Sunday, July 01, 2007
Last night my friend and I had a remarkable movie experience. We saw Golden Door. It reopened our thoughts about our parents.

My parents came to this country in their twenties, my friend's parents at a much younger age. What we both have in common is the fact that they never talked to us about what they went through coming to America. My mother and father shared very little of their lives in Europe, let alone about what they went through getting to this country.

The movie takes place in a small village in Sicily at the start of the last century. It's about a small family called the Mancusos. The eldest son has heard the tallest tales of America, that there are rivers of milk, that coins grow on trees and that there are giant man-sized carrots.

In Yiddish, the expression that the Jewish people used was "we are going to the goldena medina." "we are going to the golden land." Another expression is, "going to the land of milk and honey."


The only thing I know about my mother's trip is that she and her sister came from Russia, had to go to a port in London, stayed over night and then went, "steerage." That's for passengers paying the lowest fare. While in London their papers and the few pictures they had were stolen. What wasn't stolen were a pair of candlesticks that my son now has in his dining room.


To quote part of a review of the film by Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe:
"...the filmmakers give us an unseen, but utterly felt storm that leaves people crushed to death beneath their fellow passengers. It evokes both Middle Passage slave-ship woes and certain disaster movies. Watching this sequence, you're forced to think, This is what some ancestors endured to get to the Golden Door of Ellis Island: a trip through hell for the rumor of paradise?"


The family finally arrives at Ellis Island where they endure bizarre medical exams and quizzes meant to determine who is "fit" for citizenship.

There is nothing to laugh about in this film but I did get one chuckle - The family has to spend the night at Ellis Island and in the morning they are served breakfast. The leading character, "Salvatore" bits into a white piece of bread and he says, it tastes like a cloud. It must have been "Wonder Bread."

The only living family member that I have who might be able to tell me about my parents experiences, is a cousin who is in her nineties.

I'll give her a call tonight and hopefully I will learn things about their lives before and after they arrived in America.

I haven't seen the movie. But I visited Ellis Island when I was in the States, back in October last year, and found it very moving.
I'll add this movie to my long list of must-sees.
Thanks for the review.
I know that mr. kenju and I will want to see that movie. He has been doing his geneaolgy for 4-5 years and many of his relatives came over that way (but not to Ellis Island - they predated it and came in via Castle Clinton)Thanks for telling us about it, Millie.
My mom's folks came here from Germany probably on a ship like that. The hardships they endured were far beyond anything we can imagine. And then they came here to face more hardships & saved their money and worked like hell to achieve the American dream. My grandparents actually got to the land of milk if not honey -- they settled in Wisconsin as dairy farmers! My Uncle Carl is still farming that land!

I think I would like to see this film. Thanks for telling us about it.
I shall have to look out for that movie when it comes over to the UK. When in NY, I visited the tenement museum in the lower east side. There were a lot of fascinating documentaries to see about the influx of the poor tired masses. History from that period on both sides of the pond is fascinating KP
OH, I HAVE to see this movie! Never even heard of it, so thanks for telling us about it, Millie.
My grandmother came to Ellis Island in 1908 from Poland and I've been told a good bit of her story. I hope you're able to find out more about yours.
I visited Ellis Island years ago, before they began to restore was heartwrenching, as it still looked very much like it would have when my grandmother arrived there. I should find the photos I took and blog about it.
Thanks again for sharing this, Millie.
Oh! It sounds so sad!! :(
We are so fortunate to live in this day and age.
Hopefully your relative will be able to give you some background. My people have all passed away and sadly their stories with them.
My daughter does our pehaps we should see this together.

You don't say if your parents came through Ellis Island, Millie. If they did, do you know that you can search the arrival records and find out a bunch of information about them?

Ellis Island Search
Please do try Ronni's link to
Ellis Island. I found three of
my four grandparent's records there!
You've got to be creative with
spelling, though. My paternal
grandparent's last name was
Gravitski, and on the manifest
it was spelled Grawicki, but it
was definitely him! Really exciting.

I know that my parents and other members of the family came to America through Boston and not Ellis Island.

When I spoke to my 90 year old cousin she's in the same boat as I am. Her parents didn't talk about their experiences either.

It seems that is the way it was in those days.
Am I right, do parents talk to their children more about their lives today?
thank you nice sharing
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I haven't seen the movie but a friend of mine who likes to get Generic Viagra recommended me 'cause he says that it's pretty good.
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