FrizzText’s photo challenge this week is “j”.
This post is a brief description of my parents journeys from Jerusalem, and Jamshedpur to a city in Africa beginning with “j“…
My family has emigrated every generation since my grandfather left Odessa in 1885 at the age of fifteen. He was born in a cold country, my mother in a hot one, I was born in a hot country, my children in one with snow and ice…
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
– Lao-tzu, the Chinese philosopher who wrote the Tao Te Ching
In 1938 my mother traveled with her mother and sister from Jamshedpur, in India to join my aunt’s fiancée in Africa. As first class passengers on the ship they ate at the Captain’s table, the two sisters danced with the Captain, the first mate, and all the young men on the ship, and they all enjoyed shore excursion to places like Colombo and Zanzibar.
My father wasn’t able to make a living as a fitter and turner in Jerusalem, and as the oldest son he felt pressured to go off somewhere to seek his fortune.
My father’s journey in his own words:
“I wasn’t able to emigrate to the United States because the quota of immigrants from Israel was full and I would’ve had to wait another two or three years before they opened it up again.
“I was nineteen, I was impatient to start my new life, I didn’t want to wait two more years.
I saved up an extra pound by scrubbing floors for a ‘piasta’ [two cents] so I could buy myself a double-breasted suit. I have a picture of me lying on the floor leaning on my elbow, that’s the suit I came out with.
I went to Africa on a cattle ship in 1929. It cost me eighteen pounds. I also had to give another eighteen pounds security if I wasn’t allowed to land and they had to send me back. I borrowed that money from my sister Lilly. I paid her back right away. The immigration was strict, they examined us one by one on the boat on the top deck.
We didn’t get a cabin on the ship, we had to find our own place to sleep on the deck. There were about six of us poor young men traveling like that, sitting on the floor without beds, just a waterproof cover in case it rained… They gave us food that I couldn’t eat, disgusting big chunks of fatty meat. We had to go to the toilet, out there on the deck… excuse me… I got so constipated I thought I’d pass away.”
My father arrived unable to speak English with “two shillings and-six-pence” (about twenty-six cents) in his pocket, but ten years later when he met my mother he was one of the most eligible bachelors in town, one of the few men who owned his own car.
My parents were married three months after they met.
In the 1980’s they journeyed again this time to join three of their children who coincidentally were living in the same cold northern country.