Share your stories of why you left and how you or your family came to that decision.

Visitor Voices

  1. My family along with thousands of families were expelled from Egypt (1956) total 80,000 people at that time after one or more member of the family were imprisoned. The government of Egypt expelled all the French citizens, all the British citizens and almost all Jews with the Sinai Campaign. My father z”l passed away three weeks later. Later Jews were treated worse but for a long while won’t allow them to leave. Of course they confiscated all our belongings. In a way maybe they did us a favor because most of us built a new life and I can say a better one. The only victims were the elderly who couldn’t adapt. We immigrated to Israel. Most of my family live there. My husband got a contract of work in the USA and that’s how we came here.

    Mireille Mechoullam

  2. My family and I left Poland when I was 5. I remember my father leaving 6 months before my mother, brother and I, in order to get everything ready. During the time my father was gone all I remember is the calendar hanging on our wall with the date we were set to leave to America circled in dark blue ink. My mother kept saying “We’re going to America soon where you’ll see daddy and you’ll have all the things in the world.” I didn’t know what America was at that age. The only reason I counted down the days till our departure was because I would be reunited with my father. As I got older I understood why my parents immigrated here and why my mother kept saying I would have all the things in the world. My parents had nothing in Poland. They came here to be able to provide for me and my brother and make our lives better.

    Lezajsk, Poland. Arrived in 2002

    Hubert Dron

  3. I grew up in Budapest with my parents and 3 siblings. When the war broke out, I worked as a cleaning lady for our gentile neighbors. They hid me in the attic until after the war. I was so scared all those years. Then I came to New York and married Segal.


  4. My great grandfather did not know what would what would happen in America. He was a boy about 7. His family new in about 11 years he would be drafted. So they left on their journey to America.They took trains and boats knowing it would be worth it. Luckily they were not turned back at Ellis Island.They found a tenement on the Lower East Side. He and his six siblings were cramped in a two bedroom tenement for twenty years. My great grandfather met his wife at Coney Island.They had a son named Roy R. When Roy was about one they moved to Brooklyn. Later Roy married.They had a son, my father.That was my great grandfathers experience leaving Jedwabne.

    Ilana R

  5. My Dad’s mother’s parents died when she was 9 years old, so she began living with a German family until she married my Grandfather Philip Dauer dob 1-3-1873 in Laub, and lived in Jost, Russia on the Vulga River. Her name was Mary Elizabeth Jacobi Dauer dob 8-3-1873. I just recently learned that she was Jewish. I have her parents listed as Andrew Jacobi and Marie Dies. Can anybody give me more information about where she and her family came from before Russia? Much appreciation for any info. Thank you.

    Judy Simon

  6. I’ve wanted to leave the U.S. since 1999 and it still hasn’t happened.

    Brooke Mollica

  7. My family started arriving here in the mid 1950’s from Ecuador. I arrived to New York City in 1976, long after my grandparents and dad, who left us back home with my mother, to help ive us a better life. I was 6 years old.

    Seeing snow for the first time was beyond belief for a child my age, coming from hot tropical weather. Life would never be the same after that! My brother and I learned English very fast. We loved to learn so a new language and a new “culture” became a bit of an adventure after that. We also got an American born sister.

    Today it’s us three; our famiies, our children, our retired parents, our professions and more importantly, our acquired “American” culture. In addition, to being American, we became and remain whole hearted, faithful New Yorkers ….. who still leam every time a snowflake falls from the New York City sky!

    Esther Olvera

  8. Our arrival to the US occured at a time when we needed comfort and hope. Our upbringing in Buenos Aires, Argentina had been sweet, until I was old enough to understand what the politics and governments and authorities and what the military power meant.
    As a Jew in Argentina, I saw the equivalent of the JCC (AMIA) be blown away, the Israeli embassy blown away so I needed a voice of hope, and I (with my family) found it here.
    Arrived in late 2000

    Gustavo Baner

  9. Krakau Poland, arived 1949
    I lived in Poland until the start of world war 2 when my parents decided to try and flee, but the advancing Germans stoped us so we returned home. We lived in the ghetto in Krakau and after my grandparents and other relatives were rounded up and sent to Belzic where they were murdered, my father decided to escape the ghetto to a nearby town. My parents wanted to flee to Hungry so I went with the first group and was eventually captured by the Slavak border police. I was sent to a Jewish organisation where I was smuggled into Hungary. I then was put into the custody of a Jewish orphanage. I met my sister and cousin in the orphanage and my parents got false documents and we were able to live as Christians in Miskolc. We tried to find other relatives in Krakau. Then after a pogrom we left to Bratslava for six months on our way to Germany. We then stayed in Gabersee DP camp for three years untill we were able to imigrate to the US.

    Arthur Spielman

  10. My family lived in South Africa, but because of danger in the country we moved to New York!


  11. The main reason why I came to America was for educational opportunities and stability. I left after high school, and came alone without my family. They were very supportive. I went directly to college, where I knew no one, but I met a lot of people. The transition was not easy. I completed my studies, got into medical school and eventually started my own family. I have three beautiful children and am really excited about their present and future. I am really glad I made the move.

    diego M rubinowicz

  12. Hi! I was born in New York, but moved to Israel when I was two. I returned to the USA in when I was six and I considered myself a foreigner because I spoke Hebrew. It was a hard and difficult change and took years to adjust, but at the end I made it. Here I am years later fluent in English and totally acclimated. Thank you USA!!!!


  13. HUNGARY – 1963

    My parents and I arrived in the United States of America on November 22nd, 1963, the day of President Kennedy’s assassination. My family and I left Hungary because my parents were both Holocaust survivors and wanted to ultimately leave the country where they suffered so many losses and atrocities. In addition, the country was under Communist rule, and they felt that we would have a better life in a democratic society. Furthermore, my mother had two sisters who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and she wanted to be reunited with them. We took our trans-Atlantic journey on the Vulcania, an Italian ship, from Trieste, Yugoslavia to New York harbor. The journey lasted 17 days due to a very strong hurricane on the Atlantic Ocean. For about three days we weren’t sure whether we would actually make it to New York, but thanks to the skilled crew of the ship, we arrived safely. We settled in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s the end of this story, but the beginning of a new life.


  14. I’m a born American all of whose relatives came from Ireland — from my father’s grandfather who fled the potato famine and became a farmer in Quebec, where he had 13 children, to my mother’s mother, who left Limerick in 1903 as an 18-year-old girl to come to New York City by herself. She became a maid for the Astors until John Jacob IV went down on the Titanic and she lost her job. I often think of the bravery it took for them, and all the immigrants like them, to leave their homes and their loved ones knowing that in all probability they’d never see them again. They leapt into the unknown and undertook arduous journeys to come here because they believed in America’s promise. I’ve been blessed because of them, and in their memory I try to do my best to keep that promise and to face life with as much courage and optimism as they did.

    steve kallaugher

  15. My dad’s side came from Austria and it was hard for them to surrvive because they were Jews and they were near Russia. My 6 greats grandpa died in the Holocaust and I still remember him today…(by story)

    Dani Sunshine

  16. My grandmother, Olga Mogyoros Grosz, was born in Hungary. In 1939, she left Budapest, Hungary on ship, for Mexico. She went to Mexico with two siblings to join three other siblings who had already made a life for themselves in Mexico City. Beginning in the 1920s, the U.S. started to institute quotas (i.e. Quota Act of 1924) making it difficult for European Jews to seek refuge in the U.S., leading them to seek alternative places of refuge, such as Mexico, where my mother’s family did ultimately settle. Although she arrived with two of her siblings and reconnected with other siblings in Mexico, it was extremely difficult for my grandmother to leave Hungary. It wasn’t the land or country or nation of Hungary that was difficult to leave, but rather, it was leaving her mother, sister, and nieces and nephews – who perished in the Holocaust at the hands of Nazis.

    Adina Gluckman, New York

    Adina Gluckman

  17. This is about my grandfather, born in 1896 who came through Ellis Island alone speaking no English from Poland in 1920. He became a naturalized citizen when he joined the United States Army and fought in World War I as a proud Jewish American. He went to France as a soldier in the army and was honored by the French gov’t for his involvement in the liberation airlift of France during World War I.

    His dream was to be a proud American and he fought for his new country with honor…I have his World War I medals to prove it. He was a real American hero of Jewish Polish roots. I am so proud!



  18. I came to America because I had my bar mizvah 4 months ago and it was a present.


  19. I came from Russia with my family in 1989. I was four years old then. On the airplane, I asked my father to tell me about America. He told me that there was lots of bubble gum and bananas in there. This quite suited me. In the Soviet Union it was rare to find such things.

    Jack Kalish

  20. My father came to the US from Vienna, Austria in 1940, having lived through the aftermath of the Anschluss. His parents had already sent his four siblings off to NY, England and Holland, but were not able to afford the trip for themselves until that had sponsors here. Once those sponsors provided for them, they still were not in an easy situation. American authorities prevented people with any ailments from entering the US. To get the visas they needed, they had to sneak to the consulate and be tested by the Americans. The sneaking was bad enough but to show that their vision was good enough, they prepared in advance for the eye exam and had memorized the charts.

    Without any citizenship, they traveled to NY on stateless passports with American visas, getting first to Trieste, Italy by wagon and train. Once there they embarked for the US on the last ship out.



  21. Hi, my name is Maria Uchitel. I was born in 1950 right after the war in Odessa, Ukraine. When i was a little girl i remember my father whispering to me about the great life in America, and he used to say it was his dream and if he wasn’t able to take his family to the u.s., he wanted me to. I came to the u.s. 1979 with my mother and my daughter Alexandra. We felt welcome from day one, even though the people around us spoke a whole diffrent language we managed to get up on our feet and start living the american life with a jewish perspective.

    P.S god bless America

    Maria Uchitel, Ukraine, Arrived US 1979

  22. This little story is about my mother, who came to this country in 1908 from Kiev. When her family packed up ready to leave she was told there would be no room for her one doll. So, she buried it. She told this story many years later to me with tears in her eyes. “Imagine” she said, “an 8 year old burying the only toy she had.”

    rosalyn saltzman

  23. We left Italy after the rise of the Fascist movement that was instituted by Mussolini. He had taxed all the people who went to Catholic churches, so my wife and I got visas out of Italy and came to the US for religious freedom.

    Frank DeStefano, Italy, Arrived US 1939

  24. My family left Italy in the wake of Mussolini and the Fascist movement. Mussolini was taxing all people who went to Catholic churches, so my grandfather and grandmother left so their children could have a better life.

    frank destefano

  25. I am a Russian-Ukranian, who was born in Kiev, Ukraine, grew up in Ekaterenburg, Russia, and lived a few years in Zarafshan, Uzbekistan. I came to American on December 18th, 1999, when I was 10 years old, by myself. My mother had sent me to live with my father, whom I never before met in my life due to the fact that he left before I was born. The trip to America was one of the most exciting and exhilirating experiences of my life as it seemed that an unimaginable dream had come true. I was finally going to see the streets paved with gold and money growing on trees and I was finally going to meet my father. I was so excited I did not even feel bad about leaving my mother, as she had promised to come soon after. My arrival in New York opened up a world of wonder to me, perhaps an experience comparable to Alice in Wonderland.

    Alexandra Segal, Kiev, Ukraine, Arrived US 1999

  26. We came in this country nineteen years ago for two reasons, a better future for our children, and the fear of Shining Path, a terrorist group that held our country under panic for more than 30 years. More than 40,000 innocent people were killed mostly in the provinces of Peru. The rest of the inhabitants and peasants invaded Lima and settled down in the surroundings of the capital. Shining Path controlled about one third of the country.

    At that time Lima was starting to suffer the guerrilla’s attacks. The economic disaster in Peru was unbearable. You could see scarcity everywhere and the youth’s future was damned. Our children had finished or were about to finish high school with no hope to for a higher education. It is then we decided to leave our native country.

    Providentially the US authorities approved our petition for a resident visa, and in May 1990 we left. It was hard, very painful to leave behind relatives, friends, our house, and all that was part of our lives. I still keep with me a woven fabric with the Macchu Picchu, a Pre-Columbian city, the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire, to proudly show my origins.


    Gilberto Ramirez, Peru

  27. In 1952 my parents, older sister and I boarded a four propeller engine airplane that would transport us from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York City; we were leaving behind the comfort and assurance of a known rural way of life that stretched back for hundreds of years, through many generations for the unknown. I didn’t realize that the most fundamental change of our lives was taking form, irrevocably so.

    At the time, Puerto Rico was in the midst of change, it was 1948 and “Operation Bootstrap” was under way. The one crop sugar cane economy was giving way to industrialization, the lot of the average citizen would soon improve. Electrification, sewage systems, drinking water, roads, improved health care and jobs in the new economy were tangible benefits soon seen throughout the island; but the altered economy couldn’t absorb all the displaced agricultural laborers. With little alternatives available, many Puerto Ricans decided to emigrate.


    Jose G. Correa, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Arrived 1952

  28. Coming to the United States has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I come from a place where we view the United States as the home of prosperity, success and filled with entertainments. A person is respected and honored when he returns back home from the US. Most of my relatives from my father’s side are permanent residents of this country and my mother is the first from her side to be here. My mom is respected a lot in our family because of the diligent amount of effort she put in just to make it in this county.

    I never really knew my mother when I was young because she was in the US and I was in Ghana. The reason she set off was in search of a better life for her family. I had to live with my father and grandmother. I rarely spoke to her on the phone. She returned to Ghana when I was twelve years of age. I wanted to leave with her when she returned but that was not possible. She had filed for my sister and I to come to the US and we went for interviews for our visas at the American embassy in Ghana. I was overwhelmed to know I was finally coming to America. I kept it a secret to myself. I never told any of my friends because I felt that telling them about this opportunity might make some of them jealous. The most important aspect of me coming here was to better my education.


    David Amankwah, Accra, Ghana, Arrived US 2006

  29. I am not a refugee. I had a good life in Europe but I came to this country because I fell in love with New York as a teenager and had always dreamt about living here one day. I was lucky enough to win a green card in the green card lottery, and when I was about to complete my studies in Europe I found a great job in New York and decided to move.

    I.M., Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Arrived US 2005

  30. My father worked for El Al Israeli Airlines, and in December 1985, we were sent to NY for a posting of a couple of years. At that time I had finished my two years of service in the Israeli Army plus two years of university. Ever since I was a little girl I had traveled overseas with my family, but this time it was different. We had to leave dear friends and family behind, and I knew this time it would be for a long stay.

    Dganit Katz-Yefet, Rehovot, Israel, Arrived US 1985

  31. I came along with my parent to NY because of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. They didn’t trust the Chinese government during that time and they believed our life would be worse after Hong Kong turnover in 1997.

    Alex Tam, Hong Kong, China, Arrived US 1992

  32. I wanted to leave Europe for the United States since my parents before World War II had applied to come to the States. We were on a waiting list, however were not able to leave. My parents both perished in the Holocaust. After the Holocaust and surviving several camps, I wanted to leave Europe because of Anti-Semitism. I asked my family for an affidavit but we had difficulty because my husband, a Polish Jew, was considered of possibly being a Communist. People from behind the Iron Curtain had difficulties in coming here due to Senator Joe McCarthy and his policies. We left Poland on a transit visa to France , where we remained for 3 years, since the Polish quota was closed. Our daughter was born in France. From France, we emigrated to Israel and remained there 6 ½ years. Finally, our visa to the USA was granted in 1956 and I came to the United States with my husband and 8 1/2 year daughter.

    Gisela Adamski, Oppeln, Germany, Arrived US 1956

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