Reading the current newspapers every day and seeing the pictures of parents standing next to their young children, mostly with tears in their eyes, wondering whether they are going to be allowed to move to a new country, hopefully the United States, and remain with their parents.
I have never experienced that feeling nor can I even conjure up a similar feeling, wondering whether I was going to remain together with my family, continue to live a life similar to what I had in whatever country I was coming from, would I be moving to a dictatorship or bizarre country like we read about every day in our local newspapers.
Of course one of the issues would have to be my familiarity with the language of the possibly new host country.
Just to give you a little bit of background on the Sochin family: Both of my parents were born somewhere in what became the Soviet Union. After reading many stories about the pogroms that took place in Europe and how poorly people of Jewish extraction were treated, I could not even visualize what it might have been like for my parents once they made the decision to leave a place where their parents and grandparents had been born and move halfway across the world to a totally strange and new environment
Fortunately, I did get to spend a good deal of time discussing these things with my father and even have a display of money on a wall that they used as they traveled across Europe to finally get on a ship to the United States. How they did it is beyond me and now that I am able to read day-to-day stories of other families attempting the same thing I have to have the utmost respect for these parents.
Just for your information, my father arrived here in 1900, at the age of 12, went to work for a leather processing company called the George James Leather Company and stayed there for his entire working life, approximately 70 years.
How funny everything must have seemed to him when people were changing jobs every two to three years seeking better opportunities. My father actually had to do his business with “the company store.” That is the way things were done then.
He spent many hours telling me about how difficult it was being brought up in a country where people of your faith, were looked down on and treated as poorly as was possible. Somehow they survived and with this were able to help their children through
what might have been tumultuous times beginning with World War I, and then World War II and all the other world wars in between, but yet they had to survive as did we their children and now our children, their grandchildren.
I do take a certain amount of time talking to my grandchildren about what things might have been like had my parents sought a different solution to their problems and how fortunate we are that they took this particular route.
Like most other refugees at the time, they arrived at Ellis Island in New York, passed all of the physical tests necessary to allow the entrance — in particular an eye disease that was common at that time and that no one wanted spread to the United States.
Fortunately they passed as did all their other relatives and their families for the most part remained together. I read in the newspaper each day about people who simply want to come to the United States, to get away from whatever horrible place they had been living in and join society as it was meant to be.
I was fortunate enough, to be just old enough to spend some time working in the same factory that my father worked went to work for when he came to this country. I couldn’t have been more proud of my dad when he became the foreman for the factory that he went to work for, right from Russia.
I still have images of this factory with two or three huge electric motors cranking a bunch of belts overhead that powered all of the other equipment that was used to cut and smooth the leather as it passed through the factory.
They even had an elevator, to go to the second and third floors that were controlled by someone yanking on a metal cable to both start and stop the elevator when necessary. There was no such thing as electronic controls at that time so you really had to know how to start and stop this elevator.
Let us say that one of the new presidents passing through our White House decided that Jews or foreigners from Russia simply did not fit in to our society and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to join us. That may sound weird to you now, but talk to some people from Chile, Ecuador, or any of the other questionable South American countries. Even knowing what I know from history
I honestly don’t know how my parents would have dealt with this or for that matter how I or perhaps my grandchildren would accept it.
Of course, like the children of today, we would not have had a voice in the matter and would simply learn to get along with our new neighbors, tried to learn their language and make friends where we could.
Reading this, it does sound easy, but I can assure you that it wasn’t. for any of these people and I can only hope as time goes by it will become easier and easier.