How A Neighbor Came To The United States

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a story that a neighbor told me on how he came to the united States after World War 2

Submitted: May 20, 2019

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Submitted: May 20, 2019



When i was a kid growing up in New Jersey, i had a neighbor who told me a story on how he came to the United States.  Actually, he wasn't planning to come to the US, but actually was going to go to Canada, but these things happen.

When the Second World War broke out, he was living in Italy. He was drafted into the Italian Army and he was sent to a infantry unit. Their unit was ordered to go and fight against the partisans in the then Yugoslavia against the Axis forces in that country. After several weeks of battles and skrimishes, he and several men from his unit were captured by the Yugoslavian partisans. They were given two choices, either to join with the partisans and fight against the German and Italian armies, or be sent to a POW camp. He told me that he and his fellow comrades knew that the partisans didn't have POW camps. What they really meant was that they would be marched down a deserted road into the woods and have a bullet put into the back of their heads. Well, it didn't take them to long to realize that their best chance of survival was to join up with the partisans, so they did.

They fought with the partisans, and when the war was over, he went back to Italy. But Italy was in bad shape, so he decided to leave for the new world. But he wasn't going to go to the United States, his plan was to go to Canada. He had distant relatives living in Montreal, and they would welcome him in and get him a job. Before he got drafted, he was a teenager working as an apprentence for a carpenter. So, he felt that there would be work for him, even though he didn't speak English, let alone French. 

He got all of his paperwork together through the Red Cross and the Canadian authorities. He boarded a boat in Rome, and was on his way to his new life. But before the boat made it to Canada, it made two other stops. One in Marseille in France, then another stop in Southampton in England. With those two stops, he had to show all of his paperwork to the custom officals. And again, he didn't speak a word of English. He was ok when he go into Marseille, but when the boat docked in Southampton, the officals looked at his paperwork and through some hand gestures, and someone trying to translate English to Italian, he was directed off that boat and onto another boat. He was scared at first he said, but he was told that the boat would take him to his final destination. He thought that his final destination would be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but it actually was Hoboken New Jersey.

See, the problem was that the custom official in Southampton read his paperwork wrong. He only found this out after a few months after he settled here in New Jersey. The offical thought that even though he was going to Canada, that he had to go through the United States first, then to Canada. Well, my neighbor didn't speak English, so he just went ahead on the ship that the customs offical told him to go on. 

So, here he is, in Hoboken, New Jersey, and you would think that the customs officals would see the mistake, but he didn't. Just looked at the paperwork, stamped some of them, and sent him on his way. He figured that the custom offical felt that it was normal for someone to dock in Hoboken on his way to Montreal. 

So, here he was, walking around the streets of Hoboken with his two suitcases, wondering what to do. Luckily for him, Hoboken had at the time, and still does, a large Italian community. He was passing by a deli that had it's door open, and he heard people speaking Italian. He walked in and started to talk to the people. He told them his story and as he did, they gave him food to eat, no charge. He was able to tell them that he had relatives in Montreal and that he had a phone number to call. The owner of the deli called the number and explanied what had happened, and then my neighbor got on the phone. The relatives in Montreal told him that they would do what they can to get him up there. Meanwhile, the owner of the deli asked more questions from my neighbor. He told him that he was an apprentence carpenter. The owner of the deli told him that he could help him get some work, off the books til he can get to Montreal. He was very thankful for that. And the deli owners wife said that he could stay in a small backroom of the deli til things worked out. 

Six months in, he was still in the United States, in Hoboken, working in construction. As for the relatives in Montreal, they would get in touch with him saying that since he landed in the US, he might have to go back and start the journey over again. But, then, he was able to go to New York to the Canadian Consulate and get the sitution straighten out. But, by this time, he was getting use to life in the US. He had a steady job, and he was looking for a place for himself to live in. He made friends, and he felt that this was the place he wanted to live. 

With the help of the people in the deli, they got him a lawyer who knew about immigration policy, and helped him stay in this country. With that, he became a citizen of the US, got married and had two children. He worked in construction until he was in his early 70's then retired and still kept busy doing work around his house. One of the last times i've seen him, he was probably about 82 by then, but he had built a scaffolding on the side of his house and has replacing the wood shingles. His wife wanted him to hire someone to do the work, but he wanted to do it himself.  And in the evenigs he would drink a glass or two of wine, that he made himself from his own grapes that he had growing in his backyard.

He died about five years ago, at the age of 94, and his wife died about eight months after. They were married for almost seventy years. Wondered what his life would have been like if he had gone to Canada? Mine would have been a little less richer because he wouldn't have been my neighbor.

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