The Isle of Hope and Tears

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Whenever I don’t write about things right away, it becomes difficult to capture the impressions afterwards. With work and carnival and life getting on, it feels like it’s been much longer than two weeks since I set foot on German soil again.

But because this trip was so glorious, I will still try to recollect the experience, in pictures at least. Let’s get started with the first of my Throwback Thursdays: USA!

The Isle of Hope and Isle of Tears – that’s what they called Ellis Island where all immigrants were registered between 1892 and 1954. When you visit it today,  you are first taken to Liberty Island to see what they saw: the statue, Liberty Enlightening the World. I can only imagine what it must have been like to catch sight of this symbol when coming from oppression, poverty, hunger and persecution and it fills me with awe looking up at Lady Liberty. As we, actually both children of immigrants to our respective countries, walked around Liberty Island in brilliant sunshine, we learned, however, that she’s only been there since 1886 which means “my” emigrants from Sweden, namely Kristina/Utvandrarna, would not even have seen her.

“Freedom means the opportunity to be what you never thought you could be.” Daniel J. Boorstin, quote on a banner next to the ferry to Liberty Island

The next stop is Ellis Island itself. It is both the very well done exhibition at Ellis Island as well as the site itself that teaches the visitor about the history and that makes it possibly to grasp it, at least a little, emotionally, too. There, you get to go into the very registration hall that the immigrants sat in. Just think of all the people who waited there, people who built the United States, whose children shaped American culture. Irving Berlin. Cary Grant. The Trapp Family. They all went through the registration procedure there, proving their health and literacy and showing they had 25 dollars to enter the U.S.. Most people were admitted and many had relatives waiting for them at the gate. The officials, we learned, called it “The Kissing Gate” on the “Isle of Hope”. But some immigrants were rejected and for them Ellis Island became the “Isle of Tears”: in the audio guide, a Russian-American lady told the story of her whole family being granted entry except for their grandma who was sent back to Russia alone. She never saw her again.

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I was particularily impressed with how grand the registration building was.

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O’er the land of the free and the home of brave

 

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