I grew up as a girl in Poland in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. My family survived so much, being Jewish and German-Poland, but when I was twenty-four my life changed forever when I decided to come to America.
The decision began with the czar's murder in 1881, which was blamed on the Jewish community. My father was murdered in the streets during a violent riot, which was common in those days. Our city was set on fire.
My mother was devastated. My grandmother already had been ill because of the cramped living conditions we had back in Poland, and wasn't doing well. This was my tipping point.
I decided I had to go. There was too much violence breaking out in my city, threatening my family, for me to stay. With the wages I earned in America, I could send part of them home to mother to help take care of grandmother.
I must go.
At first my mother said no. She said that it was too dangerous going alone, and that I didn't know what would await me in America. But I knew that whatever waited for me on those shores would be so much better than where I was. I knew I had to go.
Eventually, mother realized that this was the only option. My cousin and my aunt and uncle lived in New York already, so I didn't have to worry about finding housing or a job. It would be the best option for our family.