The Statue of Liberty is usually the first image conjured by thoughts of immigrants arriving in America in the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th Century. This first iconic glimpse experienced by so many has been recounted in books and films myriad times and yet it never gets old. I suppose that is because so many people's families began their new life in just that way - with an uncertain boat journey from some torn corner of the world. So many hopes, dreams, expectations...fears. The scene in the Godfather II of Vito Corleone and hundreds of other people crammed on the deck of a rusty ship always leaps to my mind. All those faces, all different and yet all the same. What must each of them have been thinking? The film can not have been that far from the reality.
While Papou was working away in some New York diner, after his imposed U.S. Navy service had ended, Yia Yia and my uncle Manoual, who was then eight years old, were setting out from Piraeus for America on an old ocean liner. I have tried to determine which ship they might have come over on but there are so many going in and out of service or to the scrap yards at this time that it is too difficult to pin point. The name of the ship is not so important as the journey itself.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
New York in the late 40s must have been quite a place. The Flatiron building was still one of the tallest in the area and billboards would have decorated the streets like so many Christmas ornaments inviting people to eat, work and play. Rudy Burckhardt’s ‘Coca Cola Goddess’ at Astor Place would have smiled down on the multitudes, rosy-cheeked and thrilled to have her beverage in hand.
|New York Harbour|
One might have taken in a double-feature at the Apollo Theatre or headed on in to one of the many lower level bars for some jazz where nicely dressed black men and sultry songstresses played cool to the regulars and some newbies. In the 40s, there would have been kids reading comic books on the corners of sidewalks lined with black Fords, De Sotos and Cadillacs.
|Cheeseburger and a Coke|
Whatever food he made or was able to eat, wherever he might have found himself, to
City would have been a mad place that might have made him wonder at times if he had done the right thing now that the war was over. The peace and calm and colour of the Aegean, of Chios and the Papou, New York must have made for an unreal contrast. But the war was over and now Paul (his new American name, as it were) Haviaras awaited his wife whom he had not seen for eight years and the son he had never met. village of Lagada