Family Migration History

Nowadays, the United States of America remain the most popular country to immigrate. Some say that America is a country of immigrants. In general terms, almost every citizen of the USA is a permanent resident, a first-generation immigrant or the descendant of immigrants of the past years, centuries, or millennia. Even the American Indians whom Columbus and people after him considered autochthonous, according to many researchers, have moved here from Asia over 20,000 years ago (Gabaccia, 2002, p. 19). The Center for Immigration Studies (2011) states, “Nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States from 2000 to 2010. The nation’s immigrant population has doubled since 1990, nearly tripled since 1980, and quadrupled since 1970, when it stood at 9.7 million” (para. 2). Thus, the words by Emma Lazarus (1883), “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of you teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (para. 2), engraved on the Statue of Liberty prove that America was, is, and probably will be an immigrant country and millions of people will always find shelter here like my family did.

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My grandfather Adam was born in September 1929. His wife Galina (my grandmother) is two years older. Although they live in German now, they are both from Ukraine. At those times, Ukraine was one of the republics of the Soviet Union. They say that those times were terrible: the times of revolutions, famine, and civil wars. Mass collectivization and industrialization made life of simple people almost unbearable. People dissenting with such politics were arrested and sent to concentrating camps. In 1932-33, under the leadership of Stalin, artificial famine was organized covering the territory of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Volga, and North Caucasus. Famine in Ukraine during 1932-1933 was one of the worst tragedies in the human history. The famine of 1932-33 killed about 10% of Ukraine’s population, mostly rural. Only those people survived who worked in the new social system – entered the farm, moved to the city, and joined the Red Army or NKVD. It was the time of continued struggles with the old social ideology. In 1932, a “wicked Five-Year Plan” was adopted; as a result, 95% of churches that functioned in the 1920’s were destroyed. So, under such conditions, lived my grandparents. Moreover, Eastern Bloc emigration and defection made the possibility to immigrate legally to any non-soviet country almost impossible. All people of the SU got so-called “Propiskas” (place of residence). It permitted only internal movements within a small area, it was also called 101st kilometer. Those people wishing to leave were viewed not just as deserters, but traitors (Dowty, 1989, p. 74). It is not a secret that all these restrictions had also another aim – to prevent spreading information about the Soviet Union. Stalin also forbade the outside access to the SovietRepublics in order that nobody could know what was going on in the country. Such politics of isolation and severe control continued up to the death of the Soviet leader. Laqueur (1994) states, “As a result, for many years after World War II, even the best-informed foreigners didn’t know the number of arrested or executed Soviet citizens, or how poorly the Soviet economy had performed” (p.23). At that time, a lot of people were “non-literal” (uneducated). Many of them could not even read or write properly. Many wanted to immigrate somewhere, but they had neither the possibility nor enough money and knowledge to do that. My grandpa told me an old anecdote:

Late at night, the boy comes to his father and asks:

  • – Dad, what’s closer, the moon or New York?
  • – Sonny, you’re an adult already, and you should be ashamed to ask such stupid questions. Just lean out the window and look at the sky. What do you see there?
  • – The Moon.
  • – Right. And do you see New York anywhere?
  • – No.
  • – So, make the right conclusions!

After the Second World War, my grandparents searching for better prospects were forced to move to German. They worked at one of the factories of Berlin. This movement was caused by economic, social, and other conditions mentioned above. While moving there, they hoped for the better life for them and their future children. My father Mykola was born there. They rent a small one-room apartment in the outskirts of Berlin. My grandpa worked very hard to feed his family. When my father was 15 years old, grandpa was promoted to the deputy director of that factory. This promotion made it possible to move to the small house not far from their old flat. By that time, my granny worked as a seamstress in one of the stores. During the time free from work, she made nice clothes for her husband and my father. It was like this until the barrier dividing Berlin with the rest of civilized world had been ruined. In November 1989, the East German government announced that citizens of GDR could go to West Germany and West Berlin. Berlin Wall has fallen. The events of 1989 made my grandfather think about better future for his family. Not wanting to stay in German anymore, my grandma started collecting information about the countries to go. Of course, the best shelter for my relatives was the USA. Country of freedom and justice, with rich economics and prospects for the future could not but was admired by my family. Though the political events were developing very fast, they were still the citizens of the Soviet Union and getting permission to leave the country was quite problematic. In the year 1991, German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany. It was a great day for many people. Granny says, “It seemed like it was the happiest time in our lives. Constant joy and merriment continued for several days”.

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Despite all these events, a dream to move to the USA did not leave my already grown father. Furthermore, United German gave them such a possibility. But there were a lot of barriers on their way. First, they did not know English at all. Second, they had neither relatives nor enough money to travel there. Two years later, my twenty-five years old father got acquainted with a young lady (my future mother). She was twenty-two and worked for an international company. In a year, they got married. Being a young family with burning ambitions and immense desire to grow and develop, they made immigration to the USA their prior target. They just followed their dreams, no matter what. In several months, my mother got a letter full of documents and a proposal to work for the company in the USA. A new phase in the life of my parents has begun. There, they found a permanent accommodation in one of the areas of New York in BrightonBeach. Our Russian neighbors helped my father to find his first job in America. He was employed by a moving company. Although the salary was not high, it was enough for living. In a year, my mother got pregnant, and soon I was born. As we got used to the new country and our living improved, we moved to a new three-room apartment in which we dwell till today. I still live with my parents, but I am planning to rent a separate apartment for myself. Almost every year, my grandparents are visiting us. For us, it is always a big holiday. We proposed them to move here, but they deny explaining that they got used to living in their country and old house. I always listen with pleasure to my grandfather’s stories about the Soviet Union, the Second World War, and the modern life in Germany. My dream is to visit Ukraine, a land of my grandparents. Now, it is not a Republic but an independent, fast developing state. They say that it has changed much since proclaiming its independence.

Thus, we may conclude that many people immigrate but not because they do not like their homes or countries; in most cases they are forced to do that searching for better life, stability, prospects, and protection.

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