The country in which I was born in 1920 no longer exists. Transylvania, a region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was split up after World War One. Those who considered themselves Hungarians were told that henceforth they were considered Romanians. Of course, what mattered more than what the area was called was how it treated its inhabitants. Both countries were anti-Semitic. Persons of Jewish faith were well advised to seek another home.
Our primitive little farm house had neither running water nor electricity. The Statue of Liberty in America beckoned: ‘Send me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ In the winter of 1921 my penniless parents and their two infants sailed for the Promised Land. The only reason we traveled third class was that there was no fourth class.
My father had apprenticed as a shoemaker. He boasted he could make boots from a cow’s hide. No one told him there were no cows in New York City. He was lucky to be offered a job as a janitor in a notorious crime area called ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. We lived in a dank cellar, which later was officially condemned as ‘uninhabitable.’ That’s where my memory begins.