Back in April, I wrote the following: The Immigrant: A Tribute to My Father
So how did he up in a Migrant Workers Camp in California?
Dear old Dad was Exhibit A that Yugoslavia has ALWAYS been a bloody mess.
Born in 1923 when Bulgaria held influence there, I have 2 photos that show he was in the Bulgarian Military at the start of WW2.
At some point he left the military and joined the Macedonian Underground fighting for Independence from Tito's influence.
Dad lost an eye sabotaging a railroad, and when his unit was infiltratred he fled into Greece without seeing his parents and sisters in the flesh ever again.
Stints in refugee camps followed into 1951.
After his death, in 1988, I got his Immigration Files thru the Fredom of Information Act.
I learned that he was in an Italian Refugee Camp when he applied to come to America. I know the name of the person, and the date when Dad's name was Americanized, the name of his Sponsor, who lived in NY, and the name of the boat he swam over on (The SS General Haan).
I also know he lied about his activities that led to his fleeing his homeland.
Since Tito was OUR Commie from the start of the Cold War, my Dad was afraid of being turned over to him, and either imprisoned or executed.
As it was, his family apparently spent some time in concentration camps for his actions.
He came to Ca. from a farm in NY (1 Document in his Immigration file has NC as the city, but that seems to be an uncorrected typo), run by someone connected with the American Friends Service Committee, because he didn't like NY, and had some contacts in this area, apparently through an Orthodox Church in Glendora.
I have a picture of him at this church sometime in 1952.
Because of the migrant camp, in Montclair, Ca., his first mastered language here was Spanish.
After a brief stint at a local Inn he got hired in 1953 as a Gardener at a local College, in Claremont, Ca. where he worked until his mental illness in 1969.
I have birth certificates for him, and death certificates for his parents, from the old country, and a lot of old 50-70's era photos of his family back home, some letters from the old country, and nothing else.
The way things are, over there, my chances of getting more info is slim at best.
My Father came here in 1951, escaping Communism, to live in freedom.
He had his own American dream to build, and, all in all, I think he accomplished it, though not without a heavy price:
He married my Mother, a beautiful Kentucky Lass, in 1957.
They settled down to a decent life and had 3 children, of which I am the oldest.
Disaster struct in 1969 as he became mentally ill, and spent the rest of his years in mental institutions.
My Mother struggled on to raise my 2 sisters and I (She died in 1990).
Over the years, as his condition allowed, Dad continued to have contact with his children, and to enjoy our growth and our successes.
He was proud to see me graduate from High School and from College, and begin a career.
He never saw his Daughters Marriage Ceremonies (I am STILL a bachelor), or lived to see the birth of his Grandchildren, or to see the successful careers of my sisters, but I am sure that if he were here today he would be a very proud man.
I have much to be thankful, a week after Independence Day, and none of it would have been possible if not for my Father coming to this land, and recognizing the truths written in our Constitution and the freedoms it bestows on us.
Long may Freedom reign in the greatest country in the world!