Literacy and Liberty

Ellis Island
Posted by: , October 3, 2018, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In fifth grade, I distinctly remember taking a trip to Ellis Island with my class. We had been studying its history and significance. I knew that I had descended from a trio of Russian, Polish and Austrian immigrants. However, I had no idea what they  had to go through during the process of immigration to the States.  Hunger, homesickness and hopelessness were common symptoms felt by many people who would embark off of ships. Many people who were hopeful on staying in the US would also face rejection. This could be determined by “doctors” who examined them after embarking. These doctors could determine whether or not an immigrant could stay by examining them. While on Ellis Island we visited a memorial called The Wall of Honor.  This wall still serves as a way to honor families members who came to Ellis Island as immigrants. I remember feeling terrified, because of the overwhelming names displayed on hard, concrete walls. I heard stories of girls who at the time who were my age and who I admired for what they persevered.  Needless to say, a lot of it went way over my 9 year old head. It wasn’t until years later when my brother was studying our ancestors that I thought about it again. My mom made one of those accounts and she became very engrossed with it. Some information truly surprised her and I. We learned that my fraternal great-grandfather came from Odesa and then moved to England. His mother died soon after coming to the U.S. My great-grandfather believed that his mother died of both a broken heart from homesickness and loneliness. On the bright side, most of my ancestors thrived after arriving to the US by working hard, learning English and assimilating. They successfully made America their home. Drawing from the experience of my family has given me perspective. I am grateful for the life I am living because of they had the courage, strength and vision to flee a bad situation. This helped ensured that their children and future generations would have the freedom their dreamt of.


6 Comments so far
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I too have been to Ellis island, and also have relatives who immigrated here from other countries. My trip to Ellis island reminded me of the sacrifices they made to be able to come to a country such as the United States, where they hoped for opportunities they could not find in their homeland. The homesickness and fear I assume they experienced are unimaginable. However, like your ancestors, they were able to make America their home as well, and establish themselves in the community. Today when I think of the struggle they endured, it serves as an inspiration to me and makes me even more ambitious to achieve the goals I set for myself.

   Reed Kearins 10.04.18 @ 11:56 pm

We took really similar field trips growing up here in Carlisle, and Ellis Island is definitely unforgettable. I totally agree with you– there’s something overwhelming about the history and the sheer number of people whose lives were changed there. It has a distinctly dark undertone, and it’s impossible to go without thinking about the people who didn’t find the freedom they hoped for.

   Meeca 10.05.18 @ 12:41 am

I have also been to Ellis Island!! I’m sure most people can relate to this mandatory visit. I think that it is also important to acknowledge that the majority of us can relate to having ancestry that we know passed through Ellis Island at a certain point. It is so interesting to be there and know that someone related to us was there at such a different time, for such a different reason, and in such a different way. I love how you acknowledged this.

   Jess 10.05.18 @ 2:09 pm

I really am able to relate to this story. I have heard stories from both sets of my grandparents about their journey through Ellis island as immigrants. They have told us about how frightening it was to come over as young children and how scary it was to actually pass through Ellis island. I believe that this memorial is incredibly important and someting that everyone should visit so that they can understand all the history there.

   Meredith Franchini 10.06.18 @ 12:25 pm

I tried to post a comment several days ago off my cellphone, but I don’t think it stuck!
Here is what I said:
I relate to your story about the Ellis Island Memorial in a close way. Both sets of my grandparents came over from different countries and needed to go through that route. I have heard their stories many times and how horrible it was to stay there while they tried to determine whether or not they would be allowed to enter the country. This memorial is very important and a huge part of the history of America.

   Meredith 10.07.18 @ 3:57 pm

Natasha, this post about Ellis Island clearly struck a chord with our seminar group, as it does with me. (Several of my ancestors came through there, and my family still carries English names assigned to us there.) I’d be curious to hear about you taking a return trip to Ellis Island next time you’re home… wonder how your childhood memory of a school trip would square (or not) with your adult experience of Ellis Island.

   Professor Seiler 10.08.18 @ 2:28 pm

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