“But darling, all of America is waiting for you!”
These words from a stranger comforted my grandmother, Chawa Guterman, when her boat first reached the United States in 1950. A 17-year-old Jew in Poland when World War II began, she had lost everything but her life at the hands of the Nazis. They sent her to a work camp away from the rest of her family, where she was worked to the bone, barely fed.
After liberation, she was alone — her parents and her six siblings had all perished in the Holocaust. She lived in a displaced persons camp in Landsberg, Germany, where she met and married my grandfather. Together they immigrated to the United States with the support of a U.S. based resettlement organization. When their boat first reached the U.S. shore, my grandmother took in the scene around her. People filed off the boat, charging into the extended arms of loved ones, waving hellos, and exchanging hugs and kisses.