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An Immigrant's Daughter

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

I was born the daughter

of European immigrants,

smack in middle of baby boomer years—

a first generation American,

parents and grandparents

from another world. Landed on Ellis Island

to begin a similar struggle faced

by all immigrants, even today.

Grandma, orphaned in Poland—

World War I, trekked to Brooklyn

with brother’s cash—

earnings from a Viennese haberdashery,

opened a dry goods store under Brooklyn’s L train,

his long hours laden with fatigue.

In the journal found in her closet

thirty years after suicide,

I learned of grandma’s struggles:

World War I erupting on the streets

of her childhood town,

a teenager’s move to Austria,

to America.

Such challenges growing up in an immigrant home:

wasting anything was a sin,

mother went to the supermarket every day,

and I got punished if I didn’t finish my food.

Dinner conversations laden with immigration stories

of packing belongings into small suitcases

and crossing worldly oceans,

like I now pack my words

into my journal’s pages.

My parents and grandparents

spoke of ship-laden illnesses—

more dead bodies than countable.

Each day thankful for a life

in their new homeland,

both grateful until death.

My life now is a new chapter

in this immigrant daughter’s life.

by Diana Raab

immigrant daughter New York City


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