America At Last! - Part 2
[Editor: Continued from Part 1 here]
Papa groaned and hid his face in his hands. “Did you remember our money?”
Mama sighed, “Ja, it is sewn onto the hem of my dress.” At this, Papa relaxed and told everyone to go to sleep.
Everybody slept fitfully and in the morning, nobody was rested. Even so, they traveled all day through the forest. At the end of the day, as they were settling down for the night, Katherine asked, “Where are we going?”
“Mein Madchen, you are a girl of many questions,” Papa told her, “I will answer your question. We are going to Moscow, where we will catch a train to Hamburg, Germany.”
“Will we stay there?”
“Nein, Katherine. Then we will go to America!”
“America,” Katherine breathed.
“But,” said Papa, “But, if you want to get to America, you will have to be quiet.” Katherine nodded solemnly. “Now get some sleep.” Papa lay down.
Day after day, they walked. Night after night they slept in the cover of the woods. Finally, after a week of walking, the Borgens family reached the outskirts of Moscow. They bought train tickets and spent another five days traveling in a stinky, stuffy boxcar packed with other refugees. The ride was terrible, but they lasted through it.
“Ah, Hamburg!” They had reached Hamburg, Germany, and Papa was basking in the wonder of it. He breathed in deeply. “Smell das Vaterland!” Katherine just stared, wide-eyed, at the big city. Papa looked at Mama with a suddenly serious face. “We do have enough money for passage, don’t we?”
“Ja,” Mama reassured, “but only just.”
Papa smiled, “Then let’s go buy our passage!” He buoyantly bounced to the office.
Two days later, Papa, Mama, Katherine, and August were on their way to America. For the first week, it was fun, but after the ship began to smell from all the immigrants packed into the tiny space, it began to be unbearable. The worst part was when storms tossed the ship around. The stench level rose because almost everyone was seasick. The entire Borgens family was confined to their space because of seasickness.
Finally after eight months of continuous torture, the ship landed at Ellis Island. As they stepped off the ship, Papa’s reaction was the same as in Germany.
“Ah! America!” he stretched his arms wide. “May 20, 1912! I shall treasure this day forever.” As they walked toward the immigrations office, he continued, “America! Wo die Freiheit wird herrschen! Where freedom shall reign!”
It had been three weeks since the Borgens’ had moved to their new apartment. Papa’s sister had come to America a few years before, and she had helped them settle in.
“I like it here,” Katherine said with a smile one day.
“Ja, mein Madchen,” Mama had a smile on her face too. “As I always say, Est ist keinen Verlust ohne einige kleine Verstarkung, there is no great loss without some small gain.”
Katherine’s smile disappeared, “I still wish sometimes that we were back at our old home in Russia.”
“Come now,” Mama put her hand under Katherine’s chin, “Smile for me, we’re in America at last.”