BC: Rosalina' Diary
FC: The Diary of a Young Russian Immigrant
1: ROSALINA'S DIARY
2: DEqrDear | Dear Diary, 5/8/1889 Soon, my life will change forever. I’m leaving Russia for America, where the streets are paved with gold and my family will be rich. My parents left a few months ago with my younger siblings, Vlad and Vera, to set up our lives before I arrive, leaving me to make sure every detail is attended to before we leave Russia forever. My parents told me we live in a place called, the “Lower East Side”. They say all the Russian Jews are living there due to the many synagogues, Yiddish theatres, and foreign-language newspapers. I will also have to work in a “sweatshop” to help my family with income, but I hear many other young Russian women have the same job, so it can’t be that bad, right? At the age of sixteen, you’d think I’d be scared to face all this by myself, but to know that at the end of this long journey awaits freedom, makes everything worth it. On March 3, 1881, the life of a Jew suddenly changed in Russia. The Czar, Alexander II died, and unfortunately, the Jews were blamed. Since then, our lives have never been the same. My parents knew they would want our family to escape to America, but much needed planning and money was required. I have to be strong. I have to get out of here. As for now, I leave in two days. I must travel across Europe to get to Britain, and then board the ship to America. The entire trip should be about three weeks, but I know it will feel much longer than that. I’ll write back soon, hopefully on my way to America! Love, Rosalina
3: all | My luggage
4: #2 Dear Diary, 5/20/1889 Get me off of this horrible boat! Hopefully this boat ride does not reflect my new life in America, because if so, then just send me back to Russia now. I suppose that although I have a strong determination to get to America, I still am vulnerable and easy to take advantage of. On the second night of being on the boat, I noticed a strange man peering at me from a few feet away. I didn’t think much of it as he never approached me, but the following night I saw him again. I thought maybe he too was enjoying a night out on the deck, but this time he came up from behind me and whispered something I did not understand in my ear. I’ll never forget the way his warm breath made me cringe. After this occurrence, I was frightened. Traveling alone, I knew he could easily target me and take me down. The next time I saw him, another woman, maybe in her late forties, noticed him too. She quickly grabbed me, and spoke to me as if I were her child. Upon seeing this, the man disappeared and I have yet to see him again. I will forever be grateful to Susana, the woman who led the man away, for if it wasn’t for her, I can assure you I wouldn’t be safe. America is so close. I can’t wait to see my parents, Vlad, and Vera! Love, Rosalina
5: The ship and the Journey
6: Diary #3 Dear Diary, 5/30/1889 I’m here! I made it! I see her! I see the Statue of Liberty and she is beautiful! I am in America! I’m crying! I’m so happy to be here and I’m so close to my family! I had heard that the Statue was an amazing thing to first see coming in to America, but it’s nothing if you haven’t actually seen her for yourself. It’s like she’s calling to us, speaking of the opportunities she offers and welcoming us to something we’ve never experienced: freedom. With this sense of amazement and hope, comes an overbearing dose of nerves. We’re here, but we can easily be sent back. I mean, they’ll ask so many questions in such little time, they’ll check me for disease, and make sure my answers match with what my parents told them. What if I answer wrong? What if they deem me handicap? What if I can’t understand them? There are so many things that could go wrong, I’m starting to get worried I will mess up and be sent back. I know I just have to stay strong. I have to keep thinking of my family. America could drastically change my life as it would have been in Russia. And I will not be sent back there. This is an opportunity I can’t refuse. Love, Rosalina P.S. The strange man has since disappeared, but I still am scared he will find me once we dock.
7: The Statue of Liberty | New | New York City
8: A Harvest of Memories | Diary #4 Dear Diary, 5/30/1889 As we get off the boat, we are all put into lines and filed into the building, that although is massive, still does not seem to fit all the immigrants coming in. As we walk in line, people around me have letters written on their backs, but not me. I become frightened, how come I don’t have a letter? Is this bad? Is this good? I asked a guard nearby to which he responded by chuckling and then said, “You’re a lucky one; you don’t want a letter.” I hadn’t understood this, and I kept thinking about the letters on other people’s clothing. As I pondered these thoughts, it was suddenly my turn to be checked for any physical problems. I stepped forward and I was luckily quickly passed through with no issues or ailments. From here, I was sent to the Registry Room for further inspection. While waiting on line I became incredibly nervous. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder and became incredibly afraid it was the man from the boat, returning for his revenge, but when I turned around, it was a man. He said his name was Anton, and that he was seventeen, just a year older than I. He had also had a long journey by himself from Russia, and was supposed to meet his family once he passed through. He comforted me, telling me not to be nervous, and that we’d both be fine and we’d get through this. In the Registry Room, everyone was inspected by health officials. My mental health and vision were checked here, and both Anton and I passed through! Finally, we came to the last part of our journey, the legal inspection and questioning. Here, they made sure all of my information matched up correctly with that of my parents. In addition, they asked about my age, my living situation, any skills I had to a certain profession, and my family. Now, I have to wait to see if I can be passed through to America. I’ve lost Anton and I hope everything went alright with his tests. I can’t wait to see my family soon! Love, Rosalina
9: The Beds I had to sleep on | The registry room
10: Diary #5 Dear Diary, 6/2/1889 I passed! Finally I got to see my family for the first time in several months at the kissing post. The area was filled with tears of joy and love from families of all different cultures and backgrounds who were finally being reunited. As I walked through the crowd, I scanned every face searching for a familiar one, and then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my mother, Ana’s warm smile. Behind her, stood my father, Maxim, and at their legs, my siblings, Vlad and Vera, were jumping wildly. Plenty of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and for the first time in months, I remembered what it was like to truly not be alone. For those first hours of being with my family, a smile could not be wiped off my face. I was so happy to be with them, in this place filled to the brim with opportunities. But, as I started to look around, America was not what I had expected. In fact, it was nothing like I had expected. The streets were not paved with gold, and the city was extremely dirty. On the first night back with my family, as I lay in bed, I felt something on my leg. I looked down only to find a rat had crawled into my bed! Nothing like this had ever happened in Russia! After the rat incident, I noticed something else about my new life. I was hungry, and we didn’t always have enough food. I never complained though, as I knew my family was working hard to do everything they could to give us everything, but still at night I dared to wonder if maybe Russia had been the better choice all along. The longing to return to Russia pounds on my mind now. I can only hope it gets better from here. Love, Rosalina
11: New York City | The Kissing Post
12: Diary #6 Dear Diary, 6/6/1889 After being here for a few days, my parents believe I have settled down enough to take a job at the sweatshop, where many of the other young Russian women in this area also work. My parents introduced me to a girl named Amelia, who is around my age and lives in my neighborhood, and this morning, Amelia and I walked to work together. As we walked, other young women joined us on our way, and upon arrival, I was stunned to see the massive factory I was going to be working in. Walking in, we were assigned to our work places, and told what we were to do. I was thankful to have Amelia with me, for I hadn’t spoken with anyone else and she was the first girl I could relate to since I had been in America. Working in the sweatshop is very different from the jobs I had at home. Usually I would look after the younger children, cook, or clean, but never make clothes in a factory. Also, the working conditions are harsh. It is extremely unsanitary, and should we do wrong, we must stay late. We work seven hours a day, from seven in the morning, until two in the afternoon. The pay wages are extremely low for the amount of hours and work we do, but I have to be thankful I have a paying job at all. It’s only been one day of work and I already wish to not go back, but I have to. My family needs me to be strong and make money. I have to support my family. Love, Rosalina
13: Working in the Sweatshop
14: It's Turkey Time! | Diary #7 Dear Diary 7/25/1909 It’s been a while since I’ve written a diary entry. Twenty years ago was the last time I even thought of writing about my days in America. My sweatshop job consumed all of my time, and when I’m not working, I try to spend as much time as I can with my family. So many things have changed since I was sixteen. I now have a husband, Anton, who was the boy I had met while in Ellis Island, who had comforted me while waiting on the lines. His family, like mine, had moved to the Lower East Side, and seeing him so much gave us the opportunity to get to know each other. I also have a son, Mark, who just turned eight, and I love him to death. With our low paying jobs, Anton and I sometimes find difficulty in raising him the way we’d like, but we make it work. Coming to America was the best decision my parents ever made. It has changed my life for the better in endless ways. I met my husband through this journey, I became who I am today due to this journey, and Mark will have the best opportunities possible for his future. I grew to love America. Although the streets aren’t paved with gold as I had originally hoped, I still look at Lady Liberty the same. She is welcoming us, showing us the opportunities that lie ahead. Love, Rosalina
16: Citations sydaby.eget.net/swe/journey.htm Pelo, June. "THE IMMIGRANT JOURNEY." Site Map. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.
17: More Citations ^ ^^ "130 Year Old Russian Woman | English Russia." English Russia Daily Entertainment News from Russia. In English! English Russia, 27 Mar. 2009. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.