Saturday, June 17, 2017

In 1937, My Grandad bought my Dad a...

One way ticket on a slow boat to America. Like so many other tales of immigration this one too is interesting. 

My dad's family resided in a village near Lodz, Poland. They made their living mending and making clothes. The family was considered middle class. When a wave of Nationalism began to spread from Germany, a high tide of Anti-Semitism followed along. It wasn't a good time to be a follower of Abraham in Europe.

My Grandfather (according to Dad) was a pious Jew, who saw the hand of God in every random event; such as a letter arriving from the Sambur clan already ensconced in the Land of the Free. Unfortunately, it was written in English.  Fortunately there was a Polish-American visiting the town. The gentleman gave it a quick look. He told my Grandfather (in Polish) the letter was a wedding invitation. 

My Grandfather must have had a  "Something Wicked This Way Comes" premonition.(Book title by Ray Bradbury) Here was a Divine Sign. Seventeen year old Sid would go to the wedding in the Big Apple with no return fare. The Polish/Jewish DNA strain of Sambur's  was now destined to continue. 

Mind you, it wasn't easy for Young Sid. He knew many European languages but not the American one. He learned fast, got a gig as a tailor and eventually moved out of his Aunt's apartment. Around 1941 he met Clara Zinn (a recent Jewish/Austrian immigrant with a beguiling smile) on a blind date. On December 7th, 1941 Pearl Harbor woke the "Sleeping Giant."  America was then at War.

Irony: The US Army drafted Sid and eventually sent him back to the Europe. (The Continent his father shipped him away from). Dad wasn't assigned to the Front Line. He gave tetanus, penicillin and other inoculating shots to injured soldiers. He performed clerical duties.He also read letters from home to his illiterate Made in America compadres. 

It wasn't always chummy. Sid told a story of a cold night when soldiers were gathered around a communal campfire. A late arriving GI tried to bully my father away from the fire. Disparaging words were said about Jews. Verbal confrontation upgraded to physical confrontation. The combatants were eventually separated. Sid resumed his place by the fire. Apparently, the other guy wasn't able to let bygones be bygones. He swung a sucker punch, blind side haymaker at my father. The bastard was clutching a tin cup too. Sid's jaw got broken.

This incident made the rounds while my father was convalescing. A Jewish Captain appeared and gave Sid a two-thumbs up for standing up to the bigot. He went on to make it clear to the medical staff, Sid would get treated very kindly or their would be issues. 

V-E Day (May 8th, 1945) finally arrived. Refugee camps sprang up giving aid to the war ravaged and displaced Europeans. Sid's officers must have been aware of his gift for the local languages. (He spoke Polish, German, Yiddish and English fluently) He would serve as an interpreter in the camps. One day, he met a people from his village. He queried them about his family. I suppose they looked down at their shoes and shook their heads. Sid's parents and two siblings were executed for the crime of being born Jewish. In total,  approximately 6,000,000 Jews were victims of the Holocaust. 

Sid eventually was honorably discharged and returned to NYC and Clara Zinn. In 1948, she became Clara Sambur. My oldest brother Allan arrived shortly thereafter, followed two years later by Mike. I was the caboose who arrived after a four year gap. 

My brothers have four sons between them who have been busy procreating. 

My Grandfather can now RIP knowing the Sambur lineage is continuing on in the New World. Thank you Grandad, even though I never came close to meeting you.

Thanks Dad for teaching me the nuances and ways of being Jewish Thanks too for showing me it's OK to stand up for your beliefs. (Even though you might get pummeled!) 

Finally, thanks for all the times you said, "Jeffy! Be a Mensch! Do the right thing!" 

I'm trying, Sid, I'm trying.  God knows I'm trying. 

BTW. Without America"s Pre WW II  Immigration Policy, this post would never had happened. You would be looking at a blank screen. Please give this a thought. We are a Country of immigrants. 

Happy Dad's Day,

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Jeff - my family too - fleeing famine in Ireland, farm-destroying floods in Holland - this is a country of immigrants.