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© 2018 by Rachel McKinney          |          New York City, New York City              

Abrahamsen Swanson, Olga

Norway

1920-1929

"Mrs. Swanson is the mother of Ellis Island Oral History Project volunteer Roy Swanson. She shares her journey as a young woman of twenty-four traveling from Norway to Brooklyn in 1926. She recalls, "I remember the captain came over, we were four of us sitting there, the captain came over and talked to us. He said, "I know, you're looking for a way to come to America. But it isn't all, everything is this and that. Everything isn't fine. You have to take care of yourself. And if you take care of yourself all right, you're okay, but if you don't, you're in the gutter…" that's true… it's up to yourself."

Adams, Emilie

France

1910-1919

Emilie Adams immigrated from France in 1914 when she was just a little shy of five years old. She shares of what it was like for her at the turn of the century, includes stories of her mother.
“She was very gentle. My mother never wanted me to do anything in the house. "Go out and play, go out and play. You'll be old. There will come a time you'll have to do it… go out. You'll have plenty of time to learn that… Mon petit fille (she said in French), my little girl, I won't always be with you." I don't know if she had a feeling that she was going to leave me, but I'll always remember she told me that. She died of influenza. I was nine years old.”

Adler, Katherine

Hungary

1940-1949

My parents, in 1948, lived in Hungary. And I was already in Paris to come to the United States when I got a letter from my father, "Don't come back. The Communists are taking over." And my father, he was really right.. and I didn't go back, ever.

Agro, Beatrice

Italy

1920-1929

“From the house we went with a carriage, with a carriage, the house to the station. And then we went by train from my own town to Palermo. And then we, to Palermo we went Naples with the boat, name of Guglielmo Pierce. The trip was very bad, very bad. Still very long… I think it was there, twenty-five days. And a few days was away, the people, they screamed, and then they cry. They call all the saints, God. The one thing enjoyable in the ship for me... fell in love with this fellow…”

Alabilikian, John

Armenia

1920-1929

"I'm an Armenian, and in 1915 my parents were killed by the Turks, and I was left an orphan, age of approximately about six years old. I think their ages were somewhere around thirty-six years old. The way they were massacred, Turkish government took my father away from his business one morning and locked him up. Next morning there were five hundred them, arms tied together and taken out of the city. Later on, we were wondered where they went. But nobody knew. Finally we were told that they were killed. There were no males, men, left, except the children and the mothers and grandmothers. Then one morning they did the same thing with women. They came along. They said that, "You are gonna be taken out of the city." And the question was asked to them, "Where are we going?" The answer was that, "You're gonna meet your husband." So we left the city."

Alland, Alexander

Russia

1920-1929

"To be considered a Russian one had to prove his descent from the ancient Muscovites and belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. All others, a majority with no country but Russia to claim as their own, were looked down upon. They were mainly Russian Tatars, Russian Finns, Russian Poles, Russian Germans, Russian Ukrainians, Georgians, Latvians, Jews, Armenians, Greeks. Minority groups entitled to just enough civil rights to get by. Shortly after my graduation from the commerce school, too young to be drawn into the fight, I was forced to part from my family. In the turbulent period of this civil war my family had already lost two people dear to me. So when my father in the summer of 1920 succeeded in obtaining my passage to safely cross the Black Sea, I had no choice but to go."

Amada, Samuel

Austria

1910-1919

"When it came at night, my mother use to take off her money belt. She put it under my pillow. So we went to sleep. About five o'clock in the morning they start hollering, "Fire, fire, fire!" Everybody ran out of the rooms, including my mother. I didn't budge. I stayed there. And these guys were running in and out. They were looking under the pillows. They were stealing. False alarm, they were stealing, going under the pillows stealing the people's money. And when they came, they took one look at me and I asked them in German, "What do you want? Get out of here!" I said "Get out!" He went out all right. He didn't steal no money. So I say my mother knew what she was doing, and she knew she could always depend on me."

Abrams, Mae

Russia

1910-1919

Mae Abrams was was born in 1908 and immigrated when she was five years old. She shares why her family left Russia and what at it was like for her to grow up in to New York. “We had been dispossessed from the big estate where my father was the keeper. Jews were not allowed to own big properties… there was a trial, and naturally we lost… So… my father left three years before we did, and he left my mother and the four small children, well, one of the children wasn't born yet. When he left, she was pregnant. And when she came to America, she was a little over two... I've had a very good life... I think America's great, and no other place is like it. And I wouldn't compare it or want to go anywhere, live, ever live anywhere else.

Adario, Carmella

Italy

1910-1919

Carmella Adario came to America from Italy in 1919 when she was eleven years old. She recollects stories about her immigration, family, food, and two World Wars. "We really suffered in the World War One because there was no food, no nothing, you know. You'd have a ticket to go get some rice which had maggots in it, and you picked them out… I don't know how my mother managed to bring us up… My life in America has been amazing. I think I'm more American than Americans. At least I feel that way. I think people ought to get rid of this patriotism. I think we wouldn't have wars. Fighting over, we're all human beings. It's such a short time you're in this world, you know? And to fight over a piece of land, it seems like boys playing a game, you know, fighting each other, slaughtering each other. Uh, it's so bad. It would be nice to be able to remember peace… I wish everybody would be happier than they are… I live one day at a time. I enjoy. I have lots of friends. I don't know. Just, my life has been amazing, I guess. And it isn't that I had a lot. I don't have many needs. Maybe I'm not used to it from the beginning." ( she laughs )

Adolph, Norman

Czechoslovakia

1920-1929

“this is an immigrant country. And you know it makes you feel good that you don't have to say, "Oh well, he's a native, I'm an immigrant." We're all immigrants, second generation, ninth generation, but whatever generation, we're immigrants. And the country developed with that spirit, into a wonder place, nothing like this in the world, nothing like it. I've been in many, many countries, I've traveled a good deal, for pleasure fortunately. And nothing like it. Everybody has a chance. I literally came to this country with a patch on my knee and on my rear end of my pants. And in time I even has a suit to wear, not just a pair of pants and a jacket from another suit.”

Ahlfors, Ingrid

Finland

1910-1919

“The room where we slept at Ellis Island was upstairs… it was closed-in room, door was locked on us and we were put in there. They had the metal springs that sort of hang from the ceiling, well they were on posts between the ceiling and the floor and they were in layers. I don't remember if they were two or three layers but anyway there was nothing on them, they were just the metal springs, that first night. And we spread our coats and dresses so we wouldn't be too uncomfortable. Well I lived through it… The second night we had blankets because my aunt complained.”

Alexaki, Maria

Greece

1920-1929

“those days the people, they didn't work in the restaurants, they didn't work in all kinds of businesses they got today. They worked in the fields making the rails for the trains, because they didn't have any trains. They worked out in the forest, was five dollars a week… Italians, Roumanians, all kind of people. And every night there's somebody over them to stay all night, wake up, to watch the rest of them because from the, animals gonna, don't come and eat them. You understand what I mean? Those big things, the bears and all.”

Allatin, Joseph

Italy

1890-1899

“I remember being on the boat. I remember being washed overboard, too. I was in the water. I was sitting on deck, you know, and I was holding onto the rail on back and the boat got, struck a wave and I, I went over. The fortunate thing was that there was a crew member at the rail and he grabbed me by the slack of my pants.”

Ambler, Arnold

England

1920-1929

"Oh, there you are, you're twenty years old, see… There's me and my wife there… We're just married. I had forty-eight dollars in my pocket. I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Oh, I could have cried. I feel it every time. I feel it, every time you mention it, because it means a lot to an immigrant."

Abrams, Morris

Russia

1890-1899

Morris Abrams immigrated from Russia in the year 1899 at the age of 9. He shares stories about his father’s courage to go to America to see if he could do better for his family, the shooting the great architect Stanford White, President McKinley’s assassination, electric cars, visions that someday there's going to be flying machines, and even the day he arrived in New York City. “My father hired a horse and carriage and took us home. I remember riding down Broadway. In those days we had signs lit with gas. And, you know, for me it was a novelty... put yourself in the place of a youngster - only nine and a half years old. Here I'm coming to a metropolis, with all people, with all the noise and all the excitement… And the greatest thing, we arrived here December 31, which was New Year's Eve… it was a new millennium.”

Adler, Celia

Russia

1910-1919

Celia Adler immigrated from Poland/Russia in 1914 at 12 years old. She recalls stories about life in her small town, everything from family and religious traditions to listening to the phonograph for the first time. She even sings a song in Yiddish. Celia recollects what it was like to say goodbye to her parents, immigrating through Ellis Island, going through medical examinations, reuniting with her older sister who she’d never met, and creating a new life in The United States. "The last day when I left the village… I didn't know whether I want to go or not. But the preparations that were made for me to go… Everybody kissed me and everybody cried and all. What I didn't like was the way my mother cried. I can still hear her. I still have a lonely feeling sometimes. You don't, uh, you don't get away with this. With all my sadness, I never went back. I should have gone when they were alive, but I didn't. One of these things. I missed my parents, but I didn't miss the town because I, as older I got, the more I realized that there wasn't a life for young people there to begin with and I was glad that I got help and they took me away."

Agrin, Hattie

Russia

1900-1909

“My mother was eight months pregnant when we left. We stole across the border. We had to cross water, and a big goy took me under one arm and my cousin Sara under another arm and he carried us across. We didn't go in the water. I remember it like yesterday. My mother walked it. She wore her best dress, a black velvet dress with a train. ( they laugh ) … And in front of the dress she sewed in a five hundred dollar bill to hide the money and get it across… then when she had to cross the water she picked up her dress like that, and she walked. ( they laugh ) And the rest of the train was floating. ( they laugh ) That's the truth."

Akawie, Bessie

Ukraine

1920-1929

“Whenever the pogroms would come we would hide in the little house that we owned once… my uncle had built a little hiding place in the house… it was completely sealed, and nobody could tell that there was a room there. It wasn't really a room, it was just enough for us to squeeze into. And the entrance and the exit was under the hearth in the kitchen. And we would crawl out on our bellies. You would know that there was a pogrom coming… some of the non-Jewish would tell us, who liked us, who weren't anti-Semitic. They took care of us. They hid us. They fed us. So one time we were hiding in there and then my mother said that she felt that if we ever got caught in there we wouldn't get a Jewish burial. So she told us to come out. So we crawled out, and as we came out of the house, two of the two soldiers ran after her and they yelled "Stoy," means stop. She grabbed a hold of us and we all ran to the long, narrow street. And we sat out there. And she showed that she wasn't going to be afraid. She was a very unusual woman…”

Allan, Thomas

Scotland

1920-1929

"The voyage was an eventful journey in one major respect other than the storm, and that was my brother come down with the chicken pox, and we were quarantined on the ship. And I, to no avail, was trying to tell them that I already had chickenpox and there was no need for me to be quarantined, but being of young age, my argument didn't stand water. Because of that, we were sent to Ellis Island and quarantined… I imagine that they were very kind to us. But being scared in a strange land, we were terrified… it seemed like everybody was talking a different language, you know, the Town of Babble. And the guards, they were wearing hats or some kind of uniform… The hospital room was very stark. It probably had to be in those days... And because we were in quarantine, our father could not see us. I remember… him standing on the dock waving at us, but that's as close as he could come to us or they would allow him to come to us. And we could not understand that at that time. So my first impressions of Ellis Island were indeed the Island of Tears."

Allmond, Charles

New York City

1950-1959

Charles Allmond shares his experiences when he was in the Coast Guard and when he closed Ellis down in 1954.

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