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Friday, February 17, 2017

A Day Without Immigrants

Yesterday, A Day Without Immigrants, was the first in a series of protests meant to show the American public and government the impact that Immigrants have on our economy and our lives.  While I didn't feel this impact personally (I spent the day catering to a sick child and only left the house to sit in the school pick-up line for my other children). I did have a chance to reflect on how immigration impacts my life and the lives of my children.  

Accounts of early immigration suggests that people came to America for one of two reasons: to flee persecution or to find new prosperous lives (seeking the American Dream).  My grandmother’s family migrated here in the early 1900s both to flee persecution and to seek new opportunities.  My grandmother used to talk for hours about her family’s origins, her early life, and why coming here was so important to her family. 

My grandmother on her 102 birthday,
 just one year before she died.
While I don’t know exactly where she came from (the boarders of many of the Eastern European countries have changed significantly in the last 100 years) I do know that it was somewhere in the Solvakia/Czech Republic area.  At the time, tensions between ethnic groups in the Kingdom of Hungary (whom controlled a large area of Eastern Europe where my grandmother’s parents lived) lead to the persecution of many Slovaks.  Between 1880 and 1910 roughly 3 million Austro-Hungarians migrated to the United States (my great-grandparents among them). 

Upon arrival to the U.S. my great grandfather found work in the coal mines.  My grandmother (who was born in the U.S. along with her brothers and sisters) often spoke about how rarely they saw him, but how hard he worked for the very little that he made.  She told me that her mother (whom was an educated woman) was some sort of secretary in an office (the details of which I regret not finding out), but that often my grandmother and siblings were left on their own seeking ways to make extra money to support their family.  She spoke fondly of a red wagon that she and her sister would pull around town trying to peddle metal wind chimes and crafts that their brother had made, making enough change to buy a treat at the local sweet shop. 

My grandmother’s ambition and her hard work of her parents allowed her to succeed in school and she went on to be one of the few women to attend college in the 1920s.  She graduated from college in 1931 (at 20 years old) and went on to study at NYU.  While at NYU she met my grandfather, who was then an Army Air Corps flight instructor.  She went on to be a pilot for the Civil Air Patrol during World War II, at a time when only 3.1% of licensed pilots were women.  After having 3 sons in the late 1940s and 1950s she went on to be the president of the local school board. 

When I think about the hardships that her family faced leaving their homes and coming to America as immigrants, then the struggles that she went through as a young woman in the 1920s, the social stigmas she must have faced as one of the few female pilots in the 1930s, and the bravery she showed in the Civil Air Patrol in the 1940s I can’t help but imagine how her life would have been different had her family never been accepted as immigrants here.  The Slovak countries were ripped apart in turmoil in the early 1900s leading to much of the area turning into a socialist state and involvement in WWII when the Nazi took over much of the territory.  With the conditions in that area in the 1920s-1940s I’m sure my grandmother’s life would have been a much different one.



It’s interesting.  Unless you are of purely Native American decent, it is easy to argue that at least some portion of your biology is from an immigrant (at some point in time some generation of your family had to come to America from some other place).  We are all immigrants in this way.  I think that the temporal element has the effect of separating us from that reality.  We don’t remember it, we don’t know the stories, and therefore we have separated ourselves from that reality.   I am thankful that my grandmother shared her stories with me because I feel a greater connection to her and her immigrant parents.  I will share these stories with my children so that they know what their family history is.  So that they know the strength and struggle that their distant relatives went through to make America their home. 

There is controversy over America’s status as a country of immigrants, but I think if we can all look back far enough we will see that this is true.  We all came from somewhere at some time, from people coming to America looking to live the “dream” of a life without persecution and a life with opportunities.


What is your family’s story?  Where are your immigrant roots?  Did your parents or grandparents share with you their immigration story?  What impact has it had on your life and your opportunities?  How will you share this past with your children? 

8 comments:

  1. Great blog Ashley. Really liked your niche and also the template. Double thumbs up!!

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    1. Thanks Nishu! I'm looking forward to finding other Bloggers in this niche! It's sooooo relevant to our current lives!

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  2. My ancestors came over from Ireland as indentured slaves. Yes they were white slaves. Took many generations and horrible conditions. I will always honor my ancestors but don't look on the generations of today as if they owe me anything.

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  3. This is a wonderful thing to keep in mind! I don't know my family's immigrant story - I know I'm a big mix of several different things. Anyways, I think it's awesome that you keep their story in mind and plan to share it with your kids.
    Keep up the great work with this awesome blog!

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    1. Thanks Mealissa! I wish that I knew more of my ancestors stories, but most of my grandparents died long before I was born. I am thankful to have been able to get to know my Grandmother before her passing.

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  4. Thank you for posting this, I have been so disheartened by the news lately. My own adopted son is an immigrant, my father in law is an immigrant and a few generations back (as most other Americans) my relatives were immigrants. It is who America is. This who craziness needs to stop. Thanks you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Amber! Your so right, it IS who America IS!

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  5. Loved this article! We are all immigrants :) thanks for sharing. :)

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