In this last post in this series I want you to meet a man who LEGALLY immigrated to the United States.
I've detailed how he landed here, and briefly mentioned that he eventually developed the Illness known as Paranoid Schizophrenia ( a chronic mental illness. ), in 1969, and died, in a hospital, in Los Angeles, in 1988.
What happened to him, in the end, was not easy to watch happen, and we could only wait for the final act, knowing he was beyond communicating with us.
In between he lived a complicated, and difficult, yet mostly happy life.
The 2 photos here are among the oldest family photos our family has of him, and there are 2 other Military pictures as well.
The bottom one is of him, and his Bulgarian Military buddies, early in WW2 (That's him in the back row, on the left.)
The top photo was taken at an Eastern Orthodox Church, in Glendale Ca., in about 1952, and the story of my return visit to that church is told here.
Dad never talked much about his life before America. The memories were too painful, I suppose.
Mom always said he was in the Bulgarian Airforce, then in the Macedonian Underground, against Tito ( America's Commie of Choice in Europe at the start of the Cold War. ), and that he lost his left eye blowing up a railroad.
She said that when his unit was betrayed he fled the country and spent a few years in Refugee Camps before immigrating to America.
When he died, in 1988, I was able to get his complete Immigration Files thru a Freedom of Immigration Request.
What I learned there was startling, and intriguing.
While his Immigration was LEGAL there is a mystery in the details that confuses the issue of the life he led during, and immediately after, the war.
He spent time in at least 2 Refugee Camps between 1947 and 1951, and apparently made quite an impression on some people, somewhere, because he eventually gained a sponsor for immigration to America.
The sponsor was part of the American Friends Society, a Quaker Relief Organization.
While Dad never made it into High School, he was fluent in the languages of his country, and even knew some Greek, Italian, and German.
Thus thru his paperwork, I know what day, and year, and who, in what camp, Americanized his name. ;-D
Not knowing any English, he just went with the flow, apparently. ;-D
I know the boat he came over on, and where he went once he got here, and why he ended up in California.
When you supposedly fought in the underground against a country supported by the people you hope will take you in, I suppose being completely upfront, with the US Displaced Persons Commission, about your recent life wouldn't be, um, prudent. ;-D
Dad hated Communism, and was a proud Macedonian Nationalist and, as was shown in the 90's life, in the now broken up Yugoslavia, is all bound up in matters of history, culture, ethnicity, and religion.
All Dad knew was that Freedom , and the chance to rebuild his life, lay in America, and death lay behind him.
This page details the story he gave fighting in the Bulgarian Army, spending time in a Forced Labor Concentration Camp, in 1945-6, where he lost his eye, being transported to a hospital, then home to recuperate, then making for Greek and Italian, Refugee Camps in 1947, and 1948.
As the 2nd page, attached to this document, states:
"The Commission further states that assurances have been given to the Commision on behalf of the principal applicant by: Mrs. W. M. Storey, Old Mill Farm, Lexington, NY.
That these assurances are in accordance with the requirements of the Act and Regulations, have been approved by the Commision, and bear the Commision Number A-8751.
That the Principal Applicant will be employed as a Farmhelper in NY., that he will reside at Old Mill Farm, Lexington, NY, and...
That the Principal Applicant will execute the oath of affirmation required under Section 6 of the Act prior to issuance of Visa.
Based upon the foregoing findings, the Commision determines, and hereby certifies:
That the the Principal Applicant is a displaced perosn, and an eligible displaced person, eligible for consideration for admission into the united States under Section 2(C) of the Act, and that such admission would be in accordance with the regulations of the Commision;
That the Principal Applicant is entiled to: The 1st preference under section 6 (A) of the US Displaced Persons Act of 1948, as amened, because of the nature of his employment.
Therefore in accordance with the regulations of the Commision, this report is submitted to the Officer of the US Foreign Service at Naples, Italy, for consideration in connection with the Principal Applicant's application for an Immigration Visa."
Unlike more than 12 million folks, who shall remain nameless, since 1986, my Dad jumped thru all the LEGAL hoops required to come to The Promised Land, The Land of Opportunity, The Land of Freedom, and Democracy.
So Dad came by boat to New York, and got his Green Card.
He guarded that thing so well that I am able to cherish it as a valuable piece of the fabric of my family history.
Dad didn't like New York, apparently, and somehow finagled a transfer to a Migrant Workers Camp, run by the American Friends Society, in Montclair CA., where he was able to hook up with a growing community of former countrymen, and co-religionists. in the area.
1st things, 1st though...
He needed to learn the local language, and get a job, and a permanent place to live.
THE 1ST LANGUAGE HE LEARNED WAS SPANISH. ;-D
He learned to speak it fluently, and his 1st job was as a dishwasher in a famous Inn, in Claremont, CA., that no longer exists, and I've traced his living arraingements from 1952 to the time of his marraige in 1957, in the area.
She was a young Kentucky gal, working as a cook at a local restuarant he frequented, and he thought SHE made the delicious lemon pies he loved.
He FINALLY had a reason to learn that OTHER native language, spoken in California, and popular in the rest of the nation... But 1st a friend had to write him a note of introduction in which he asks the nice lady out on a date. ;-D
His English Teacher did such a good job that he married her on Labor Day 1957. ;-D
By 1968, with 3 kids, a decent job, and a seemingly boundless future ahead of him,things began to change.
Life was a struggle, and job pressures, brought on by a rascist boss, contributed to a mental breakdown in 1969.
Other contributing factors were the guilt he felt over leaving his homeland, and his family.
Correspondence by mail began in the 1950's, and various confusions, and misunderstandings, his family in the old country had about his life in the grand country of America, weighed on him.
Due to his loyalty to his Macedonian Heritage Mom was never able to persuade him that he would not be less a Macedonian if he became a United States Citizen, and so he became an American in all but name, assimilating as best he could into the American way of life, keeping his Green Card Status up to date, working his Ass off to make a future for his Son, and then his daughters.
In 1969 when his life changed, so did the lives of his family.
My mother never worked after her 2nd child was born and, after the illness, raised us kids alone, on Social Security Disability payments, foodstamps, and money earned babysitting.
By the Age of 13 I was her Right Arm, and I was still living at home when she died in 1990.
I kept in close contact with my Dad over the years, as did my Mom, even though she was forced to eventually divorce him so the state could care for him, and she could retain her own sanity, and finish raise us kids, whome she took to see him frequently ( Like me, my Sisters visited him once they were adults as well. ).
He never quite understood the why of this, but grew to accept it in those final years of his life.
His illness kept him in various hospitals for 18 years, and the best times of his life were when he was well enough to get an "Off Campus" permit to hang with his kids, or spend a day hanging out in Claremont with the memories of better days.
The above photo is a favorite of mine.
It is from one of the proudest days of his life (Another was the day I was born.).
The day I graduated from Cal State Los Angeles, with a Bachelor's Degree, in 1982.
His life went downhill from there. His parents had died, and this had long hurt him, and he died in 1988.
Mom, and I, retrieved his ashes in Los Angeles, and carrying them in an urn, in a brown paper bag, took 2 busses to the cemetary where she had paid for their 2 plots long ago, and made arraignments for his funeral, and burial.
It was a well attended service, including a few friends from the old days, and so we said our good-byes to a loving, brave, but troubled, man.
Several years ago when I first shared variations of this story elsewhere, including his name, and those of his sisters, parents, and grandparents, on Genealogy Forums, I was suddenly deluged with e-mails from people claiming to be cousins, and even 2 of my 70 year old Aunts, people I had lost contact at the time of the start of the hostilities in the old country, in 1991.
I even began to hear from people claiming to be distant relations with the same old world version of my last name.
The e-mail addies were always different, the messages in bad English, excitable, and less than forthcoming, even when I tried to get answers to questions so as to try to prove the people were who they said they were.
Most Genealogists are becoming more aware of the fact that there are scammers in foreign countries always looking for gullable Americans in search of their roots.
I eventually trusted one correspondent enough to write to the 2, 30 year old, addresses I had where the Aunts still apparently lived, and to this cousin.
The Aunts never responded and while the cousin did, she never responded to a follow-up.
So I've ignored all attempts in the last couple of years by the same type of odd correspondence because I just have no trust in its believability,a nd no reliable way to confirm anything.
For now I am going to try to follow-up new leads that might help me translate the words on the back of 80 photos, and the contents of 5 letters sent in 1 envelope, in 1982, that are all that remains of corresponce sent to my Father from the Old Country.
It is my hope that by doing so I may eventually truly, honestly, and legitimately, re-conect with the long lost family of my Father, and thus connect with my European Roots.
I am also going to start re-connecting with the history of the Old Country, and with the sounds of my childhood...the music of the culture of my Father.
Growing up I vividly remember the sounds of his record collection, and pouring over old books about Macedonia.
While the books were in English, the songs were not, but I fell in love with the instrumentals. ;-D
The books, sadly, were lost, and so were the records, long ago.