My Journey from Russia to America
My name is Dashia Petrova, and I am a Jewish immigrant from Russia. I came to America in 1889 when I was thirteen with my parents and my brother, Alek. We were under the control of czars, who often persecuted Jews. We could no longer own land in the countryside, and were limited as to where we could move. My father was a craftsman, a carpenter, who was very talented. But soon he was left without a trade. In America, we could have freedom. We could live where we chose, and find jobs in factories. My mother wanted to come to America to protect my brother from being drafted into the army at his young age.
My father had some money saved, and he used it to buy passage for us to America. We needed to obtain special documents that gave us permission to leave Russia. Soon, we learned what day we would be leaving. My mother was hurriedly packing our things, like our clothes and shoes, blankets, and family heirlooms into the few trunks we had. Unfortunately, many of our possessions had to be left behind.
We finally boarded a train to Hamburg, Germany, where we would board the steamship. It was crowded and uncomfortable, and there was hardly any room to sit, or almost even stand. Hamburg was a shock at first. The buildings were so much taller than any I had ever seen, and there more people in one place than I would’ve thought possible. Alek was difficult to keep track of in the big city. He was curious about everyone and everything he saw. He would run around crazily in the temporary village that was only to last until the ship was ready to leave again. We had to wait for it to arrive, but even then it had to be unloaded and prepared again to sail.
Not soon enough, the day came for us to board the steamship. Men examined our heads and clothes for lice and made sure we were all healthy. I think they even checked our luggage for disease. Once we were aboard, we were headed to the steerage section, which was...