Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Coming to America (Part 9: 1947-1948)

This is the eighth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This continues her story of leaving the DP camps and arriving in America.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Embarkation Card for the Ernie Pyle

We went to Bremenhaven port, and we took the Ernie Pyle.  We were five days at sea, and we ran into stones which made a hole in the ship, and we were in trouble.  In the camp, the people who remained heard that we had drowned, and they already said kaddish for us.  But the boat took us to Plymouth, England.  We stayed in the water because the captain didn't have money to anchor in the port.  We waited there for a week until the Marine Marlin came to pick us up.  Everyone was sick because the weather was so bad.  It took us 3 weeks until we came to the United States.  It was not a passenger ship--it was meant to be a cargo ship, and it was a piece of junk.  There were beds hanging on chains, and the weather was so bad that they flew back and forth.

My husband and his sister were so sick.  His brother-and-law and I could walk around.  Devora stayed in bed until we could see the Statue of Liberty, and I told her that she'd better get up because the lady wanted to welcome her.
We were sponsored by Clara and Nathan Zuriff and Jesse and Henry Turk.  The whole family chipped in for the papers and the visas.  All the uncles and aunts chipped in.
Passenger Ticket for the Ernie Pyle

On the boat, we came with Chana and Motel Friedman, my sister- and brother-in-law Devora and Ben Schuster, and my mother Batsheva Bajcz.  We arrived on April 1, 1947.  It was cold weather.  We were greeted by Jesse and Henry Turk, Aunt Minnie Blank Benesch, and her son Howard Blank.
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Card for Sonia Diment

The family took us right away to a hotel, and there was our aunt (May Suttleman) bandaged all around.  She had cancer, and she'd just had surgery.  They wanted us to meet her--she died that fall. We didn't even stay overnight in New York--they took us on the train straight to Baltimore.  Howard didn't understand any Yiddish, and he was so curious and kept asking questions.  Aunt Minnie had a beautiful hat with flowers.  She said she wore it special so we would remember meeting her.

They had already rented an apartment for us for 5 weeks--they were paying rent while we were late because of the problems with the boat.  The five of us moved in.  There was a regular bedroom, and a small one with a window, and my mother slept in the living room.  We lived there for 6 months.  Then my sister-in-law and brother-in-law moved to New York, since my brother-in-law found a job there teaching in a yeshiva.

I had started to work in a clothing store doing alterations.  I didn't want to work on Shabbos, so he told me that was fine as long as I did good work.  But one of the other ladies had an argument and quit, so I was going to have to start working Saturdays to make up for her.  So I left that job and went to work for another store on Franklin & Eutaw Streets in Baltimore.  They didn't pay for the work I did.  They paid $18 per week.  My husband was making $25.  First he would commute to Washington as a busboy--scrubbing and sweeping and in the kitchen of a restaurant.

I only went to English school for 2 weeks, and then the family saw that I was sick and pregnant with my oldest son.  They helped to buy us a grocery store in South Baltimore.  Someone bought the store soon after, and we moved in January 1948 to another store.  We didn't speak English.  Sometimes people asked us for an item, and we would bring the wrong item because we didn't understand.  In 1948, our son Abraham was born.

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