pours tea as we sit on the floor at a low table in her contemporary living room. A wall of windows overlooks a carefully tended rock garden. Her teen-aged daughter, almond-eyed, dressed in a bulky cheerleader sweater, is having a peanut butter sandwich in the modern kitchen, where a Japanese samurai doll sits next to the Mixmaster.

      I wanted to be stage actress, and I went to acting school two years. After that, movie company wanted me, and I joined the movie company in Japan. I was in so many movies,...

    • Colette Montgomery FROM FRANCE, 1946
      (pp. 232-233)

      She was eighteen in April 1945, when American soldiers liberated Paris. To her, they seemed “like gods—handsome, rich, healthy, victorious.” Within two months she was married to one of them. That marriage broke up after a few years, but her second, to an official in Washington, D.C., has been very happy. Now in her fifties, she is a beautiful woman with classic features and bright blue eyes that dim with tears as she recalls her long-ago self.

      I was very unhappy with my family, and I just sort of said to myself, “Nothing can be any worse than this....

    • Enzo Berardi FROM ITALY, 1947
      (pp. 234-236)

      Elegant and courtly, he is a captain on a passenger ship based in Miami.

      I came up during the Fascist regime. I had to belong to the party, to the youth movement, the Young People’s Fascist Movement; otherwise, I couldn’t go to school We used to have the uniforms—black shirts and short gray pants and little caps and blue scarf. And I remember that we had to go on Saturdays and Sundays to meetings and drills. You know, put your uniforms on and marching and…. I liked it. Well, who wouldn’t? Kids, flags, drums, singing, getting together—all kinds...

    • Denise Levertov FROM ENGLAND, 1948
      (pp. 237-242)

      She is a distinguished poet, critically acclaimed in England and the United States. An activist as well as a writer, she gives freely of her time to a number of liberal causes and has participated in antiwar and antinuclear demonstrations. Sipping white wine and sitting tailor-fashion on the couch in her living room, she tells her story with warmth and enthusiasm.

      Because I didn’t really belong in the place that I grew up in—nor did my parents—I have always felt somewhat like an air plant. I could exist just about anywhere. I love certain kinds of landscape and...

    • Joseph Bergman FROM POLAND, 1963
      (pp. 242-249)

      He is short and slight, balding, and speaks English with a heavy accent. He and his family live in a large, well-furnished ranch house on Staten Island. His two daughters appear to be typical young American women, fashionably dressed, interested in clothes, hairdos, and dates.

      First I have to mention that my father was very religious. He was an Orthodox religious Jew. Me, on the other hand, somehow I was more leaning to the Christian than to the Jewish beliefs, especially what was going on was the discrimination. Usually, let’s say when the holy days came, they’d throw stones or...

    • Leida Sorro and her daughter Maiu Espinosa FROM ESTONIA, 1951
      (pp. 250-254)

      Scene: a starkly modern house on a hillside in a northeastern state. It is a late afternoon in February and snow is falling outside. Maiu Espinosa, the wife of a surgeon, has just come in with her mother, who is here on a visit from Oklahoma. Both women are tall and blond, with ice blue eyes. They move regally, like goddesses in a Northern legend, and their story, too, has an epic quality.

      MRS. SORRO: When we left Tartu, the town was burning. There was no way to go back. The country had changed hands four times: first the Germans...

    • Felix Kucynski FROM POLAND, 1950
      (pp. 255-255)

      During World War II, he served in the Polish unit of the British army. He lives now in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

      We were paid by the British government when I was in the Polish forces. We had very low pay, and you could see the Americans—youngsters—who had always a lot of money; drunk, jeeps, noisy. It was a disgrace. Not all of them, but the bad ones you always see first, you know. You couldn’t talk to them. Always drunk, fighting. At night going in a jeep through a town, with buckets or cans behind it, dragging—drunk, you...

    • Narin Petrow FROM THE USSR, 1950
      (pp. 256-258)

      A bachelor in his late thirties, his slanted eyes and high cheekbones reveal his Mongol ancestry. He works for a municipal recreation department, leading sports programs for local youngsters, most of Kalmuck background. His large record collection includes much Kalmuck music, along with rock-and-roll and jazz.

      The Kalmucks were originally from western Mongolia. They went into Russia with Genghis Khan and settled in the Volga region—between the Volga River and the Caspian Sea—as the emissaries of Genghis Khan, when he conquered Russia in 1400 or so. The wordKalmuckoriginated, I would say, sometime in the 1500s. During...

    • Paul Maracek FROM CZECHOSLOVAKIA, 1949
      (pp. 258-266)

      A graduate of Yale and M.I.T., he works as a research scientist for a large American company. He and his wife and four small children like to go camping on their vacations. His conversation and dress are informal and he looks very “American.”

      One morning late in February we woke up and heard on the radio that the government of Czechoslovakia had been toppled and that the president was under house arrest and that the Communists have taken over. It happened very suddenly—without any advance warning, without an uprising—with just—. You wake up in the morning and...

    • Rudy Cracovik FROM YUGOSLAVIA, 1954
      (pp. 266-268)

      Rudy Cracovik felt that his middle-class background limited educational and career opportunities for him in Communist Yugoslavia. He determined to escape.

      The first time I went with a friend. We were a little silly, I think now. We were just playing, like a schoolboy’s idea. We didn’t plan it. We were young, you know. We figured, “If we make it, we make it. If they spot us, they will shoot us.” We had a few sandwiches and that kind of stuff, and we walked the roads, about twenty miles, twenty-five miles—to the border of Italy. And we walked on...

    • Stefan Juranic FROM YUGOSLAVIA, 1949
      (pp. 268-273)

      After many years as a stockbroker in Boston, he retired to the large estate in New Hampshire that he inherited from his aunt and uncle.

      It was our own people who were the really brutal ones, the ones that did the torturing and the destruction of people’s property and the confiscation in a wanton kind of a way—much more strongly than is necessary. Because the people who were in charge—what’s called the puppet government—and their administrators and enforcers were for the most part people who had been on the seamy side of society before the war and...

    • Ilona Bertok FROM HUNGARY, 1951
      (pp. 274-282)

      Tiny, slim, with enormous dark eyes and glossy black hair, she speaks softly but with great intensity. Her grandfather was a well-known Hungarian playwright, who dealt wittily with the subject of adultery and intrigue. In prewar Budapest, her parents lived as though they were characters in one of his plays—fighting, loving, betraying each other over and over again. Doors were slammed, plates were thrown, imprecations were shouted. There were frequent separations and reconciliations. Throughout the turmoil, Ilona, the “Puritan in the household,” controlled herself, bit her nails, and watched silently from the corners of the room.

      Today she is...

    • Maria Nikitin FROM LATVIA, 1950
      (pp. 282-286)

      She was born in 1920 on a small farm in Latvia. After a lifetime of hard labor, she still works at two jobs: as a factory worker and as a cleaning woman. She lives alone in Morristown, New Jersey, in a comfortable new apartment furnished with brocaded chairs and sofa, custom-made draperies, cut-glass ornaments, pecanwood tables, and an entire mirrored wall.

      I be thirteen, almost fourteen year old, and my mother die. I have three brothers and father, and I have to take over my mother job—cleaning, wash clothes by hand. I get up early in morning—five o’clock—...

    • W. Michael Blumenthal FROM GERMANY, 1947
      (pp. 286-294)

      At the time of the interview, he had been secretary of the treasury of the United States for almost two years. He sat in his gilt and marble office overlooking the White House and reflected on the events that led him to occupy one of the most powerful positions in the world. He recalled the day in 1938 when he saw the Nazi storm troopers smash up his parents’ small shop in Berlin and take his father away to a concentration camp. When his father came back a few months later, “a shrunken man,” the family determined to flee Germany....

  5. PART III IMMIGRATION: A Continuing Process

    • Sean McGonagle FROM IRELAND, 1966
      (pp. 295-296)

      You know when I first found out that I was getting to be patriotic, if you could call me in any way patriotic? I used to watch these games, like the Olympics, and I found myself jumping with excitement for the Americans to win. [Laughs.] And I said, “What am I doing?” I’m always so objective; I’m not nationalistic. And yet, I’d get so excited, I suddenly found that I’m rooting like crazy for the Americans, and I said, “I guess I’ve really become an American.”...

    • Laszlo Natalny FROM HUNGARY, 1956
      (pp. 297-303)

      A successful businessman who sold over two million dollars’ worth of insurance last year, he has a genial, relaxed manner. He is married to an American woman, whose ancestry goes “way, way back before the Revolution,” from around Philadelphia.

      Things really had been hectic and in fantastic turmoil ever since the beginning of the Second World War. It was a sick scene. Essentially the country was taken over around the fall of 1944 by a rabid Hungarian Nazi follower of Hitler [Döme Sztojay]. This happened in ’44, and actually Hungary was a nominal ally of Germany. The governor of the...

    • Heinz Eckhardt FROM GERMANY, 1958
      (pp. 304-304)

      In the beginning, the girls didn’t speak any English at all. There was a friendly dog that visited us and he would come into the apartment, and the girls were so excited about him and they talked to him in German. And all of a sudden, I said, “Sit!” And the dog sat. And then we went out, and Zizi, she was then four years old, she said, “Do the birds sing English, too?”...

    • Sandor Vesely FROM HUNGARY, 1956
      (pp. 304-305)

      Soft-voiced and mild-mannered, he is an engineer in a small electronics company in Baltimore.

      When the Revolution broke out, most of the students got armed. I stayed out of it. The schools weren’t going, and I decided to go home, wait it out, and just see what’s going to happen.

      I was home perhaps a week when one of my friends came. He said that next day he is going to leave with his fiancée: “Why don’t you come with me?” I thought about it and I decided to leave the country….

      First I set my mind on Australia, because...

    • Betty Chu FROM CHINA, 1969
      (pp. 305-314)

      She is a secretary in a San Francisco hospital, and her husband works in a bank. She grumbles about doing the dishes, and he grumbles that she is too Americanized. They never go to Chinatown, because they find it “depressing.”

      My grandfather was the head of the family. He was a very wealthy man. He was a shipowner, and he owned all these silk stores. My father was some kind of bank officer, but it wasn’t really the source of income. I remember my early childhood as living in a huge mansion in Shanghai, with lots of servants, gardeners, chauffeurs,...

    • Labring Sakya FROM TIBET, 1960
      (pp. 314-316)

      In the late 1930s millions of readers and filmgoers were enthralled byLost Horizon,the fictional story of a modern Westerner who traveled to a remote monastery in the mountains of Asia. Labring Sakya made the reverse journey in 1960 when the Chinese Communists took over the government of Tibet.

      I was nine years old when I went into the monastery in Lhasa. I could visit my family and go in and out, but all the boys in the monastery are expected to become monks in the monastery.

      In Tibet the monks don’t have to do anything, just study and...

    • Boris Koltsov FROM THE USSR, 1973
      (pp. 316-318)

      Over the years, America has provided refuge for many separatist religious groups: the Plymouth Brethren, the Amish, the Hutterites, the Quakers. Among the most recent pilgrims are the Old Believers, who broke away from the Russian Orthodox church in 1666. Their doctrinal differences may seem minor to us today—how many fingers to cross oneself with, and whether to walk around the altar clockwise or counterclockwise—but they were passionately defended and suffered for. Many of the Old Believers lost their lives at the stake in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the last years of czarist Russia, they managed...

    • Roberto Ortiz FROM CUBA, 1962
      (pp. 318-324)

      He is a large man, with dark eyes, curly hair, and a mustache. He speaks with enthusiasm. He has many friends and is well known around town. A special policeman in New Jersey, he goes to the community college two evenings a week, as he has been doing for the past five years, training for business administration. Recently, he expanded his business in Central America. He says, “I feel American. I am happy. The only thing bother me is the weather. This weather is for the birds.”

      We were hard-working people, and we had a business in the wholesale market...

    • Ramon Fernandez FROM CUBA, 1961
      (pp. 324-327)

      He holds a middle-level executive position in a nationally known corporation, drives a shiny new sports car, and owns his own home in Miami.

      Where I lived wasn’t too far from the Sierra Maestra where Castro started. I remember standing in the front door, and far away you could see planes going by and dropping flares and you could hear the shots being fired. They were trying to draw the rebels out of the mountains. And at night I remember many times just trying to go to sleep when you could hear the machine-gun fire at a distance—sometimes so...

    • Su-Chu Hadley FROM TAIWAN, 1964
      (pp. 327-334)

      The closest we are likely to come in the real world to Cinderella and her prince are Su-Chu Hadley and her American husband, Tim. She is deceptively fragile in appearance, with long slender fingers and a fleeting smile. He is blond, bearded, gentle. They live on a small farm in northern California now, but their story begins in the harsh world of prewar Taiwan.

      My parents were very poor and my mother had, altogether, eleven children: nine girls and two boys. She gave up the nine girls so she could go as a wet nurse for wealthy women, to make...

    • César Le Clair FROM FRANCE, 1965
      (pp. 334-339)

      Tall and ruggedly handsome, he is a waiter in a well-known New York restaurant, where he serves the patrons with European charm and élan. He is the proud father of two young children, is an active sportsman, and he likes to cook gourmet meals on his day off.

      I was born in France, on the border, Italy—Menton. I lived in that place, the French Riviera, the Italian Riviera. You got lots of tourists, the beautiful hotels, the restaurants.

      In the Second War—1941, 1942—the Germans were all over. At this time, my brother was in the army. In...

    • Nikos Liadis FROM CYPRUS, 1950
      (pp. 340-343)

      A successful lawyer in a middle-class community, he came to the United States from the island of Cyprus at the age of twenty-seven.

      I come from a very poor farming family. We had eight brothers and sisters and two parents, was ten. And the farming and, generally speaking, the peasant’s life wasn’t such an enviable one, especially on the island of Cyprus, when you depend on rain; and we had very bad drought at the time. There was no rain and no crops, and the animals couldn’t eat—there was no grass—and the peasant, the farmer, and the shepherd...

    • Phillip Contos FROM TURKEY, 1970
      (pp. 344-345)

      He works as a troubleshooter for an American shipping company with offices in New York and Greece, and he maintains a branch office out of his house in Mississippi.

      They say all the Greek people in Istanbul are left over from Constantinopolis, from 1453.* I say I’m Greek. I won’t say I’m Turkish, because I just happen to be born there. I’m not Turkish. Till 1960 we had good years. And 1960, then everything begin. They was destroying the churches, houses, everything. We also have two cemeteries. One of the cemetery I visit the next day. I saw dead people....

    • Lee Chang FROM HONG KONG, 1977
      (pp. 346-346)

      He came to the United States three years ago on a visitor’s visa and “disappeared.” Like many other illegal Chinese immigrants, he lives in a dormitory over the restaurant where he works. He gets his meals in the kitchen, studies English and watches television with his fellow workers, and tries to keep one step ahead of the immigration authorities. He has managed to send over four thousand dollars to his parents in Hong Kong, enough to enable them to buy a modest house. Now he would like to use his earnings to start a take-out restaurant here. But….

      One night...

    • Miguel Torres FROM MEXICO, 1977
      (pp. 347-349)

      Miguel Torres is a slight, shy youth of twenty with a pale skin and El Greco features. He works in a mushroom plant in California. He has entered the United States illegally four times in the past year, and he has been caught three times. He told his story through a trusted interpreter.

      I was born in a small town in the state of Michoacán in Mexico. When I was fifteen, I went to Mexico City with my grandmother and my mother. I worked in a parking lot, a big car lot. People would come in and they’d say, “Well,...

    • José Garcia FROM MEXICO, 1959
      (pp. 349-351)

      He is forty years old, short, sturdy, swarthy, with a long black mustache and curly black hair. He and his wife and four children live in a rundown house on the Monterey peninsula of California, where much of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are grown.

      I first came to the United States in 1959, and, in truth, the reason that I came was in order to make money. At that time, you know, you could earn from seven to ten pesos [a peso is worth about eight cents] a day in Mexico, whereas here you could earn from sixty to...

    • Orlando Galvez FROM COLOMBIA, 1973
      (pp. 351-352)

      He is a factory worker in Manhattan.

      In Colombia you hear about the United States; you can get anything in the United States. When Colombians come back home, they like to show off a bit. Like a visitor will come from here with a thousand dollars and spread it out, you know, whereas he probably may have borrowed the money up here to come down. He give the impression that if you want a dollar, okay, you sort of just go and pick it off a tree. When I came here I see what the situation is, I was so...

    • Marta Ramirez FROM ARGENTINA, 1963
      (pp. 352-352)

      She is a beautician in a small New Jersey community.

      My husband had a job as a government worker under Perón—not an important worker, just a clerk. When Perón was overthrown—zat!—he loses his job and can’t get no other. He looked three months, and then we say, “The hell with it,” and we sell the house—we didn’t get much for it neither—and take the money to come to the U.S.

      We arrive here in December. I go down to the town center to buy some things, and I see all the Christmas stuff and I...

    • Luisa Rojas FROM GUATEMALA, 1968
      (pp. 353-357)

      She was raised by an aunt, went to work at the age of fifteen, and eventually saved enough money for a small business in the Guatemala City market, selling beans, corn, rice. Here, as a live-in domestic worker in New Jersey, she spent weekends in her apartment in Brooklyn, washing her husband’s clothes and teaching him to cook. Now she moves from apartment to apartment, each one in better condition than the last, and commutes to daily housecleaning jobs.

      I want to say the truth. In my country is a business with the visas. Because everybody want to come and...

    • Jaime Alvarez FROM PERU, 1971
      (pp. 357-358)

      He comes from Peru and has a face like an Inca statue, with massive features and coarse black hair. Like many other newly arrived Latin Americans, he works on the cleaning staff of a large metropolitan hospital.

      At twenty-five years old, I got married and I went to work to the factory. They make the fish flour, uh, fish powder, for the dog’s meal or cat’s meal. And I working there for about four years.

      Then we had one daughter, then two daughters, then three daughters—finally, four daughters. It was too hard to live in the city, so I...

    • Rita Flores FROM COLOMBIA, 1965
      (pp. 358-361)

      She lives with her husband and children in Miami, in a one-bedroom apartment littered with toys and decorated with kindergarten drawings. She speaks earnestly and seriously but giggles at the antics of her two children, who wander in and out of the room.

      A long time ago, when I was seventeen or eighteen, I studied something about United States. I read that United States is beautiful country. The people make money and live well. The people nice, the people work, make a lot of money. That made these things interesting for me to come over here. When I came over...

    • Mario Lucci FROM ITALY, 1972
      (pp. 361-364)

      He is seventeen and star of his high-school soccer team in a Boston suburb.

      Our main sport was soccer, and I used to play soccer night and day, night and day. I started soccer when I was five years old, and I hope I play soccer till I die.

      The church was in the center of town, and that’s where we played soccer sometimes. The center—it’s really beautiful at Christmas. They’d get all the logs around town—logs that are cut down and there’s no use for them—they’d take them up there and just pile them up, and...

    • Salvatore Bianchi FROM ITALY, 1975
      (pp. 365-366)

      He came to Rhode Island from Sicily three years ago. Short and dark, with bright eyes and an eager manner, he talks rapidly, using gestures to help him with words still unfamiliar.

      My father was the owner of a construction company in Sicily. About fourteen years ago, start, in Italy, inflation. We lost everything. My father came here and he stayed here, because the family needed help, you know. Every week my father send money to us. And then my mother came after five years.

      When my mother and sister left Italy, I was twenty-three years old. I didn’t want...

    • Liv Jorgensen FROM NORWAY, 1969
      (pp. 366-366)

      She is an elementary-school teacher in Westchester.

      I think one of the things that bothered me most when we came to this country was the way that my children wanted to live and what they may have wanted from me. They wanted me to become very, very American, in a sense. They probably wanted me to do more things that American mothers do and that I didn’t want to do: driving them all over the place and being at their disposal at all time, which I was not. I avoided it by working, because I have been working just about...

    • Monica Dickens FROM ENGLAND, 1951
      (pp. 367-372)

      The first writer in the family since Charles Dickens, her great-grandfather, she has published over twenty-five books. She is an immensely popular author of novels, children’s books, and memoirs in England, Australia, and New Zealand, less so in this country. She lives now on Cape Cod and still writes constantly.

      I was brought up in London, where I was expected to become a debutante and come out into society and find some young man, get married, and have children. That was the sort of established way of life in the late thirties. And I decided that this was not the...

    • Gujri Bazaz FROM INDIA, 1974
      (pp. 372-378)

      The living room and dining room walls of her Victorian house in Indianapolis are covered with her own paintings—forests of tall, slender trees and expressionistic landscapes. Indian batiks, baskets, and bells are everywhere. The furniture is modern and informal, as is the young woman herself, in her flowered wraparound skirt, T-shirt, and sandals.

      My mother was married when she was nine and father was fifteen. My mother says, “I didn’t even know what it means. I used to hate your father. How dare he bring me from my home to his home?” They never slept together—they didn’t know...

    • Karim and Aziza Mohammed FROM EGYPT, 1967
      (pp. 378-384)

      After Dr. Mohammed received his M.D. in obstetrics, he joined the faculty of the university in Cairo. While he was still an assistant professor, he was appointed by the university to accompany an international medical team, vaccinating people in the Gaza Strip. One American doctor he met later invited him to come to the United States.

      KARIM: I did not come as an immigrant. I came as an exchange professor. I took a leave of absence to go to the university of Case Western Reserve. I had an open mind. I said, “1 may stay, I may not.”

      I was...

    • Einat Ben-Ami FROM ISRAEL, 1960
      (pp. 384-389)

      The two-story house in a Philadelphia suburb is full of greenery. Plants are everywhere—hanging from baskets, sitting on the wide window sills, even covering the floor under the windows. On the walls is a profusion of paintings and prints.

      The Israel that I remember really doesn’t exist. I know it. When I grew up, there were a quarter of a million inhabitants in the whole country; a country where you left the doors open, where everybody was your friend. If anybody had trouble, the whole neighborhood knew about it and did something. The Tel Aviv that I remember doesn’t...

    • Robert Vickers FROM ENGLAND, 1964
      (pp. 389-393)

      In the period after World War II, many scientists came to the United States from all parts of the world because of greater opportunities here for research and professional advancement. Robert Vickers was part of this “brain drain.” He wears rimless glasses and neatly tailored suits, but his drooping mustache and unruly hair give him a vaguely poetic air.

      The tradition in England for middle-class people, which is what I suppose we were, was to send their children, especially the boys, to boarding school. So about age ten, my twin brother and I were sent off to a boarding preparatory...

    • Ari Amichai (I) FROM ISRAEL, 1964
      (pp. 393-394)

      He is a chemist in a large pharmaceutical company in Michigan.

      I had educated myself out of my country. Israel—and quite a few developing countries—doesn’t have substantial industry to maintain research at high level. So if one wishes a high level of specialization in certain fields, you find that while it is very easy to obtain a job in an industrialized country like the States or Germany or England, you can’t get the same job, say, in Israel or India or Taiwan; because the industry there is so small and is so dependent on important know-how, that there...

    • Lena Klassen FROM INDONESIA, 1958
      (pp. 394-397)

      She is a dusky blonde, with slanting green eyes and a voluptuous figure. Now forty-one, she looks much younger. Born in Indonesia of mixed native and Dutch stock, she was a member of the privileged class of colonial administrators before World War II.

      When the war started, the Japanese came with bayonets and took my father to a camp. My mother and sister and I had to go to a village, a little village, where we lived with her sisters and her brothers and their children. It was crowded, but for the children it was almost like camping. We didn’t...

    • Irina Aronoff FROM THE USSR, 1976
      (pp. 397-398)

      In Russia we hear that in America you don’t like black people, Negroes. That white people throw stones at the black people. That white people don’t want their daughters, their sons, to study in schools with black people.

      When I was a little girl in school, we gave money for the black people. The teacher told us that the black people, the Negroes, cannot study. She said to us, “Who has books at home? Who has notebooks? Pencils, pens, money? Whatever you can give, as much as you can give, give to the black people in America.” Of course I...

    • Kitty McGonagle FROM IRELAND, 1966
      (pp. 398-398)

      No matter how much you read, you get the wrong impressions sometimes. For instance, I thought everybody lived right with each other. I didn’t know there was segregation in the North. I didn’t know there were ghettos. I expected to see my neighbors black, you know. You see, you read the newspapers and you see in the funnies, you always had a group of kids and there was always a few black kids in there. And I assumed, well, that’s normal in the United States. Everybody lives together. And this wasn’t quite so....

    • Claudine Renaud FROM MARTINIQUE, 1966
      (pp. 398-398)

      I was undecided, because the same week on TV I saw a lot of riots in Newark, and that scared me because I am black. It was 1966, I think. I said, “Oh, my, I’m not going to come to this country. To see the people fighting like that, that will kill me.” And I didn’t answer. But I ask my cousin—I ask her advice if I can come, and she tell me I can come, because the colored people mix with the white people. I don’t have to be afraid, and anyway I have to try....

    • Imogene Hayes FROM JAMAICA, 1962
      (pp. 399-400)

      A plump black woman in her twenties, she is an active member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young children.

      I had a job in the post office in the town I was from and I wanted to leave Jamaica because my mother had nine of us at home, and it was a customary thing for the bigger ones to start working and help with the smaller kids. Coming here was being in a position to help my smaller brothers and sisters. Coming here was much more a challenge to me than going to...

    • Hamilton Hayes FROM JAMAICA, 1965
      (pp. 401-403)

      One of his company’s first black employees, he works as a draftsman and attends college at night, studying for a bachelor’s degree. The company pays his full tuition. He is married to Imogene Hayes.

      When I used to go to school, Jamaica was still a colony, although it was self-government. But we didn’t feel as second class, because mainly the government was run by blacks, by Jamaicans. The industries were controlled by England. It was basically English civilization. The high-school curriculum was set by Cambridge University. Very strict discipline—always some church service in the morning, kids have to wear...

    • Tunde Ayobami FROM NIGERIA, 1969
      (pp. 404-408)

      Dressed in a batik shirt of characteristic Nigerian pattern and color, he speaks in a soft, lilting English. His wife, a black American, says, “If people are showing a prejudiced attitude toward him, he just pretends he didn’t know it.” He says, “I became understanding. People are this way, they’re not going to change; I’m going to change. I became tolerant—that’s the word to use.” Still, he sometimes talks about leaving his home in Illinois and going back to Nigeria if he can “be hired by an American company.”

      When I was going to high school, my parents separated,...

    • Rennie Stennett FROM PANAMA, 1969
      (pp. 408-411)

      Holder of the record for the most hits in a single game—seven hits out of seven times at bat, in September 1975—at the time of the interview he played second base for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

      I used to dream a lot. I’d see myself pitching in the World Series and stuff like that. But I was mainly busy going to school. I played mostly every sport in school. The first thing I did was I was a swimmer. I never did like American football, but I played a lot of soccer. It was a lot of fun, especially...

    • Ari Amichai (II) FROM ISRAEL, 1964
      (pp. 411-412)

      In the first year you are stunned and you admire practically everything. Then you go into a transition, a shift, and you start comparing it with your own country, and the comparison is very negative, against America. We went from one extreme of a very negative approach. Then, gradually, the pendulum shifted, and it took you about five- to six-year’s stay in America, until, I think, finally you reached a well-balanced understanding of what things are—howthey are and how they came about—and you are not as critical anymore. You don’t admire things blindly, but you are not...

    • Lynn Redgrave FROM ENGLAND, 1974
      (pp. 412-417)

      A member of a distinguished British acting family—father, Sir Michael Redgrave; mother, Rachel Kempson; sister, Vanessa—she first became known to American audiences for her starring role inGeorgy Girl.She is married to producer John Clarke, and at the time of the interview was starring in his production of Shaw’sSaint Joanon Broadway, and was also hostess of a popular women’s television talk show, “Not for Women Only.” She is tall and slender, wearing black slacks and sweater. Her face is animated and she gestures broadly as she talks. She takes time off from the interview to...

    • Premier Nguyen Cao Ky FROM SOUTH VIETNAM, 1975
      (pp. 417-423)

      It’s a common story after great political upheavals: a head of state becomes a grocery store clerk, a general becomes a dishwasher, a governor becomes a waiter. When he was premier of South Vietnam, Nguyen Cao Ky was a flamboyant figure in a black flightsuit with lavender scarf and pearl-handled pistols, forever pushing the Americans to expand the war to the North. Now he runs a small liquor store on the outskirts of Los Angeles and lives with his wife and six children in a nondescript home in a middle-class housing development. Still trim and dapper at forty-seven, he wears...

    • Tuan Pham FROM SOUTH VIETNAM, 1975
      (pp. 423-423)

      I was a doctor in Vietnam and I passed my medical examination here, but I still didn’t pass the English examination. So I was working for a doctor in a private hospital and I take blood. And one day the doctor told me to come in at a certain time, I have to take blood from a patient. And I came in and the nurse was there, and the patient and his family were sitting in the back of the room, and the nurse told the family to leave and just leave the patient there. And I took the blood...

    • Hoa Tran FROM SOUTH VIETNAM, 1975
      (pp. 424-427)

      It is a run-down neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio—a sparsely furnished living room, stuffing coming out of the sofa, torn shades at the otherwise bare windows. Hoa Tran speaks in broken English, trying to find words to describe his former life as governor of a major province in Vietnam.

      I studied public administration. Six months after I graduated, I became deputy of a district. The first thing deputy have to do, they have to sign all the check for pay for village officer. And I have to sign all the receipt for tax. And I have to sign official document....

    • Thien Vinh FROM SOUTH VIETNAM, 1975
      (pp. 427-431)

      When he was interviewed, he had been in the United States for only six months. He was living with his wife, six children, mother-in-law, cousin, and nephew in a duplex house, next to a used-car lot on a heavily trafficked street in a New Jersey suburb. An oversized refrigerator-freezer, an upright piano, a color television set, and a washing machine had been donated to the family by his employer and local citizens. His teen-age daughters were learning to drive, the younger ones were taking piano lessons, and the fifteen-year-old boy had earned enough from his newspaper route to buy a...

    • Huong Vinh FROM SOUTH VIETNAM, 1975
      (pp. 431-432)

      She is Thien Vinh’s wife. She used to be a housewife in Saigon; now she is a housewife in a New Jersey suburb. Her husband drives her to New York’s Chinatown once a month, to stock up on the foods her family is used to eating. She is thirty-eight, attractive, the mother of six children, aged five to nineteen.

      My husband work for American company in Saigon. We have six children, and we live in a comfortable house. We had everything we want, everything we need: We had a car, we had a piano, washing machine, one motorcycle, one air...

    • Mai Vinh FROM SOUTH VIETNAM, 1975
      (pp. 432-433)

      She is the daughter of Thien and Huong Vinh. There was a bitter civil war going on in Vietnam while Mai was growing up, but her memories seem like those of a middle-class American teen-ager.

      Every month, once a month, my friends come to my house in Saigon. We sleep in my bed, some on the floor. In the morning we load all the things—food and blanket—on our motorcycles and we go to the beach. It take about three hours. On the way to the beach, the people sell the food on the farm—Vietnamese food—and we...

    • Kurt Schaeffer FROM GERMANY, 1967
      (pp. 433-434)

      It’s extremely difficult to have American friends. One has acquaintances, but I would not know of anybody in this country with American background that I could call my friend. Americans, in essence, inherit friends from the previous occupants of the house they move to or the apartment they move into that comes already made with the neighborhood and friends, and it’s very cordial as long as one lives in the place and promptly forgets about everybody once one moves to another place.

      Presumably, American friendships are formed during the high-school years, which I don’t have here, or during university years....

    • Ari Amichai (III) FROM ISRAEL, 1964
      (pp. 434-434)

      I would like to have more real friendships and less formal friendships. In Israel, if you belong to the right group you have a lot of friends, and the acquaintanceships are much less formal than here. I mean, you can just drop suddenly in. There is no such thing like, you know, informing you ahead of time, and what have you. Israelis, in many, many aspects are more open; they’re more direct. Questions that I’m not asked among Americans are not only asked, but are fully answered among Israelis. Like, for example, “What is your salary?” You know, a question...

    • Galina Kamenetsky FROM THE USSR, 1973
      (pp. 435-435)

      Of course we miss our Russian friends. A real friend to find, it is not easy. You know, American friends—we met a lot of people. Everybody smile to you and say, “See you later,” and 99 percent of them never meet us again....

    • Larissa Brazovsky FROM THE USSR, 1976
      (pp. 435-436)

      In the late 1960s, faced with growing discrimination in the Soviet Union, Russian Jews began to press for the right to emigrate, previously denied Soviet citizens. Beginning in 1972, the Soviet government allowed a certain number to leave each year. Many have gone to Israel, but thousands settled in the United States. Among the latter was the Brazovsky family. Larissa, sixteen years old, was brought to New York by her parents. She describes her feelings one month after her arrival.

      I didn’t want to come to America. I said, “Why do we have to go? Why? Why should I want...

    • Sofia Rabinovich FROM THE USSR, 1974
      (pp. 436-440)

      In her native country she was a practicing physician, medical researcher, lecturer, and author of many professional books and articles. Now sixty-two, she spends her time studying English and translating her papers.

      I knew each minute of my life that I am Jewish. It was my mother—when I was a little child, shebenscht licht[blessed the candles] on Sabbath evening, Friday evening before Sabbath. Then something changed. You know, it’s difficult for a child to understand. I was too young to understand, but I know that everybody stop to go to church. Christian people stop and Jewish people...

    • Yuri Sinelnikov FROM THE USSR, 1976
      (pp. 440-446)

      Short and wiry, balding, with bright staring eyes, he nervously chain-smokes as he talks with a staccato delivery. Moderately dissident in his native country, he came here for creative freedom but is now resentful because he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to exercise it. While waiting for one of his scripts to be translated into English, he is looking for work as a teacher of Russian. Meanwhile, he stays at home in the Bronx, watching television, studying English, and speaking on the phone to his many Russian and American friends, trying to arrange deals, contacts, meetings, jobs in the film...

    • Vo Thi Tam FROM VIETNAM, 1979
      (pp. 446-450)

      In the summer of 1979, the world’s press and television screens were filled with heartrending photographs of the Indochinese “boat people” who fled their Communist homelands in flimsy boats. An estimated 40 percent of them died. During the next decade thousands more made the perilous journey, before finding temporary shelter in a refugee camp.

      Vo Thi Tam was one of the lucky ones who eventually made it to the United States. A few days after her arrival here, she told her story in the living room of a small house near Seattle where she was staying with her sister’s family....

    • Johanna and Ali Patel FROM SOUTH AFRICA, 1978
      (pp. 450-457)

      Johanna Patel is a white woman, from an Afrikaans-speaking family. Her husband Ali is a native-born South African of Indian ancestry, officially “colored” by the laws of his country at the time they met. It was a criminal offense for them to associate, love one another. To marry was out of the question. Yet they lived together in Johannesburg for two years in hiding, in fear, before their flight to this country. What makes it possible for some people to flout the laws and customs of their country, their families, their training?

      JOHANNA: It’s unbelievable the way everybody thinks in...