- Not that I remember what America was like in 1957, as I was not yet five years old. Years later, when I was old enough to understand, they told me their story. Briefly, it goes like this.
Dad was born in Romania (Czernowitz in Northern Bulovina), but he identified (haha) as German because, well, his dad was German, his mom was German, they spoke German and kept German customs, and lived in a German community so, applying the “quacking duck” theory, that’s what he was. Mom was born in Yugoslavia (now, Slovenia), but she identified as German for the same reasons as dad did. The Nazi regime would refer to folks such as my parents as “Volksdeutsche” —- being German as a people or race, regardless of citizenship. More on that here.
When dad was about seventeen the Deutsche Wehrmacht (army) made a pit stop in his neck of the woods, and forcibly yanked his ass off the farm, and within a few weeks turned him into a bonafide Mortarman (dudes who launch grenades). He might have destroyed or damaged a Russkie tank or two, but was eventually captured by the Russians, and spent the rest of the war, and some time thereafter, in one of their luxurious prison camps. When mom was a pre-teen the Russian army made a pit stop in her neck of the woods, killed most of her family, but spared her life and put her to work as a slave laborer and sex-toy (cuz she was very pretty), in one of their gulags.
Obviously they both survived this ordeal (otherwise I probably wouldn’t be writing this). However, after the war ended, neither parent was allowed back to their ancestral homes. In order to keep Germans from becoming a “problem” again, Eastern Europe (with approval of all the Western powers) decided to enact a program of ethnic cleansing by expelling as many as 14 million Germans. This German Diaspora comprised the largest migration of any European people in modern history. More here. Many died, estimates range from 500,000 to 2,000,000. My parents survived that as well, obviously.
They arrived as Flüchtlinge (refugees) in an Austrian camp for such people … two Germans as refugees in a German country, how weird is that … found each other, did the nasty posthaste, and produced me, at the time a bastard child mostly unwelcome anywhere. (I’m just glad my dad wasn’t some anonymous Russian soldier!). They gave it their best shot living this way. But, even as late as 1957, there wasn’t enough work in Austria. They felt their future would be better elsewhere. So, they came to America … for work.
- You do understand the meaning of that last sentence? It means my parents came to America for a selfish reason, as all immigrants do. Sure, the stated reason for most immigrants may be for economic betterment, to escape political repression, or flee religious persecution, and such. But, the ultimate motivating factor is always for the betterment of one’s self, and/or family. In other words, no immigrant has ever arrived at these shores in order to make America great. On the contrary, they came because they believed America was already great, and a land of opportunity.