Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We interrupt this vacation to bring you...

Kayla's "Daughters of the American Revolution" area winning essay!  Woohoo!  She entered the DAR contest to write an essay from the point of view of a child going through Ellis Island in 1892.  The essay could be a total of 1,000 words, hers was 993 :).  Now her essay goes on to the State competition.  We're awfully excited for her!

My Dear Amalia,

     I am writing to you from Grand Central Station in New York City.  The terminal is enormous!  My family is waiting for the train to Philadelphia to arrive.  We came here from a processing building on Ellis Island.  Ellis Island is right off the coast of New York City.  We were in the building for five hours, though it felt like we were there for months!  Going through that building was the toughest thing I have ever faced.  To tell you the truth, the whole trip was awful.

     It all started when we arrived in the bustling city of Hamburg.  When we entered the harbor, we were guided to a ship entitled “Venetia.”  Before we were allowed to climb aboard, a man who spoke in short crisp phrases questioned Papa about the details of our journey.

     After we boarded, we were directed to our family quarters.  Chail started to cry when she saw the cold, damp room. Rifke, like many others, became sea sick in the first week and had to stay in bed.  Throughout our three week voyage, the whole lower level smelled of sickness and unclean bodies.  Since I couldn’t stand the smell below, I spent most of my day on deck dreaming of America.

     On July 30th, we sighted land on the horizon!  My whole family stepped up on deck with our baggage and we watched the shapeless outline turn into the industrial New York City.  In the clear blue morning light, I could see the shiny, copper lady standing with the torch in her right hand.  It is the tallest statue I have ever seen, Amalia!  I know you won’t believe me, but I bet that her face is as tall as Papa!          

     I heard a voice and turned around to see a man standing on an upturned crate shouting numbers that were used to figure out what order we would board the ferries that took us to Ellis Island.  I was given a suitcase and ordered to hold it.  Sometimes it’s no fun being second oldest. Papa, Mama, Rifke and Feidel all carried bags too. We waited for three hours before our numbers were called.  As soon as they were, we hauled our luggage onto a passenger boat, which took us to the beautiful building.  When I first saw it, I thought it was a palace! 

     I was glad to put my feet on solid ground when we landed.  There was a line that stretched all the way from where we got off the boat to the doors of the massive building.  As I shuffled along in the slowly moving line, the suitcase I carried grew heavier and heavier.

     Finally, we arrived inside the building.  It was hot and stuffy.  I felt like I was in an oven with the door closed!  Hot sweaty bodies closed in on me as I moved with the flowing crowd.  At one end of the enormous room there was a clumsy mountain of baggage.  I added my bundle to the pile with a sigh of relief.  After dropping our burdens off, we clambered up a narrow stair case.

     When we reached the last step, a police officer approached us and ordered Papa to follow him.  I silently gazed at the man who took my papa with fear and confusion.  In my head I was asking, “Why are they taking Papa away?  Why can’t they just leave us alone?”

     I became terribly afraid, Amalia, because I knew how harsh policemen could be to people.  With Papa gone, we had no protection.  I was so confused and fearful of everything. Chail cried and Mane covered her eyes to keep the tears back.  I guess we were all crying inside as we got into the line to await our medical exams.

     At the end of the line, we were ushered into an area that was screened off from the crowd.  A male doctor was there.  He asked all of us to take off our outer garments so he could check for illnesses.  We all did as he commanded and he checked Mama first.  When the doctor began examining me, I gave a nervous glance at Mama.  I didn’t feel sick at all, but I became afraid I might have some disease I didn’t know about while the doctor inspected my body.  In one of his tests he checked for lice, I didn’t have any, but unfortunately, Mane did.  He carelessly shaved off her hair.  Mane cried the whole time.

     When he finished, he sent us to a room he called the Registration room.  As soon as we got in line, I saw Papa hurrying toward us! Chail, Mane, Feidel and even baby Pesach squealed with delight, they had seen him too!  Papa came swooping in, giving us all long, loving hugs. After that I gladly waited in line, holding onto one of Papa’s hands.   I don’t think I knew what my family meant to me until today, Amalia. 

     The room we were standing in was large and the echo of voices was deafening.  Everyone was speaking different languages.  I heard German, Russian and many others I didn’t recognize.  The line we followed swerved back and forth through the room.  It ended at the far side of the room where several men sat behind wide desks.  An interpreter stood beside the desk and asked us questions to confirm who we were.  After a million questions, he nodded with approval and told us we could go!  We are now Americans.

     I hope I’ll like the new life, Amalia.  It is all rather confusing to me. There are so many new sounds and words, but I guess one day all those words will be quite familiar.  It’s strange to think that Poland is no longer my home. I miss all of you and dear old Annapoli a whole lot.  We send you our love, and hope to see you in the future.


                        Ester Katz


Florin, Anna.  La Immigrata.  Featherwood Publishing, 1993.  Chapter 2.  iBooks.

Hamblin, B. Colin.  Ellis Island: The Official Souvenir Guide (Guide Book).  Companion Press, 1994.  Excerpted at

Island of Hope – Island of Tears (1989).  Dir. Charles Guggenheim. National Park Service, 1989.  Film. Retrieved from

“Passenger Search: Katz, Ester, 1892.”  Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. 2014.  Web.  5 Nov. 2014.  Retrieved from

United States.  Library of Congress.  America’s Story from America’s Library: The Statue of Liberty Arrived in New York Harbor June 19,1885.  US Library of Congress.  Web.   5 Nov. 2014.  Retrieved from

United States.  National Park Service. Medical Inspection on Ellis Island.  US National Park Service, 2011.  Web.  5 Nov. 2014.  Retrieved from

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