I recently found three videos on YouTube that show Immigrants at Ellis Island. I have seen snippets of these films before, but the other day I sat down and really watched them. These videos are not about immigrants from Greece, but our ancestors might as well be, and very well could be, in the photos.
I looked carefully and imagined my grandparent's trip to the United States. Most of these people are arriving with either one small suitcase or a bag, that looks like a pillow case, filled with their belongings. As I read another bloggers comments recently, sorry can't remember who said this, but we go on vacation with more luggage than these people had when they stepped off the boat.
Every nationality mixed together. Imagine - I am sure my grandparent's had never been exposed to people from other countries before this journey, what a shock it must have been to see, for the first time, people dressed so differently, and speaking all those different languages.
Most men seem to be dressed in some sort of suit and hat. Women, however, are dressed very differently depending on their country of origin. You will see a woman dressed in modern clothing with a stylish hat, as in the picture above, right next to a little woman dressed in black, with black head scarf, and carrying all her belongings in a white cloth bag.
It looks as if the passengers are herded from the passenger ship they arrived on, into a ferry that would take them to Ellis Island.
Now imagine, you only speak Greek. How intimidating this process must have been. I used to travel Internationally for business, and remember arriving in the Dubai airport, by myself, late at night. I do not speak Arabic, and did not know the process for entering the UAE. What did I do? I followed everyone else. When I arrived at Customs there were hundreds of people standing in about 20 different lines, all with Arabic words overhead telling everyone where to go. I stood there staring and wondering what to do. I finally went up to an armed guard who seemed to be directing people and asked him, in English, which line I should stand in. He didn't understand a word I said but yelled something in Arabic, and pointed to one of the lines. I stood there, wondering if after the 50 people before me cleared Customs, would I be turned away. Luckily they let me into Dubai, and I was able to return another four times without incident.
Below you will find links to the three videos on YouTube: (Note - they are a little slow to load)
Watch them carefully. Can you relate at all to an experience like this?
Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Georgia Keilman nee Stryker (Stratigakos)