(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "F" is for "Furious")
The end of World War II brought about one of the largest population movements in history.
Many thousands of people who had escaped from the Nazi genocide, who had somehow lived through the conflict, found they were facing a new tyranny, Soviet style.
Needless to say, many tried to come to the United States. For them, it must have seemed that the years of drought would soon be over; they would be in the land of plenty. Those who had family here, relatives who would help them, received preference.
I remember those days when shiploads of refugees arrived in New York. In the months after the war’s end you would often see worried-looking folks wandering about the city, each carrying a worn valise or satchel; they usually had a little note pinned to their lapels. The note gave their destination and asked passersby to be of help.
All of which brings me to my train trip at thst time up from Baltimore, where my ship was docked.
On the train, seated across the aisle from me, was a gentleman who was obviously one of those refugees; he had the requisite note on his lapel.
In a spasm of Good Samaritanism I welcomed him to America and asked if I could be of help. I know a couple of words in a number of languages, but he understood none of them. (He must have been from Southeastern Baluchistan or some such place.)
His note read that he was going to his brother-in-law’s, who lived in New York; please help. Fine! I said to him, accompanying my remarks with gestures and appropriate facial expressions, I too am going to New York! I’ll see you get there all right!
He gave a sort of half-smile, as though he understood this odd person was trying to be of help.
We cruised up the coast of New Jersey, with as much comfort and amusement as the Penn Railroad of that day could provide. My friend across the aisle looked worried each time we stopped – Elizabeth, Perth Amboy – but I would assure him no, this is not New York. Pas encore, noch nicht, not yet!
He seemed to understand, but still looked worried.
As anyone who has made this trip knows, there is one last stop, Newark, before the train takes a deep breath and plunges under the Hudson to come up in the Big Apple.
As we pulled into the Newark station, the conductor opened the door and shouted the name of the stop as loudly as he was able. Unfortunately, he shouted “New – ARK!”
To anyone from Southeastern Baluchistan, or almost any other foreign land, it would probably have sounded like a guy announcing our arrival in New York. My friend got up and headed for the door. I grabbed his arm: No! This is not New York! No New York! Not!
Now he really looked worried. He sat back down, but eyed me with great suspicion. I seemed to be sincere, but perhaps he had been told about sharpies in America and how they would try to trick you.
The train waited for a few minutes in the station. Then, just before it started up again, the conductor stuck his head in again and repeated, in his operatic fashion, “New – ARK!”
My refugee was now furious; he excitedly shot me a glance of pure hatred, ran for the door and managed to get off just as the train kicked into gear.
I often wondered what happened to my friend, arriving in New Jersey completely confused, speaking no English and knowing no one. But hey, America is the land of opportunity, right?
It’s quite possible he wound up, years later, as the owner of the biggest night club in Hoboken. :-)
1 year ago