Recently, I have been fascinated by the subject of genealogy. Genealogy is the study of one’s family lineage. As I have been learning more about World War II and the Holocaust in both Social Studies class and Hebrew school, I have decided to embark on the journey of dusting off the tangled roots of my family tree. What I have found so far is nothing short of remarkable and truly, truly inspiring.
My great-grandfather was named Arthur. His given name was Aaron (I’m not giving out any last names because a perverted stalker could be reading this and I’m not in the mood to get kidnapped right now), and he was born in Poland. He was one of 9 or 10 children, and he dropped out of school after finishing 8th grade to earn money for his family. His family was living in poverty and starvation, and he never knew his father.
When Aaron was 16, he and his family moved to America because he and his brothers were going to be subject to a 10-15 year draft in the Polish army, and the Polish army would have jumped at the chance to torture young Jewish boys. He arrived at Ellis Island on February 13, 1922, and became a citizen in approximately 1927. His family settled in the Bronx, and, miraculously, were able to get a house. He and his brothers started working almost immediately after getting off the boat. He changed his name to Arthur to sound more “American.” He owned a hardware store, and he was a freemason.
On the flip side, my great-grandma Irene came from a very well-off family in Russia. She was one of 9 children, and her parents owned a dry-goods store. Her clothes were made by seamstresses, and her family had a maid and a nanny to look after the children while her parents were at work. When Irene was very young, her two oldest brothers were going to get drafted into the Russian army, so her father and two oldest brothers left Russia for America. When the rest of Irene’s family got to America many years later, Irene didn’t even recognize her father because they hadn’t seen each other in so many years!
My great-grandparents met at a dance social. My great-grandfather was an excellent ballroom dancer, and legend has it that as soon as Grandpa Arthur danced with Grandma Irene for the first time, he vowed to marry her. My dad says that they met at the social, and Grandpa Arthur was so madly in love that he followed Grandma Irene home. My grandma says that there are so many different stories about how her parents met that she doesn’t know which one to believe.
The story of how my family came to America is so humbling to me because I have my own everyday struggles, and so does everyone else. My great-grandparents left Europe without looking back, and without knowing what would happen. That took an immense amount of courage, and I know that if my ancestors could leave behind everything they knew to come to a place that they knew nothing about, then I can do anything I set my mind to.
If you are looking for inspiration and grounding in your life, then I highly recommend getting out your old gardening tools and unearthing the roots of your family tree.
Special thanks to Grandma Ansi, Dad, and Ancestry.com!